Still On the Bookcase After All These Years

Posted on 30th August, 2014

Inspired by Jessica Redland's blog this week about her childhood reading, I've decided to pinch the idea and blog about my own childhood favourites.


The first book I remember loving was Tippy Runs Away, a simple and almost plot-free story, in which Tippy gets tired of being left behind when Susan and Tommy go to school and decides to go it alone. This takes the form of a long walk in which he fails to catch a bird and a fish and goes home in time for tea.


Doesn't sound inspiring, does it? But I loved Tippy so much that for a time (so I've been told) I changed my name to Tippy and wouldn't answer to anything else.


When we went away on holiday, my mum always bought us a book each and on one occasion when we went to Gran's caravan in Freshfield, Claudine at St Clare's was my holiday book. It was the first boarding school story I ever read.


My childhood reading was dominated by Enid Blyton. What a marvellous understanding of children she had. I remember reading First Term at Malory Towers and getting to the part where Darrell slaps Gwendoline for ducking Mary-Lou, whereupon Katherine orders Darrell out of the swimming pool and she goes storming back to school.


'Hateful Gwendoline! Horrid Katherine! Beastly Malory Towers!'


I've never forgotten that line. It stopped me in my tracks. I remember thinking: She knows how it feels to be a child.


And that was what made Enid Blyton such a wonderful writer.


I also loved Enid Blyton's adventure stories. Talk about wish fulfilment. My favourites were the Famous Five books. Oh, how I wanted to be George. (Did anyone seriously want to be Anne?)


For me, childhood reading was different to adult reading in that, as a child, I read the same books over and over and enjoyed them every time.


One summer, my holiday book was 101 Dalmations. We arrived in Llandudno on a day when it was pouring with rain (Wales? Rain? Never!), so we stayed in our holiday flat all day and I read 101 Dalmations from cover to cover and then promptly went right back to the beginning and started again. Goodness knows how many times I read it over the course of that fortnight.


I have an older brother and my mum then planned to have another boy to be his friend. My arrival confounded these plans, but only up to a point. When we were old enough for after-school activities, she sent me to the same ones as my brother, which meant swimming and judo. All my friends did ballet, but the closest I ever got was reading ballet stories.


Mabel Esther Allan's The Ballet Family and The Ballet Family Again were a wonderful mixture of school, ballet, romance and irritating little sister.


Another book that made an impact was A Candle in Her Room by Ruth M Arthur, which was later reprinted as The Witch Doll. It was an eerie and compelling story for older children and appealed to me because I was heavily into ghost stories at the time.


The youngest sister in the story was called Briony, a name I had never come across the name before. Later, I used it for my heroine in a gothic story I wrote when I was 15 and lapping up Victoria Holt's books.


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Comments (4)

I loved the Enid Blyton school stories too, they were my absolute favourites till I discovered The Chalet School books - I still have all 50-something of these! My EBs have gone now, but the 'Little House' books are still on my shelves, and loads of others too. A good book is like an old friend; it stays in your life forever.
Thank you for your kind words about being inspired from my blog, Susanna! Loved yours and really loved that you still have all your childhood books. Poor little Tippy!

I wanted to be George too. Or Darrell Rivers. I used to write "This book belongs to Darrell Rivers" in my books and practice my signature! I was very confused when I met a boy called Darrell; really threw me!

Great blog :-)

Jessica xx
Thank you for introducing me to some new books. I'm going to look for 'The Ballet Family.'

My childhood favourites (which remain favourites and comfort reads) include Noel Streatfeild's 'Ballet Shoes', most of L.M. Montgomery's books (her 'Emily' series encouraged my writing dream) and the 'Little House Series' by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I discovered the 'Malory Towers' books as an adult and looked forward to introducing them to English Rose. She read the first one and politely said it wasn't for her - despite every other girl in her year adoring them!
I loved EB's girls boarding school books as well - both Malory Towers and St Clare's. I was never so keen on the Famous Four though. I always thought there was something funny about the way the two boys' opinions on anything was considered superior to the girls'. I like to think I was a feminist even before I'd heard the word. Of course no one ever wanted to be Anne - she was a wet as a drowned haddock, but I never wanted to be George either because I liked being a girl!The Comic Strips spoofs of the books were just hilarious.