Whilst my mum was having a Christmas clear out, she discovered a book I used to love as a child (The Bears’ Christmas by Stan and Jan Berenstain, if you’re interested!) This got me thinking about other books I loved when I was little, and here’s what I came up with:
Some of them have (deservedly) gone on to become classics – think ‘Funnybones’ and ‘Burglar Bill’ (or anything at all by the Ahlbergs – all amazing), and you can still buy them now. In fact, ‘Funnybones’ is one of the favourites of my two-year-old niece. Others are perhaps not so well recognised now but I am prepared to bet that my own children would like them. Maybe I should hunt them down and find out.
You have probably noticed that all of these are picture books aimed at readers just discovering the great joy that a book can bring. There are plenty of other books I loved when I was old enough to read them myself or listen to them on story cassette (you will need to google what a cassette is if you’re under the age of 25) but the reason I chose these is that they were the stories which started me off on the pathway towards a lifelong love of reading.
I think first picture books are always very special because they conjure up memories of being snuggled up in bed or on the sofa with someone who loves you. Reading with my own children is one of my favourite things to do. Even it means reading the same book several times in a row, to the point where I know all the words off by heart (and so do they!) ‘The Gruffalo,’ ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’? I know them all!
Anyway, in case you haven’t read them, here’s a run-down of my top childhood reads:
‘Funnybones,’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg –
‘On a dark, dark hill, there was a dark, dark town….’ Everyone knows the opening to this classic children’s picture book. I just loved the dark creepiness of the opening and the funny skeletons popping out to say hello. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in a zoo after dark, or what skeletons do for fun, this book will tell you.
‘Bears in the Night,’ by Jan and Stan Berenstain –
There’s not an awful lot of text in this book, but something about the Bears sneaking out at night and going on an adventure really appealed to me. This is one in a long series of books about the Berenstain Bears who had their own TV series and, now, a YouTube channel.
‘Maisie Middleton,’ by Nita Sawter –
This book was actually one of my sister’s favourites, but it had to be on the list simply for the amount of times we listened to it and my poor mum had to read it (she still remembers the words 30 years later!)
Maisie wakes up and pesters Dad for breakfast. Dad isn’t really awake and burns the toast. When Maisie complains, she finds Dad fast asleep on the stairs. Maisie takes matters into her own hands and prepares a magnificent breakfast of jellies, cakes and ice creams instead. She and her toys agree it was the best breakfast ever!
I wonder what Maisie would be up to now? She’d probably have a couple of children of her own pestering her for breakfast every morning.
‘Burglar Bill,’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg –
Another Ahlberg classic. All their books are total genius. In this one, Burglar Bill is a rather cuddly nocturnal burglar. He wakes up in the evening and enjoys a spot of burglaring. Bill will steal anything from policemen’s hats to tins of baked beans. However, things start to change when one night Bill steals a box containing a baby.
Predictably, the arrival of a baby turns Bill’s life upside down and makes him reconsider his life of crime.
‘Teddybears Go Shopping,’ by Susanna Gretz and Alison Sage –
Loved these books! The Teddybears are out of food and Andrew’s coming home today; they better get shopping, but where’s their list? They all get thoroughly confused about who’s got what – there’s plenty of ice cream but who has got the toothpaste for bears? Full of mayhem and ice-cream. What’s not to like?
I seem to remember pleading with my mum to buy some mint-choc-chip or tutti-fruitti ice-cream whenever we read this one, but she very rarely did!
These books were also turned into a television series but I definitely don’t remember watching it.
‘Mrs Pig’s Bulk Buy’ by Mary Rayner –
This book sticks in my memory because I remember the piglets eating so much ketchup, they turned a lovely shade of pink. And the ENORMOUS jars of ketchup! Ketchup sandwiches, ketchup on cereal, Mrs Pig was despairing until she came up with a very cunning plan to cure the little piggies of their ketchup addiction.
I appreciate the cunning of Mrs Pig even more now that I’m a parent myself. I may have to try her plan with chocolate spread!
Well I hope you enjoyed my run-through of childhood memories. It’s inspired me to go on-line and see if I can hunt some down to re-read with my boys. Thank you to all the wonderful authors and illustrators who worl so hard to create beautiful books for us to enjoy.
I’d love to know if you’ve read any of them yourselves, or which books you think you’ll remember being read when you’re older.