My Childhood Bookshelf: A to K
During April I am posting an A to Z of early childhood texts in two parts. These are works which remain special to me today. Here is A to K:
A is for Animalia.
Animalia, written and illustrated by Graeme Base (1958-), held my attention like no other picture book when I was younger. I poured over the detailed pictures. Base’s books feature hidden messages and symbols. Decoding them was pure fun. A is also for ‘alliteration’. For example, the Z line read: ‘Zany Zebras Zigzagging in Zinc Zeppelins’.
One of the highlights of last year was meeting the author and having him sign my much loved hardcover of his other classic, The Eleventh Hour.
B is for Banjo Paterson.
Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864-1941) was an Australian bush poet and journalist. His iconic poems include “Waltzing Matilda” and “The Man from Snowy River”. As a child I found “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle” very funny. Laughing at an adult’s stupidity at an age when everybody’s telling you how to behave is doubly sweet. Here is the first stanza:
Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendant to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, “Excuse me, can you ride?”
“See here, young man,” said Mulga Bill, “from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy’s Gap to Castlereagh, there’s none can ride like me.
I’m good all round at everything, as everybody knows,
Although I’m not the one to talk – I hate a man that blows.
C is for Captain Midnite.
Julian Randolph Stow (1935–2010) was an Australian writer. Before I encountered his writing in my undergraduate degree, he had me in stitches as a child. Midnite – The Story of a Wild Colonial Boy follows the escapades of a rebellious youth, ‘Captain Midnite’. The online reviews seem to harp on about the central character being ‘dim-witted’. I shall have to re-read it and see if this is the case. My memories are of clever, dependable animal friends and bushranger-style exploits.
D is for Dahl.
Roald Dahl (1916-1990). In no particular order, you really ought to read…
- The Witches
- George’s Marvellous Medicine
- Fantastic Mr Fox
- James and the Giant Peach
- Revolting Rhymes
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Which is your favourite?
E is for Ethel.
Ethel Turner (1872–1958) was an Australian novelist. Seven Little Australians was published 1894. Apart from a handful of outdated phrases, this still reads as a fast and fresh tale of Australian life. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry.
F is for Film.
Many of the books now considered classics have been adapted for the silver screen. Over and over. And rightly so.
I enjoy film and literature. As a child I saw many movies (and they still feel like a treat). It would take many hours for me to recall then list the classics that I watched before reading. I’ll list just three here:
The Neverending Story, The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins.
I enjoyed these so much as a child, I bought the DVDs as an adult.
Do you relive aspects of childhood?
G is for Gibbs.
Cecilia May Gibbs (1877-1969) was an Australian author, illustrator, and cartoonist. She was penning tales when my grandmother was born, and many decades later the same stories and images captivated this grandchild. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie still have charm and the evil Banksia men still chill the spine.
H is for Hodgson Burnett.
Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett (1849–1924) was an English playwright and author. I read and re-read The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy as a child. I had forgotten the emotional intensity of these tales until I recently watched Holland’s version of The Secret Garden (screenplay by Caroline Thompson).
As a child who suffered from life-threatening illness, her work spoke to my younger self.
Did you have a secret garden as a child?
I is for Imagination.
My father and grandmother were both creative people. Dreaming, drawing, writing, inventing: all encouraged.
How do you encourage imagination in your own children?
J is for Junko.
Junko Morimoto (1932-) is an author and an illustrator of children’s books. I owned A Piece of Straw and The White Crane. The latter haunted me (in the most delicate and desired way) for years afterwards.
As one storyteller enters this world, another leaves it…
K is for Kenneth.
Kenneth Grahame (1859–1932) famously wrote The Wind in the Willows. Mr. Toad, Esq., of Toad Hall, seemed to have all the fun. Toad’s conceit was boundless.
Do you remember his composition?
The world has held great Heroes,
As history-books have showed;
But never a name to go down to fame
Compared with that of Toad!
The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr Toad!
The animals sat in the Ark and cried,
Their tears in torrents flowed.
Who was it said, “There’s land ahead”?
Encouraging Mr Toad!
The army all saluted
As they marched along the road.
Was it the King? Or Kitchener?
No. It was Mr Toad.
The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting
Sat at the window and sewed.
She cried, “Look! Who’s that handsome man?”
They answered, “Mr Toad.”
Read the L to Z here.
© Chenoa Fawn. 2011.