Day Four and I’m still up to date and this time we are looking at
A book you remember from childhood.
I cannot recall a time when I did not read – often to escape the attentions of family! – so there are a lot to consider. Again!
Enid Blyton was a staple of my childhood but I am now too afraid of returning to them – the Secret Seven and Famous Five and Adventure series – because I am sure that they would feel horribly out-of-date and out-of-touch and probably would come across and cringe-inducingly, if unintentionally, racist and misogynistic. But I do remember them creating that escapist adventuring excitement.
The other Blyton book, though, that I’d probably put above these is the Faraway Tree series. The absurdity of – what were their names? – Moon-Face and The Saucepan Man! The domineering Dame Slap. I have not the faintest idea of the human characters or the plots any more – except perhaps one story in which the Faraway Tree itself was sickening and dying… Or maybe I’m confusing it with Blake’s The Sick Rose… I also seem to remember that some of the names were changed in modern reprints – was there a Fanny and Dick?
Jo, Bessie and Fanny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends – Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, and Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands (the Roundabout Land, the Land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want) atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.
The other book I remember vividly is Stig of the Dump by Clive King. if I remember rightly a slightly indolent and curious child whose name escapes me explores a dump one day and finds a caveman living there. One particular phrase has embedded itself in me: that wood warms you twice, once when you chop it and again when you burn. My recollection is that is came from this book. and every time I find myself in the garden chopping or pruning that mantra runs through my head!
Now, with a daughter who has speech and communication delays, I wonder whether the child’s attempts to communicate with the non-verbal Stig might also resonate… Reflecting now, I am more likely to go back and re-read this than anything by Blyton. I certainly just accepted Stig as being a material physical real character – thinking back, I wonder whether I would accept that still or whether I might be inclined to read it more psychologically…
Barney is a solitary eight-year-old, given to wandering off by himself. One day he tumbles over, lands in a sort of cave, and meets’ somebody with shaggy hair wearing a rabbit-skin and speaking in grunts. He names him Stig. They together raid the rubbish dump at the bottom of the pit, improve Stig’s cave dwelling, and enjoy a series of adventures.Goodreads
The final memorable childhood read was The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien which I read at the end of Primary School and promptly propelled me into all things Middle Earth for a while and a life-long weakness for those big fantasy epics including George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere novels and Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.Goodreads
Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
What do these books all have in common? I suppose what many of the books I still read do: that there is another world, a refuge, a place of thrills and adventure, or imagination and excitement, outside the day-to-day workaday world we live in.
And if I were to pick just one, I am going to go for Stig of the Dump!