Today Liz Anelli writes about her five favourites.
Sweethallow Valley by Elleston Trevor (1951) is a bit like Wind in the Willows but with less happening. A group of animal friends live in cosy houses nestled within an English wood. A book I loved because it smelt of my grandparents’ house. I read it so many times they eventually gave me the copy to keep and I still have it, complete with its hot chocolate drink stains and biscuit crumbs.
Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome (written back in1933) is my favourite of all the Swallows and Amazons series for its magic balance of everyday-life believability and audacious mis-adventure. Three families make friends during a Christmas holiday in the English Lake District. The weather prevents their usual camping and sailing activities but they throw themselves into astronomy and skating instead, culminating in a mistimed re-enactment of a famous North polar expedition. Determined that being stuck in bed with mumps throughout the book will not ruin the fun for the rest of the group, natural leader, Nancy Blackett shows her strengths and weaknesses to such an extent that it actually makes me cry every time.
Silly Verse for Kids by Spike Milligan (1968). I know most of these funny poems by heart. They make me laugh but also have a strong dash of his black comedy and sense of the bizarre, plus his fantastic illustrations. I remember buying this through my UK Primary School’s Scholastic Book Club back in the early 1970’s and can remember how exciting it was to order books myself from a catalogue.
Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (1957). Tove Jansson’s world was so real to me as a child that I could not limit myself to just one from the Moomin series. This book is full of the passions and loneliness of being the only one awake in your family … for the whole winter… and trying to make friends with that you do not know – both living creatures and nature.
The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson (1950) I was recently fascinated by reading the revised version of this (Moominpappa’s Memoirs – published 1968). I love this book because it’s all about fathers, their blunder, pomposity and their fragility. You get to know the dads of all the main characters’ from the other books too, and at the end they all meet each other … for the very first time.