Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top Ten Childhood Favorites

This week's Top Ten topic over at The Broke and the Bookish is a little bit different. It's a rewind where you go back to the archives and choose a topic from previous ones. Since I came to Top Ten Tuesday late in the game, I selected the very first topic: Childhood Favorites. Here are ten books that helped make me the reader I am today.

The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak Perfect for little hands, the Nutshell library is made up of four tiny books: an alphabet book, Alligators All Around; a counting book, One Was Johnny, a book of months, Chicken Soup with Rice; and my favorite, Pierre, a Cautionary Tale, in which a little boy learns the importance of caring after he's gobbled up by a lion. Each book is marvelous in itself; together they make an extraordinary collection and are a must for every child's bookshelf.

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack Poor Ping! The little duck finds himself all alone on the Yangyze River. How did he wind up in this predictiment? The last duck up the plank of the wise-eyed boat is always spanked and Ping doesn't want that happening to him. So the little duck hides and spends the night alone. The next day he's captured and almost ends up as a first course on a dinner menu. Luckily, a little boy frees him and Ping swims back to his family. Once again, he's tardy, but this time he marches up the plank and receives his spank. For whatever reason, being lost has always terrified me, so books about protagonists separated from their family who find the way back home resonate with me. This picture book was the first to do so.

The Tall Book of Make-Believe This collection of fantastical poems and stories won my heart as a child. I especially remember being enamored by "Bad Mousie" by Martha Ward Dudley. Rereading it today, I see how really strange it was. A misbehaving mouse lives with a little girl named Donnica and her mother. The mother is fed up with Mousie's bad ways and attempts to get rid of him. She sweeps him outside and she locks him out of the house. He comes back. She ties him in a box and tries to drown him. He escapes. She ties him to a fence post so that an owl will eat him. (I'm not making any of this up!!!) He gets away. But he still continues to misbehave. So finally the mother ties him to an old umbrella and the wind whisks him away. At last, lonely and afraid, Mousie vows to behave. All Mousie has done is the usual things that kids do, scribble on walls, track muddy prints through the house, etc. How does that compare to attempted murder? Anyhow, Donnica helps the little mouse learn to be good and the mother relents and allows him to stay. Now, really! What is the moral? Learn to behave or else mommy will kill you? Still I loved this story, especially the illustration of Mousie tied with a pretty bow to the fence, waiting for an owl to descend and tear out his guts.

Georgie by Robert Bright How this book delighted me as a child. It didn't have much of a story, but the illustrations were so wonderful. Georgie, a little ghost, has his world turned upside down when Mr. Whittaker nails down a loose board and oils the hinges of a squeaky door. Georgie, no longer able to make his ghostly presence felt, leaves his happy home. He tries to haunt other places to no avail. He ends up in a barn with a cow that doesn't pay the slightest bit of attention to him. Luckily, time solves the problem. The Whittaker's board loosens again and the hinges rust. Georgie returns home, a happy ghost indeed. Today no self-respecting picture book author would end a story with the protagonist not solving the central problem. What can I say? It worked for me.

The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright An unusual picture book, The Lonely Doll is illustrated with black and white photographs. Edith, the lonely doll, has no friends until she meets Mr. Bear and Little Bear. The trio have adventures galore, and all goes well until Mr. Bear leaves Edith and Little Bear alone. The two discover a closet filled with glamorous clothes and play dress-up and make a big mess. After the pair are punished (Mr. Bear spanks them), Edith is afraid he'll leave and she'll be lonely again. Mr. Bear assures her he never would and the trio are once again pals. A simple story, but it's the eerie, soulful photos, especially of Edith, that so appealed to me as a child. And to my daughter as well, who likewise fell under the book's charms and counts it among her favorites.  

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White Really, what can I say about this novel that hasn't already been said? From the very first line, one of the best in all of children's literature ("Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.), the book grips you and doesn't let you go. Charlotte's death left me sobbing. If you have children, please read them the book before letting them watch the video (which is very good, but not the same). It's a classic no child should miss.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle What an impression this novel made on me. To this day I can close my eyes and still see Mrs. Whatsit entering the Murry's kitchen or the children on the planet Camazotz bouncing their rubber balls and skipping rope in unison. And the plot of two children battling the forces of evil to rescue a beloved parent is such a strong one. Kids today have Coraline. I had A Wrinkle in Time.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis My mother first read this classic children's novel to me when I was a little bit of a thing, and she claims that we both cried at the end, when Aslan dies. I don't remember that, but I've read the book for myself many times since then, and I still cry, so it must be true. The idea of stepping into a wardrobe and being transported into another world thrilled me as a child and thrills me now. A timeless novel for all ages!

Gone-away Lake by Elizabeth Enright A Newbery honor book, this novel isn't as well known as it should be. The premise is one that still intrigues me. Three children discover a colony of abandoned summer houses bordering a lake. They claim one of the houses as their own and set about restoring it, keeping the lake and its location a secret from the grown-ups. Then, to their surprise, the children come across an elderly couple who still reside in the colony, and an unusual friendship develops. Wonderfully written, with rich and believable characters, this book is one to seek out.

The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh I make no secret of my abiding love for Harriet the Spy, probably the most influential book I read as a child. However, since I've written about it before, I'm including another book by Louise Fitzhugh. The Long Secret again features Harriet Welsch, but in this novel she takes second place to Beth Ellen, Harriet's shy friend. The setting is Long Island's Water Mill, a location not far from where my grandparent's had their summer house, so I was familiar with the area, making the story especially appealing. The novel focuses around a mystery--Who is leaving odd notes, mostly quotations from the Bible, around town? Harriet is obsessed with discovering the author's identity and drags Beth Ellen along with her as they spy on the town's inhabitants. Beth Ellen, who lives with her grandmother, has bigger concerns. She's unhappy to hear that her flighty mother and her wealthy boyfriend will be coming to stay for the summer. How Beth Ellen learns to stand up for herself is the crux of the novel. Who is writing the mystery notes? Well, a sharp-eyed reader can easily figure that one out.

Hope you liked my list. What about yours? I'd love to read about some favorite books from your childhood.


  1. Fun memories! I love your picks.
    I heard "Pierre" so much as a child that I can still quote the whole book to this day, much to my children's amusement and dismay! My children have stopped saying "I don't care" because everytime they do I launch into "One morning when Pierre climbed out of bed, his mother said..." They roll their eyes and groan, "OK, I care, I care!"

  2. I remember that Ping book! The art fascinated me as a kid: it was my first time seeing another part of the world in art.

  3. I haven't heard of a lot of these, but who doesn't love Charlotte's Web?!

  4. I love your blog's mission statement posted at the top. And I agree.

    Great list of childhood favorites. Love this meme.

  5. I loved Charlotte's Webb and how could I forget the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe? I have been meaning to re-read the Narnia series but never seem to get round to it.

  6. A Wrinkle in Time was my favorite book for many. many years. Ahh...Happy memories.
    New Follower!

  7. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my childhood favorites too. Charlotte's Web is wonderful as well, but I did not read that one until I was in college.

  8. New follower!

    I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in fifth grade and I think I've read it (and the other books in the quartet) at least four times over since then. It made such an impression on me and jumpstarted my love of dystopian novels.

    In fact, I actually chose IT as one of my all-time favorite villains for my Top Ten Tuesday list this week.


  9. Nice list!!! I wish I read more when I was a kid :)
    Here's mine:

  10. I'm surprised by how many of these I was unfamiliar with. For my list I would add some Nancy Drew (I couldn't get enough of them), Wind in the Willows and Peter Pan.

  11. I haven't thought of "A Lonely Doll" for many a year. That one stuck with me too. And Georgie brings back memories. I second most of the books on your list and will add one more that I did not discover until my children had grown. The Wolf Story, by William McCleery has become one of the favorite books in my school after our second graders heard it as a read-aloud. They could not wait to read the next chapter and would actually cheer when we sat down to read it every week.

    Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein is reminiscent of this classic. Stein's book was another favorite of our students and I had the honor of sending him last year's Sakura Medal as his was the winning book in the picture book category. (See http://www.sakuramedal.com)

    -Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud