‘As You Like It’ Act 2, Scene 7
Since I haven’t finished reading my latest book, ‘1599’ by James Shapiro, I thought I’d talk about my favourite childrens’ books – not the generic ones that everyone knows about, but the ones I still read when I’m sick or sad or just need some comforting. I read the other day that 94% of 400 secondary school teachers said that pupils prefer to be using the internet rather than reading and that many didn’t know what ‘Anne of Green Gables’ was. So here is my ultimate list for you/your children/your grandchildren:
- ‘Little Women’ Lousia May Alcott: A classic you can’t go wrong with- everyone loves Jo and the sisters’ escapades. Not many people know that there are at least three other books in the series where you can find out what happens to the March family.
- ‘Anne of Green Gables’ Lucy Maud Montgomery: Another classic children’s book, mainly aimed a girls, about Anne, an orphan who comes to live on Prince Edward Island in Canada after being adopted by Marilla and Mathew, siblings in their fifties and sixties. Again, though many know the first book, there are eight book in total, the last two of which, I’m ashamed to admit, I haven’t read.
- ‘The Secret Garden’ Frances Hodgson Burnett: Just amazing. Go and read it – the tape (yes, I still have tapes, not CDs) is great as well.This leads me onto…
- ‘Ballet Shoes’, ‘The Painted Garden’, ‘Apple Bough’ Noel Streatfeild: Noel Streatfeild is probably my favourite childrens author ever. She is just perfect. These can be read separately or as a trilogy, as the original girls, Paulina, Petrova and Posy Fossil, who appear in ‘Ballet Shoes’ (which was recently made into a TV-film, starring Emma Watson) also make appearances in the other two books. If you don’t have these go get them now, I don’t care what age you are. Some of my other favourites by Streafeild are: ‘White Boots’, the ‘Gemma’ series. ‘Curtain Up’ (or ‘Theater Shoes’) and ‘Party Frock’ (or ‘Party Shoes’). All of them are mainly about actors, singers, dancers, mimics or musicians and are immersed in the world of the theatre, as Streatfeild herself was an actress for ten years. However, the children in them are very real; they aren’t without faults, and so the books are all the better.
- Talking of the world of theatre, ‘The Swish of the Curtain’ Pamela Brown was my absolute favourite book was I was younger. The characters are real and have real problems, but of course they manage to overcome them by the end, like in any good children’s story. There are five books in total in the series, though the fifth one has not been published for many decades now, and so is very expensive and difficult to get hold of. Hopefully, there will be a republish of it soon, as I’ve read all the others!
- ‘The Little Princess’ Frances Hodgson Burnett: Very famous for very good reasons. Another young girl, who is talented (of course), but has problems (she’s poor and her beloved father has died, in this case) in a book that ends happily *sigh* so satisfying to read.
- ‘The Faraway Tree’ series Enid Blyton: In my opinion, these are definitely the best of Blyton. I did like ‘St Clares’ and ‘Malory Towers’ but the Faraway Tree or ‘The Wishing Chair’ stories were my favourites. Who doesn’t love the thought of a magical land at the top of a huge tree inhabited by elves and pixies, which changes every week to something new? Or a chair that can fly you anywhere; Toyland, Birthdayland…? Need I say more?
- ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Laura Ingalls Wilder: Another series I avidly read my way through. They actually start with ‘Little House in the Big Woods’, but most know them through ‘The little House on the Prairie’. They’re based on the author’s life and every single one is good, as you see Laura and her sister Mary and their Ma and Pa grow up and travel on. My personal favourite is ‘Little House on Plum Creek’
- Any book you can lay your hands on Roald Dahl: Come on, everyone knows ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factoy’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘Matilda’, etc. The books are infinitely better than any of the films, although I do like the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version of ‘Charlie’. The best of all (if you can get them), are the tapes with Dahl himself reading them aloud. They are all I used to listen to on car journeys; his voice matches the stories perfectly- comforting, but exciting. There is also a second book in the ‘Charlie’ series, called ‘Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator’ which you should definitely read if (if? when!) you enjoy the first one.
- ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ C.S. Lewis: Again, this isn’t actually the first book, which is ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, but is the most famous. I actually think the recent film adaptations are very good, but nothing can live up to the books themsleves, though I love the BBC dramatisations on tape that you can get. There are, I think, seven in total, but the best ones are ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and ‘The Rise of the Dawn Treader’