Review of small press and independent books.
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Richmal Crompton's 'William' books. I still love them and re-read them frequently. Have them on CDs which I play in the car.
Ruby Ferguson's 'Jill' books. A class above any of the other pony books in my opinion - funny, warm, wistful.
Frank Richards' Billy Bunter books. And no, he wasn't racist or snobbish - anything but. Perhaps he was a little fattist, I'll give you that, but I'll forgive him. Best accompaniment to a Billy Bunter book - big slab of toffee (can't do it now because of teeth).
Lorna Hill's books about ballet, Sadler's Wells, living in a peel tower in Northumberland, climbing mountains in the Highlands, etc. My mother loved them, too, which says something for them as she normally only read murder mysteries.
Beverly Cleary's Ramona books (discovered these through my kids - sadly they weren't around when I was young). Wonderful portrayal of family life.
Finally I have to mention Noddy, who for all his creator's faults, taught me to read (helped by Dad) and to love books.
I'll stop now and hand over to someone else.
My favourites as a child:
Fairy Tales - had to be Grimm's - none of that sentimental Hans Christian Andersen stuff. From there, I graduated to Norse (plus some Greek and Roman) myths and legends.
Animal stories - Anna Sewell's 'Black Beauty', of course, but also all the animal stories by Rudyard Kipling.
Adventure stories - from Enid Blyton's '... of Adventure' series, I graduated to Rider Haggard and John Buchan. Great stuff. Not exactly PC, but great yarns nonetheless.
Fantasy/allegory - CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, though as much for Pauline Baynes' peerless illustrations as the stories. Then Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' and later 'Lord of the Rings'.
Sci-fi - I cut my teeth on Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. Brilliant.
Non-fiction - art books with big glossy pictures. Never mind the text.
Picture story-books - these inspired me for as long as I can remember. Trouble is, I can't remember what many of them were, as I had them when very young. One was about a boy called Eric (Erik?) who had many adventures, including sinking down through an ocean of ink. Fabulous. If anyone has the faintest idea what that book might have been, please let me know.
And then there was a story about a boy called Finn. I can barely remember it, but I know it was a favourite. Again, if anyone knows what this might have been, please let me know. I'd love to track it down again.
Then, as now, the best books were those that excited and moved me.
That saved some typing - I read all the ones Cathy did except Erik and Finn (although that might have been one of the Irishy ones I swam, happily mystified, through - and none of the ones Rosalie did except Noddy!
I forgot to mention the Moomins! How could I forget the Moomins? Stories about Finnish trolls with white velvety fur, who have lots of adventures and are very profound. By Tove Jansson, who illustrated them herself and wrote stories for adults, too..
Ah now, the Moomins oh yes! I'm not sure I'd even worked out what books or libraries were when I was suddenly in this magical world somewhere between playschool and home (it WAS the branch library - I realise that, looking back!) peering through holes in pages and things.... ah, dream....
Hmm, boys called Finn are possibly something to do with Rosemary Sutcliff? She certainly did THE definitive production of the Finn mac Cool and Cuchulain sagas, and lots of other brilliant historical/prehistoric novels as well, though someone really ought to append an Editor's Note to 'The Eagle of the Ninth' these days explaining that we actually found the Ninth Legion alive and well some time in the nineteen-seventies!
Don't think the Finn I'm thinking of was a Rosemary Sutcliff. I used to love her stories, but was much older when I read them. Talking of historical stuff, I also enjoyed Henry Treece and Geoffrey Trease, but can't remember their books at all. Just know I liked them and always got them muddled up because of the similar names.
Henry Treece used to teach at my school, though that was before I was there - the school library had a 'Henry Treece Memorial Collection' of his works, and my absolute proudest schoolday was when I won the Henry Treece Memorial Prize for English Expression. My favourites were the Viking books - Viking's Dawn, The Road to Miklagard and Viking's Sunset - which had really stunning black and white illustrations.
Due to these and other recommendations, I've bought Pickleblossom a copy of 'Finn Family Moomintroll', which is providing her bedtime reading at the moment. It's lovely and peaceful, and very serious when it's being weird (a Scandinavian trait?), which I like. I never read anything about the Moomins when I was little, but I think one of the books must have been serialised on Jackanory, because all the names like the Hemulen and the Snork Maiden ring a very distant bell.
And talking of things that ring very distant bells... Ruth Park's obituary last week mentioned a book for young children called 'The Muddle-headed Wombat'. I thought I only knew of Ruth Park from 'Playing Beatie Bow', aimed at teenage girls, which the obit said was the only one of her books that had made any impact in Britain, but I'm sure 'The Muddle-headed Wombat' ought to mean something to me. Ring any bells with anyone else?