Today Yvonne Low is presenting her five favourites.
The Little White Horse
Author: Elizabeth Goudge
Illustrator: C Walter Hodges
Orphan Maria Merryweather arrives with her governess Miss Heliotrope at Moonacre Manor to learn she must resolve an age-old feud. I loved the beautiful illustrations and
period fantasy which includes a castle, a secret home cut into a rock-face and unusual characters such as a mysterious white horse, an enormous lion ‘dog’, the menacing Monsieur Cocq de Noir, an unconventional fiddle-playing parson and a cook whose best friend Zachariah the Cat communicates by drawing with his paw.
A wonderful mix of courageous humans and animals helping each other.
Doctor Dolittle (series)
Author/Illustrator: Hugh Lofting
Doctor Dolittle’s many adventures with his trusty family of two and four-legged animals
including Dab-Dab the Duck, Jip the Dog, Polynesia the Parrot and Tommy Stubbins.
I especially enjoyed the tales from the Rat and Mouse Club and the Home for Crossbred
Dogs and longed to be able to communicate with animals just like the Doctor.
Chronicles of Narnia
Author: CS Lewis
Illustrator: Pauline Baynes
The magical world conjured up by Lewis, with all his memorable characters, a favourite
being Mr Tumnus the Faun. The evocative and detailed black and white illustrations
completed the enchantment of the series for me.
Le Petit Prince
Author/Illustrator: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Part of my passion for all things French, starting with school-girl French lessons and the
gentle anarchy of Le Petit Nicolas (Goscinny/Sempé), leading onto the subtle reflections
on life from Le Petit Prince. A foreign contemplative world created in both story and
The World’s Best Fairytales (A Reader’s Digest Anthology)
Grimm/Andersen/Perrault and others
Illustrator: Fritz Kredel
I loved this Anthology, which has a wonderful collection of 69 fairytales, both famous and
little known. Amongst my favourites, The Princess on the Glass Hill, The Nightingale,
The Frog Prince and with my passion for ballet, Twelve Dancing Princesses.
The illustrations of medieval ladies with tall conical headdresses and peasant boys
becoming princes no doubt encouraged my love of history and all things medieval.
Today Belinda Murrell has selected her five favourites.
As a child I was a voracious reader, borrowing piles of books from both the school library and our local council library. I was the sort of kid who would stay up half the night reading under my doona with a torch, or bumping into a light pole on my way home from school with my head in a book! So it is very hard to choose just five childhood favourites, which is why a few of these are favourite series! Here goes:
I absolutely loved The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. I desperately wanted to be George Kirrin, who dressed up as a boy, and together with her beloved dog Timmy and her three cousins, Julian, Dick and Anne, had the most amazing adventures. Like all good children’s books, the parents were always absent, leaving the kids to get on with apprehending criminals, solving mysteries and eating fabulous feasts. The books were laugh out loud funny and full of politically incorrect quirky characters. George even had her own island!
As a child, the book that most fired my imagination was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I loved its enticing mixture of adventure, action and fantasy. My sister and I would dress up in silver chain mail, with swords and bows and arrows, and pretend to be in Narnia. I was enraptured by the idea that it might be possible to pass through a secret door into a magical world, full of talking animals and adventure.
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner is a lively, colourful story about the mischievous Woolcott children growing up in 1880s Sydney. I loved its historical setting as an insight into nineteenth century Australian life. The children had a stern father, an army captain who tried in vain to maintain order. Their stepmother was very young and lovely, with her own baby ‘The General’, so struggled to keep her step-children in line. I loved the naughty pranks and mischievous antics of the Woolcott children, especially tomboy Judy, who together with her brother Pip, was always leading the others into trouble.
As a child I had my own pony, so I was horse obsessed! Like many girls I loved pony books, especially the Jill series by Ruby Ferguson. The Jill series of nine books, take the 12 year old Jill Crewe from a complete novice who has just moved to a small English village, to owning her first pony, then learning to ride and becoming a proficient rider, competing at gymkhanas. I loved the character Jill because she was lively, active, independent and funny, working hard and earning her own money to achieve her dreams.
The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, was about a feisty amateur teenage detective with red-hair called Nancy Drew. Nancy was an inspiring role model as she was strong-minded, independent, intelligent, confident, outspoken, poised and beautiful. Sixteen year old Nancy was an amazing talented heroine – a fabulous horse-rider, expert driver, swimmer, sailor, gourmet cook, rower and sportswoman, with a fabulous sense of style. Together with her best friends Bess and tomboy George, she solved a series of baffling mysteries, helped those in need and outwitted dangerous criminals.
It was these beloved books which inspired me to start writing my own stories when I was a child. When I look back I realise that my favourite books all had a common theme. They all had girl heroes, often tomboys, who were bold and brave, feisty and adventurous, unconventional and independent, and very inspiring to me as a young girl. Perhaps that is why I write books now which focus on girls who are bold, brave, strong-minded, feisty, hard-working, clever and adventurous.
Today, Ursula Dubosarsky is sharing her five favourites.
What Do You Do, Dear? (1963, USA), written by Seslye Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Very absurd, very funny series of situations about good manners. What do you do when a lady polar bear walks into your igloo in a white fur coat? that kind of dilemma. I loved the satirical gaiety of it, I loved the illustrations (these were really my only knowledge of Maurice Sendak until I was an adult, I didn’t read his picture books for some reason) and I loved the form – the set-up of the crazy situation, the repeated question, “What do you do dear?” and then the equally absurd solution.
Gone is Gone (1935) USA written and illustrated by Wanda Gag
I was given this before I could read by a friend of my mother’s. I loved the shape of it (small hardback), I loved that it was mine. I loved the storytelling style (a retelling of a traditional tale), the strange words, the madcap humour and I loved the black and white pictures with all the crazy details – the baby, the little dog, the cow on the roof eating the grass. I remember being fascinated by the details of rural life – churning the butter, cutting the crops, gathering the vegetables and so on. Beautiful deep illustrations.
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia (1940) Australia. Written and illustrated by May Gibbs
I bought this at a book stall at a fete at Gladesville Hospital – at least my dad bought it for me – when I was about eight. I distinctly remember loving the language of it, especially the individual sentences. I also loved the picaresque nature of the storytelling, with simply one strange thing following another and then suddenly ending. And I devoured the illustrations where the modern world is recreated in the world of the bush creatures – the cinema, the (sea) horse races, the restaurants, the art school and so on – I was fascinated by the ingenuity and satirical absurdity of it.
Biquette the White Goat (1953) USA written and illustrated by Francoise
I was given this for my 6th birthday and I still know it off by heart, so clearly I read it again and again and again and again and again. It’s the story of a sick little girl who must have goat’s milk to get better. I think it’s a masterpiece! – of beautiful clear gripping storytelling and equally beautiful clear gripping painted illustrations. As an adult I have sought out as many of Francoise’s books as I’ve been able to.
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965) USA. Written and illustrated by Dr Seuss.
This was also a birthday present, when I turned eight. Again, I still know this book off by heart and often recite it to myself when I’m trying to fall asleep or feeling at a loose end. It did and does bring me the most enormous pleasure – the sounds of the words, the ingenious and silly rhymes, the invented words, the crazy sudden characters who disappear just as suddenly, the ridiculousness of the whole premise, the haplessness and openness of the main character, the vanity of human wishes (well not quite human) – it’s got it all! Wonderful, rich literature.
Today Ingrid Kallick recalls her five favourites.
Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak. Who doesn’t love this story? Great children’s books often have a seditious element. Sendak almost always delivered that. The art, the adventure, the folkloric quality and the eventual safe return of the child all stand out. Most of all, the art influenced my work at a pre-verbal level.
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. Dr Seuss. This is one of my favorite kids’ books. The artwork is fun and inventive, but not as surprising as the plot. In this story, the main character goes on an arduous journey to get to a place “where they never have troubles / at least very few”. The one trouble he discovers upon arrival is that he can’t get in, so he gets a baseball bat and returns home to defend himself from the troubles he originally had. Ha! No deus ex machina in this story.
Bambi, a Life in the Woods. Felix Salten. I still have the copy I read as a child. I always had a fascination with deer and woodland wildlife, so I decided to read it. The realism and loss are hard to forget. After reading it, it took many years for me to understand why people hunt. I did like the simple black & white illustrations. When I saw the animated version, it was my first experience of the disconnect between how I envisioned a story and how it was portrayed on film.
A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. I don’t think we owned this book, as it was already a much older edition when I was young. The soft colors and dreamy images by Jessie Willcox Smith are the ones I remember. These, too had a deep influence on my work.
Last, but definitely not least…
The Dragons of Blueland and My Father’s Dragon. Ruth Stiles Gannett. Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. Even though these illustrations are more geometric and colorful that I usually do, I remember poring over them and marveling at the diamonds and stripes. I don’t remember the stories as much as the art.
But wait…there’s more! Bonus:
Millions of Cats. Wanda Gag. This is a very dark, old style tale that feels like Grimm. Wanda Gag’s Illustrations were so full of movement, as emotive as German Expressionist woodcuts, and narratively direct. I liked it as a child, but I really adore it as an adult.
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.
Corinne Fenton writes about her five favourites today.
Bambi by Felix Salten – There is something about the gentleness of this story and of course the tale of a baby fawn, which make this one of my favourites. Perhaps this is where my passion for animal stories began?
Bill the Budgie (we moved house last year and I can’t place my hands on this at the moment) but for some reason I imagined noisy Bill lived in a stately house in Germany. The other characters are a group of naughty boys and a man delivering coal to the door but Bill saves the day and of course is the hero.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – Always truly beautiful. The idea of a toy becoming ‘real’ was so totally believable to me. I always check every new version that’s produced.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri – Imagine living in a cottage high up in the mountains where you could run free with your pet goats? My own children spent their childhoods living on a hill in Warrandyte and they each had a pet goat. I’ve never thought about this until now. The warmth of grandpa’s home and Heidi’s bedroom in the loft always fascinated me.
Linda and Her Little Sister – I hold a battered copy of this treasured Little Golden Book with sticky tape holding the cover in place. It’s by Esther Burns Wilkin and my darling mum gave it to me in preparation for the arrival of my little sister. I remember the illustrations so well. All these books hold a special place in my memories.