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A book a day for a month — here’s a week of books that made a big impression on me as a child

Books that left an impression #BookADay started yesterday, June 1st. Harper Collins want everyone to share a book a day on twitter for the month of June.

We can’t wait for #bookaday to get started this Sunday 1st June. What are your choices? — HarperCollinsUK (@HarperCollinsUK) May 30, 2014

I’m going to give it a go and I thought I would share the books I’ve chosen on Mondays in June – my theme for the first week is the books that made a big impression on me before the age of 12.

I got a copy – which I still have  somewhere – the Christmas I turned seven and as soon as I finished it I turned back to the beginning. The adventures in the Looking Glass are  far superior to those in Wonderland by the way.
Monday June 2nd THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Unattractive and without a doubt unappealing, Mary is sent from India to England to live in her uncle’s country house. She is very lonely – I don’t remember a governess – until she discovers that there is another child in the house and a secret garden they can play in, along with Dickon, the working class boy who can charm the birds from the trees .
Although not much is made of it, the events unravel because Mary experiences the worst horror that it is possible for a young child to imagine: she wakes up all alone. Her parents, her nanny and all the servants have gone – dead from cholera.

Children's classic
Tuesday June 3rd A LITTLE PRINCESS by
Frances Hodgson Burnett
This time the heroine is very appealing. In fact she is kind, clever, beautiful, well educated and sensitive to the feelings of others. She is the perfect little girl and everyone loves her at the exclusive boarding school she attends in central London until her father dies bankrupt. Penniless and without any family, she is allowed to stay on at the school as a scullery maid and general skivvy. She, of course, is still kind, clever, beautiful…ah, when I was seven I loved it.
Wednesday June 4th THE SILVER SWORD by Ian Serraillier
Miss Jordan was an inspirational teacher in my primary school. She read this book to us and no one spoke, no one shuffled in their seat. The silver sword – in fact a paper knife – was a symbol of hope to four deserted children in occupied Europe during WWII. I remember one of the children clings to the underside of a railway carriage to escape Poland. Others don’t believe him: how did you manage to hang on for so long? they asked. Easy, said the boy. My hands froze to the metal. It was only when I was researching this post that I discovered the book is based on a true story.
Thursday June 5th THE NARNIA BOOKS by C.S.Lewis
I can’t just choose one, it’s impossible. However, I must admit I didn’t enjoy The Horse and His Boy, the one book that doesn’t include a visitor from this world. I tried as a child and I tried much later as an adult with the same result. I also went through a phase when I felt a bit cheated when I realised that the Narnia stories are based on the Christian messaqge, but I got over it.
Friday  June 6th THE GAUNTLET  by Ronald Welch
A young boy travels back in time to the 14th century where is the son of a Norman Lord. Loved it. Wanted desperately to travel back and have the chance to take part in jousts, hawking and battles. Part of me still does, but I’d skip the jousting, fighting and messing around with birds of prey. Also loved Knight Crusader by the same author.
Boarding School books for girls
Saturday June 7th THE CHALET SCHOOL BOOKS by Elinor Brent Dryer.
I think I would probably cringe if I read one now but I devoured this series of stories set in an English boarding school in the Austrian Tyrol in the 1920s ans 30s. I thought I must have read all 60+ titles but I guess I only scratched the surface as I have just discovered that the school moved from the Tyrol after Hitler took over Austria in 1938. The author made a bad choice in re-locating the school to Guernsey and she had to move it yet again after the island was invaded. It eventually ended up in Wales…and I never knew. Looking back, I don’t understand the appeal. I remember I was also a fan of the Dimsie boarding school books written in the 1920s-1940s. (Dimsie was the nickname of Daphne, the plucky heroine and yes, that is an accurate flavour of the prose.) The world portrayed was  far from the one I inhabited and it would have been very dated when I was reading this series. Perhaps it was the kind of escapism I needed aged eight.
Sunday June 8th LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa M. Alcott.
Perhaps there are only two kinds of people in the world: not black and white or east and west or even male and female, but those who know the March sisters almost as well as members of their own family and those who don’t. Set during the American Civil War and written not that long after, it’s been a bestseller since it was first published…

It’s hard leaving books out such as Just William and Pippa Longstocking and Ballet Shoes. I’m not sure what this list says about me, but I am struck that there is very little contemporary children’s fiction on it. It reads as though I was born in the 1940s and I wasn’t, believe me, I wasn’t.  There were no books at home though and most of these titles would have been on loan from a tiny children’s library in Clerkenwell, North London. Perhaps the books I learned to love reflects their dated stock…

What books did you fall in love with as a child? Have you fallen out of love with any of them since…?

My twitter tag is @agoodconfession. If you follow me, I’ll follow you back!


photo credit: Lucia Whittaker via photopin cc

5 comments on “A book a day for a month — here’s a week of books that made a big impression on me as a child

  1. Ann Perrin
    June 2, 2014

    Was brought up on Alice in Wonderland and Looking glass with our marionettes, acting the scenes rather than the books, but started collecting them in later life think I have about 20. Loved little Women and Ballet Shoes. Cinderella of course, marionettes had to do panto! Later Daddy Long Legs, yes the book x

  2. bridget whelan
    June 2, 2014

    Intrigued and interested that you’ve collected so many different editions of Alice. What a great idea. And did you prefer Looking Glass? I didn’t come across Dear Daddy Long Legs until later…

  3. A.K.Andrew @artyyah
    June 4, 2014

    It is so true, about the books we read as children Bridget. My list would look almost identical, and yet at the time it didn’t seem odd that the characters were all either from a different era, or at the very least from a different class – wealthy girls in boarding schools seemed to figure as I recall. I was never a fan of “Alice” but did like Black Beauty & cried each time I read it. Also liked the Blyton “Adventure” series – Valley of adventure, Castle of adventure etc. what a good idea to do different eras’ Cant wait to read your teens selection. What a great project. Will have to give it a go.Thanks for the post:-)

    • bridget whelan
      June 21, 2014

      Never got into Blyton after Noddy and Big Ears…if I could only have one out of all these it would be the Gaunlet. Set my imagination alight!

  4. Jane Dougherty
    June 24, 2014

    My mum gave me a copy of The Silver Sword for Christmas when I was about ten. I loved it.

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This entry was posted on June 2, 2014 by in Muse and tagged , , , , , , .


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