My childhood bookshelf: L to Z
During April, I have fondly recalled books from my early childhood. You can read A to K here.
An alphabetical list is often an arbitrary approach to a topic, but this is the requirement of the A to Z challenge. If time permitted, I would have provided an Australian and an International list, thematically organized. By “early childhood” I mean the first seven years of reading. My A to Z covers some key texts, but there are many more worth mentioning elsewhere.
Here is L to Z:
L is for Lindgren.
Astrid Anna Emilia Lindgren (1907-2002), like many authors, was a journalist before becoming a full-time author. In her lifetime, she campaigned for the environment, and for the rights of children and animals. The Lex Lindgren animal protection law was named after her. She even took on the tax system*.
As a little girl, I was interested in her creations.
L is for Longstocking! Pippi entranced me. I longed for her freedom and adventures.
M is for Magic Pudding.
Norman Alfred William Lindsay (1879-1969) was an Australian artist and writer. He wrote The Magic Pudding. Unfortunately, his cartoonist works reflect attitudes of his time, which we regard as racist. Modern editions of The Magic Pudding often omit one couplet which contains a racial slur.
I recently took my niece to see a theatre production of the book. We both enjoyed the slapstick humour and gruffness of the main character. There was no hint of anything other than a very good story.
Do you think classics should be edited according to the prevailing attitudes of their time or ours?
N is for Nursery Rhyme.
When I was four, my father gave me Little One’s Nursery Rhymes and Stories. It was beautifully illustrated by Eric Kincaid, Gerry and Gill Embleton. For many years afterwards, I could recite every rhyme (of which there were more than seventy). How I wish my mind still performed such tricks. The smell of that book makes me feel cosy. Its good condition testifies the value of buying hardcover books. And teaching little fingers how to turn pages gently…
O is for Once Upon a Time.
You are likely thinking that is a reference to Fairy Tales. It is, but not the bookshelf variety.
Stories live in one mind when we read to ourselves, and many minds when they are read aloud. When stories are told and re-told from the mind, rather than the page, they are able to live new lives in the next generation of minds.
O is for Oral Story.
P is for Potter.
No, not Harry. He did not exist in J.K.’s mind (as far as one can deduce) when I was three years old.
Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was a truly gifted woman. Who could not love The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher or The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck?
Potter was rejected by many publishers before finally securing a contract. You may not be aware that she self-published at first.
Q is for Quirky.
Paul Jennings (1943- ) wrote Quirky Tales and many other funny books. His short stories were adapted for Round The Twist, a children’s television series. I distinctly remember everyone in my primary school class watching the series. I do not recall individual characters or plots now, but I do remember enjoying the stories.
Strange things happen, when you’re going Round The Twist…
R is for Rainbow Brite.
Cartoons and comics deserve some mention. Cartoons especially held my attention for hours each day after school. I watched Danger Mouse, Looney Tunes, Transformers, Astro Boy, Inspector Gadget, She-Ra, Shazaam, and Strawberry Shortcake among others. Rainbow Brite, with her horse Starlite and her colour kids and star sprinkles captured the hearts of many little girls. This may not have been the cleverest of cartoons, but its visual appeal is strong.
What are your favourite childhood cartoons?
S is for Sewell.
Anna Mary Sewell (1820-1878) wrote the unforgettable Black Beauty. It was her only published work. It is often said that you can judge a child from how they treat a puppy. This book helps readers view the world from an animal’s perspective long after they finish reading it.
T is for Tigger.
Tigger is my favourite character in the Hundred Acre Wood. On a trip to London I happily discovered original sketches by E.H. Shepard of A.A. Milne’s characters in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Tigger is all personality.
U is for Unknown.
There are many books I have read and loved, but that does not mean I recall their author’s name or even their title. There is a set of very small books which were fairy stories of some variety which lived in a reddish-brown box set on my childhood bookshelf. One story featured a princess or an elf who traveled to an underworld (by a small boat) each night. I wish I remembered more details so I could track it down.
V is for Vocabulary.
One of the books on my shelf was (and still is) The Little Oxford Dictionary. I have graduated to its behemoth brother, but I have more love for the little volume. My cousin scribbled in dark red circles inside it one day. It did not escape my craze for covering ALL IMPORTANT BOOKS in clear contact.
W is for Web.
Three titles immediately vied for this spot. The first two were Jeannie Baker’s Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Baker’s text is best understood by experiencing it. Her distinctive style continues to produce interesting picture books decades after this book was published. The Sendak title hardly needs the publicity.
W is for Web. W is for Words. W is for White. Enough hints?
E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was exactly the kind of story I enjoyed as a child. It involved animals, the outdoors, and the magic of words.
Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
(X, Y, Z) is for non-fiction.
The last three letters of the alphabet are a happy triumvirate representing knowledge. Just as the Cartesian coordinate system opened the cattle-gate for some very interesting branches of mathematics, non-fiction books spur new thoughts in young minds.
My childhood bookshelf held texts on science, history, and religion. Learning about rainbows only made them more beautiful to me.
Which areas of knowledge captured your attention as a child?
* Lindgren satirized the tax system in an adult fairytale called Pomperipossa in Monismania (or Pomperipossa In The World Of Money). This contributed to the downfall of the Social Democrat government later that year. Tremble, wise men!
© Chenoa Fawn. 2011.