Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#ReadItMD13 Theme Week - "Treasures in the Attic - Revisiting classic children's books you've kept to share with your children"

For this week's theme we thought we'd take a look at enduring classic children's books. You've already seen our review of Dick Bruna's "Miffy's Garden" which is a great example of a classic children's book that still has appeal today. But the inspiration for this theme week was someone who has shared her loft treasures with us on many occasions, causing "oohs" and "ahhs" of delight whenever her loft treasure posts go live. Ladies and gentlemen, we're very honoured to kick off the week with a guest post from Loll Kirby at Story Seekers. Take it away Loll!

It’s pretty hard to write a post about classic children’s books as I sit and gaze at bookshelves upon bookshelves filled with all the books I used to read when I was younger. You’d think it would be simple to just pick a few out and give my reasons for believing them to be timeless texts that should be in everyone’s homes.

I can certainly recommend a few books that I think every child should have a chance to read, such as those by Janet and Allan Ahlberg:

"The Baby's Catalogue" and "Burglar Bill" by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Sublime!
and a wonderfully illustrated compendium of nursery rhymes:

"Lavender Blue" by Kathleen Lines and Harold Jones. 
as well as books that help us deal with the really tough times:

"Granpa" by John Burningham. 
but this post is actually going to go down a slightly different route.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, you can never be entirely sure that any book you recommend is going to be someone else’s cup of tea. Some books are as close to a sure thing as you’ll ever get (see all those pictured above!) but there’ll always be at least one person who disagrees. Secondly, and more importantly, I don’t think this always matters.

When I went up into my dad’s loft last summer and discovered a multitude of boxes filled with bookish treasures from my formative years, the ones I squealed and cartwheeled over weren’t always the ones that had the best plots or the most beautiful pictures (though often they had both of these things as well). They were the ones that meant something to me personally. This might have been because they showed that my mum recognised my future as a bookworm even when I was only a month old:

Dedication inside "Circus" by Dick Bruna
"Circus" by Dick Bruna.

It might have been because they helped me learn to read and are now helping my children learn to read as well (even though I make every effort to encourage them to focus on what *they* like, it’s very cool to see them enjoying the books that I loved so much):

The Magic Porridge Pot (Ladybird Well Loved Tales). Very well loved by us!
However, there are other books that I loved for less obvious but very specific reasons. My dad used to work abroad a lot and we spent a lot of time in airports either waving him off or welcoming him home. I used to long to be a pilot and even had a ‘plane spotter’s guide (I’ve always embraced my geekiness...). Anyway, the following book is a classic for me as Dad bought it for me and it makes me think of him:

"Dilbert in Seattle" by Kate Robertson and Val Biro

The following books, I have to admit, have no especially exciting story attached. However, I just LOVED them and they have the power to instantly transport me back to reading under the covers; to reorganising the bookshelves in my bedroom yet again; to packing them in my bag as I threatened to run away from home in an (entirely successful, I might add) attempt to pressure my dad into stopping smoking. I eschewed the more practical appeal of clothes and food and instead chose to take nothing but books and teddies, with these books taking pride of place in my ‘My Little Pony’ backpack:

"Grandmother Lucy" books by Joyce Wood and Frank Francis
The Grandmother Lucy books are nigh on perfect, in my opinion, and I delight in them just as much now as I did then.

These well-worn books, creased with years of love and attention, are all classics to me because at various times and for various reasons, they all shaped me. I’m aware of how dramatic that sounds, but to me that’s the power of a great book. You find it at the right time and you never forget it. Obviously there are truly outstanding authors and illustrators out there and their work is bound to have an impact on you - rightfully so. Just don’t be afraid to let other ‘classics’ into your life and the lives of the people with whom you share books.


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