So . . . to mix things up a little, every Friday I will make a list of four things. Hope you enjoy and I would love to hear feedback.
Four CHILDHOOD FAVORITES on Friday
I thought it might be fun to revisit some favorite books from my youth . . . yes, children of mine, that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!! These books were ones that I read and reread and then shared with my own children. I am curious to see what favorites you have!
Trixie Belden by Julie Campbell / Kathryn Kenny
Thirteen year old Trixie Belden lives with her parents and three brothers on a small farm in New York State. All Trixie wants is a horse and her wish is somewhat granted when a new family moves into the Manor House up the street. The Wheelers have a 13-year-old daughter, Honey, and numerous horses. It is a bit of a rocky start for the two girls because they come from very different backgrounds but soon become fast friends. Their adventures begin when they discover a boy living in Trixie’s neighbor’s rundown mansion. Jim is the nephew of the old miser who recently was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. Local legend is that the miser hid his money after his beloved wife’s death. Jim is determined to find the money and use it to escape his evil stepfather’s grasp, but his stepfather is closing in on both the fortune and Jim.
There are 39 books in the series, which were written between 1948 and 1986; all of which I own and most of which I purchased with my babysitting money. This series marks my own first obsession with books and mysteries. I remember going to the small, independent bookstore in my hometown and purchasing two or three books at a time as I earned my babysitting money. I appreciated the simpler life that harkened back to growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s even though some of the language dated the stories. And . . . with full honesty, I will admit that Jim was my first book crush!
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mary Lennox is a selfish, ill-mannered child born in India to wealthy British parents. When a cholera epidemic kills her parents, she is sent to England to live with an uncle she has never met, Archibald Craven, at his home, Misselthwaite Manor. Mary is pretty much ignored and confined to two rooms, but slowly she befriends her maid Martha. Mary is given a little bit of freedom and begins to explore the house and gardens. She finds a key and discovers a secret garden. She also discovers another child living in the manor; Colin is the son of her uncle who suffers from some unknown spinal ailment. Mary, Martha, and Dickon, Martha’s brother, work to restore the garden and bring it back to life. Colin joins them in his wheelchair, and his restoration parallels the garden’s renewal.
I think this book probably solidified by choice to be an English teacher, although it took me a long time to realize it. I love all the symbolism and metaphorical descriptions of both the garden and Colin’s rejuvenation. One of my favorite passages is Mary’s description of her discovery of the garden; the idea of a secret magical place hidden in plain sight is a beautiful image of peace and serenity. I think many people search for their own secret gardens. The copy of the book I currently own was one that I gave to my daughter for Christmas when she was 6 months old. I have read it to both my daughters; it is a beautiful book to share.
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Five sisters living on the East Side of New York City at the turn of the century?? Yep! I started loving historical books at a young age. The girls have all sorts of adventures, as girls will do, as they interact with the peddlers in their papa’s shop, they visit the library, they do their chores, and they travel on the streetcar to Coney Island. There are five books in the series: All-of-a-Kind Family, More All-of-a-Kind Family, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, and Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family.
These books are truly timeless. As one of three girls myself, I could relate to and appreciate the bond and strife of these five sisters. The author did a wonderful job at evoking the feel of turn-of-the-century New York and I remember being drawn into the story through the descriptions of sights and scents and sounds. This series made me truly appreciate what good description can do to a story. The family is Jewish and there were a lot of descriptions of religion and customs. As any good nerd of the 80’s would do, I spent a lot of time looking up holidays and traditions in our family’s trusty World Book Encyclopedias.
The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois
When Professor William Waterman Sherman wants to escape his life as a schoolteacher and enjoy his solitude, he embarks on an adventure in a giant balloon. As he floats over the Pacific, seagulls puncture his balloon and he lands on the island of Krakatoa and discovers an amazing civilization of families. Many years prior, a young sailor was shipwrecked on the island and discovered its vast diamond mines. Realizing that this incredible wealth could be exploited by many, he instead chose 20 families to live on the island together and create an uptopian society. Instead of using their wealth, the families worked together in a very democratic way to employ of barter system of survival. Krakatoa is also the home of a very active volcano and when it becomes evident that the volcano is going to erupt, the families escape on a giant balloon barge. Professor Sherman is rescued and shares his incredible story with the members of the Western American Explorers’ Club.
Taking a balloon ride is on my bucket list and I know that the idea originated from this story. As an adult, I appreciate and understand the concept of creating an uptopian society and the social commentary the author is making, but as a child, I just thought what an amazing adventure! The creativity of how the governing structure of the island was formed and the really cool inventions captivated my imagination. The scientific descriptions coupled with a tongue-in-cheek type of story-telling appealed to my sense of humor. The simple, yet quite humorous illustrations, only increase the enjoyment value of this book. This is a great book to enjoy at both a child and an adult level.
So, how about you? What were your CHILDHOOD FAVORITES?