Today Elizabeth Hale is introducing us to her five favourites.
The Swish of the Curtain, by Pamela Brown.
About a group of kids who find an abandoned hall, turn it into a theatre and put on plays. As a child, I loved reading about their cameraderie and creativity. Written in post-War Britain, and gives a wonderful snapshot of the period.
The Stolen Lake, by Joan Aiken.
I loved everything I read by Joan Aiken, but this one stayed in the mind. Dido Twite finds herself on a ship heading to Hy Brasil, a colony on the coast of a South American country. Ruled over by an ageless queen who dines on a porridge made of the bones of children. Gruesome and fascinating. Dido helps break the spell. The book’s spell was harder to break!
The Old Joke Book, by Janet and Allen Ahlberg.
My family loved anything by the Ahlbergs. This was our favourite. Like a Victorian almanac of jokes, full of fairy tales, monsters, talking animals, and above all jokes. ‘Why wasn’t Cinderella chosen for the football team? Because she was afraid of the ball.’ Monsters who say ‘fangtastic’ when they’re pleased. ‘Waiter, waiter, this egg is bad. Don’t blame me, sir, I only laid the table.’
Under the Mountain, by Maurice Gee.
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
This could be any of a number of iconic nineteenth-century books (Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, etc etc). I loved this book. I loved Sara, the regal storyteller, her dignity under pressure, her kindness to others. The scene that still makes me cry: when Sara finds a coin enough to buy some buns, and she gives them away to a girl even hungrier than she is.