I’ve been really enjoying “My Life in Books” on the BBC recently, and the many associated blog posts that have come out of it. It got me thinking about my own “life in books” but I couldn’t even get past childhood. I read a lot as a child and there are many books that have stayed with me, and have been re-read many times, both as a child and an adult. So I thought for my post I’d list five of my favourite childhood books, or at least those that have stayed with me as I’ve grown up.
1. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
I love this book, and reading it again as an adult it’s still pretty magical. Tom is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle who live in what was once a huge old house but is now converted into flats. The grandfather clock from the original house still stands in the hall, and one night Tom creeps out of bed and hears it strike thirteen. He sneaks out of the back door, and instead of the yard and the dustbins, finds he’s gone back in time and is standing in the huge gardens that once surrounded the house. There he meets Hattie and has some adventures.
I loved the history, and the magic of time travel, and the night where he goes skating with Hattie down the frozen river is fantastic. The contrast between Tom’s boring days with his aunt and uncle and his exciting nights with Hattie makes it seem even more magical, and the feeling he gets that he is a ghost in Hattie’s time rather than the other way around is really cool. The ending is excellent, but I won’t give it away.
2. Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome
I love all of the Swallows and Amazons books and would recommend any of them, but Pigeon Post was my favourite. The Swallows, Amazons and D’s go prospecting for gold and camp up in the hills. They do actually send pigeons with messages, an idea I loved as a child. Nancy Blackett was one of my childhood heroines and a big part of me would still like to be her!
3. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
This is the book that got me into keeping a notebook when I was about 9 or 10, writing down everything I saw. Sadly my accounts of the activities of my mum, dad and sister were nowhere near as interesting as Harriet’s notes, because she actually spied on people. I liked the adventure, that she would sneak into people’s houses or peer through their skylights and see what they’re doing. I liked that Harriet knew she wanted to be a writer and was already working at it, even if she did get into trouble later on in the book when the other school children read her notebook. It’s stayed with me because it got me into writing in a big way, and I remember getting it out of the library 3 or 4 times so I could re-read it.
4. The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene
This was my favourite of all the Nancy Drew books, but I could have picked any really. This one has a supposed ghost in it, and seances, and green glowing phantoms. It was gripping and exciting, and as usual Nancy is a fantastic heroine, boldly investigating despite often being kidnapped or dosed with chloroform. I love the original Nancy Drew series and try to pick them up second hand so eventually I’ll have them all. I prefer the original editions, as they re-wrote them at one point to make Nancy less active and try and get Ned to save the day occasionally, but it never really worked, Nancy was far more courageous and clever than Ned, who was always a bit pathetic really.
5. The Children of Greene Knowe by Lucy M Boston
The whole Greene Knowe series was brilliant – Tolly’s grandmother telling him stories about the history of the house called Greene Knowe, and Tolly ends up in an adventure relating to the stories, meeting the ghosts of echoes of the children. I love the way the house is a character in itself, and in every book you find out new secrets that are hidden within it. It made me wish I had a house like Greene Knowe to stay in during the holidays and a relative like Mrs Oldknow, who pretty much lets Tolly do whatever he likes.
So, there are my five – what are your favourite childhood books?