World Book Day, a day dedicated to one of my favourite pastimes, is almost upon us. Today, I’m sharing some of my childhood favourites, penned by the likes of Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and Francesca Simon. These are the books I remember fondly; the books that captured my imagination and made me the bookworm I am today.
Let’s rewind a couple of decades. Picture three-year-old me (or thereabouts), probably wearing velour trousers (I’m a child of the nineties, enough said), glass of milk on the table, sat in the tearoom on the top floor of what is now a Simon Boyd outlet. In the book basket, three books: The Enormous Crocodile (a firm favourite, featuring a cunning croc masquerading as a picnic bench, see-saw, merry-go-round and swing-set in his attempt to find a meal deal of the “nice juicy little child” variety) and two others, now forgotten (by me, at least). More often than not, I had eyes – or rather ears, since at that point the task of reading fell to my lovely dad – only for Dahl (and, by extension, Quentin Blake, whose illustrations were sublime).
My love of all things Dahl continued in the years that followed, as I discovered The Twits (a classic, made all the better for the return of Muggle-Wump and the Roly Poly Bird), Fantastic Mr Fox (the book, mind; the film which followed is dreadful), George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Witches (which between them marked the beginning of many an afternoon spent ensconced in the bathroom concocting potions). And then, along came Revolting Rhymes: a slim, unassuming paperback which had me in fits of giggles time after time. Trust me, as with all of Dahl’s creations, it’s as much for the child-at-heart as it is for children.
We venture next to Happyland: home of Roger – and his son, Adam – Hargreaves’ creations, the colourful Mr Men and Little Miss. I loved all of these little books, though if push came to shove, this trio would come out on top: Mr Strong (this smiley, pillar-box red character sits on my sofa today in cushion form) Mr Muddle and Mr Greedy.
Naturally, Mrs Tiggywinkle, Squirrel Nutkin, Peter Rabbit and co. (minus the radishes) also found their way onto my bookshelf and into my heart. Beatrix Potter’s illustrations are, quite simply, magical: they capture the personalities of the furry (or feathery, in the case of Jemima Puddleduck) protagonists perfectly.
Likewise, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger and Piglet put in an appearance. When I was little, the charm lay in the illustrations and the carefree nature of the characters; now, it’s the insightful comments made by each character that I find so endearing. Take Winnie-the-Pooh’s line “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”, or Piglet’s “The things that make me different are the things that make me [me]”, for example. If it were possible to visit a setting from a book, the Hundred Acre Wood would be up there with Hogwarts, vying for my vote.
Wedged in amongst these: Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat (quite possibly my first encounter with a book written entirely in verse) and Dorothy Edwards’ My Naughty Little Sister (which neatly captured just how impish younger siblings can be).
Now for the mother of all mischievous fictional children: Horrid Henry. Whether he was rigging booby traps for his babysitter, brushing his nit-laden mop against others’ luscious, clean locks or ladling out ‘glop’ to his arch-enemy Moody Margaret, Horrid Henry was a horror (and probably every child’s favourite horror at that). Francesca Simon describes Henry as “the imp inside everyone”; that sums him up perfectly. Without doubt, my favourites were Horrid Henry’s Nits and Horrid Henry and the Secret Club; well-thumbed copies of both – with the original covers – still sit on my bookshelf at my parents’ home.
Classics like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and The Secret Garden (both of which I also owned on VHS) and Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (which I found rather scary as a child) also had their place on my shelf. Later, I’d discover Anne of Green Gables, and would devour the series one book at a time. These days, I’ll rarely touch classics, but as a child I loved them.
It’s time to turn to the Jacqueline Wilson chapter of my childhood. There are the oldies but goodies, like The Suitcase Kid (a book that brings back nostalgic memories of Sylvanian Families), Cliffhanger and The Worry Website. And of course, the self-proclaimed ‘Star of the Dumping Ground’, Tracy Beaker, whom I wasn’t quite so keen on (not that that stopped me from watching many an episode of The Story of Tracy Beaker back in the day).
J.K. Rowling’s bestseller, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, hit the shelves just a few years after I was born; in Year 3, our teacher would spend the last ten or so minutes of the school day reading it aloud to us. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – the first of the hefty, lengthier books in the series – defeated this six-year-old Muggle, and I didn’t return to it for a few years. But when I did, it was as though no time had passed; such is the magic of the Wizarding World.
Inevitably, I’ve barely scratched the surface: it just wouldn’t be possible to squeeze every book I read and loved into a single blog post.
Do you have a favourite childhood book (or two)? Let me know in the comments!
Image © World Book Day, available to download from their website.