Today’s selection of childhood favourites is by Libby Gleeson.
The Story of Ferdinand Author: Munro Leaf. Illustrator: Robert Lawson
This one of a bull which didn’t want to fight in the bull ring but rather to sit and smell the flowers really delighted me. He grows up to be the biggest and strongest bull in the field but still remains one who would rather smell flowers. He sits on a bee on one occasion and the sting sends him leaping and charging around the field and so he’s seen as aggressive and is taken to the bull ring. He still only wants to smell flowers and so those organising the bull fight are thwarted.
Anne of Green Gables. L M Montgomery
I loved this story of a red headed outsider who was determined to make her way. Anne had been adopted by Mathew and Marilla to help on their farm but they had thought they were adopting a boy. Despite initial difficulties, Anne – with an ‘e’ – stays and develops friendships. I loved her disdain for her classmate Gilbert, knowing they’d get together in the end.
A Little Bush Maid. Mary Grant Bruce
This is the first in the long series of Billabong Books and I devoured every one. Norah Linton is growing up on a station in Victoria in the early years of the twentieth century. She is doted on by her widowed father and her brother Jim when he comes home from boarding school on holidays. He brings his friend Wally with him and the three of them have fairly standard bush adventures together. Old fashioned values towards race and class persist and I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable but I envied Norah, wild on her horse, and so I ignored them when I was a child.
The Enchanted Wood. Enid Blyton
I read all the Enid Blyton books I could get my hands on but this is the one that stayed with me. I think it’s the best book she ever wrote – and she wrote hundreds. It’s the first in the Faraway Tree series and introduces us to Jo, Bessie and Fanny and their cousin Dick. (names are sanitised in modern editions.) The children find a tree in a wood and when they climb it they meet all kinds of fantasy creatures such as Mrs Washalot, Moonface and Saucepan Man. A ladder at the top of the tree leads to lands that circulate so a different land may be at the top at any time. The children must leave before the land moves on from the top of the tree. I thought it was brilliant when I was a child and I still do!
A Girl of the Limberlost. Gene Stratton Porter
This was my most favourite novel of my early teenage years. Elnora Comstock lives with her widowed mother on the edge of the Limberlost swamp land. Elnora is bright and wants an education but her mother believes it to be a waste of time for a girl. Elnora fights and argues with her mother and pays for her education by gathering artifacts and moths from the swamp. She grows in her understanding of the world of nature and in her confidence as she becomes a woman. This is a dramatic, gothic novel, so unlike the sweet rolling green hills of much English fiction I read. I loved it.