I’ve spent a good few summers with my head in a book and thought I’d share some of my best suggestions for holiday reading on the blog.
I’m starting with the type of children’s fiction that isn’t just for children. You may want to read this to your girls or together as a family at the end of the day. You could save it for a long car journey to a vacation destination or you may just want to hog in for yourself, curled up in the garden swing at the end of a long day with a glass of wine, until the bats come out and the first stars appear in the sky.
So many of us book lovers fell in love with reading as a child and retain a special place on our shelves for the the books that made readers of us. My old paperback copies are now falling apart and slowly I’m replacing them with beautiful new hardback copies or hunted down vintage editions. These are books I can return at any time to be transported, by a few familiar paragraphs, to that happy place of comfort inside a much loved tale.
Think back to a happy reading memory from childhood: a visit to the library, persuading your mum to let you order a book from the Puffin Book Club at school, an inspirational teacher who read at the end of every school day until the bell went, the close of day prayer was said and the chairs were put up on the table. These are the books we loved then, we have shared them with our children and as C. S. Lewis said, “I can’t imagine someone really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”
My top ten recommendations for girls are:
Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert plan to adopt a quiet, hard working boy to help them on the farm but instead they are sent a garrulous red headed scrap of a girl who finds herself in all kinds of scrapes despite Marilla’s conscientious efforts to raise her right. Anne eventually wins the hearts of the Avonlea community of Prince Edward Island and she has been winning the hearts of readers ever since. This is with out a doubt my absolute favourite children’s novel.
Little House in the Big Woods is the first in a series of American pioneers stories. Laura and her family are leaving their relatives behind in Wisconsin and travelling west. I have wonderful memories of reading this book and learning about a homesteading life on the American frontier that was so different form my own childhood experiences. My favourite scene in this Little House book is the sugaring party where the maple sap is collected and boiled down to make syrup and the occasion celebrated with a dance.
Pauline longs to be an actress, Petrova loves cars and Posy just wants to dance. The girls who were orphaned as babies are all the wards of the mysterious Great Uncle Matthew who they have never met. The are cared for by Great Uncle Matthew’s nice Sylvia and struggle to make ends meet. Posy wins a scholarship to a dance school in Moscow and Pauline is chosen to star in a Hollywood film, but what will become of Pauline? This is much more than just another stories of the stage book for girls.
In the miniature world behind the skirting boards, Pod, Homily and their daughter Ariety must continually fight to survive, ‘borrowing’ what they need from the people upstairs.Initially Homily will no allow her adventurous daughter Ariety to go out borrowing with her dad. When she is persuaded to give in Ariety befriends a human boy and the story really begins. Great story full of charming detail of tiny worlds and how they can be made form things we find around the house.
Set in the American civil war, Little Women traces the growing up years of the March sisters from girlhood through to their early married years. If this was all the book amounted to it would be unremarkable as a girl’s novel but Alcott creates fascinating characters and expertly traces their personal growth through the everyday tragedies and achievements of life.
Who can resist a story set in a rambling house with a mystery to hide? The orphaned Mary Lennox is an unwanted visitor in her uncle’s sad and neglected house. She spends her time with little to do but wander the gardens and the moors until she discover that the house hides a locked away child.
Cyril, Anthea, Robert and Jane lived a charmed Edwardian childhood free to play and pursue adventures largely uninterrupted by interfering adults. This is the story of how they find a sand fairy in a gravel pit and the adventures they have together.
Everyone feels sorry for Heidi when she is sent to live in the mountains with her reclusive grandfather. But Heidi loves mountain life and her grandfather grow to love her company and finds out that he isn’t as bad as people suppose. When Heidi is sent to be a companion to an invalid child in the city grandfather wonders how he will manage without her.
Orphaned Pollyanna does not appear to have much to be happy about when she is sent to live at the home of her austere Aunt Polly. She is however unrelentingly cheerful and teaches the ‘glad game’ to a variety of unlikely miserable people she meets in her new home. Very soon this glum community have learnt to find something to be cheerful about in any situation. But when Pollyanna suffers a terrible accident she wonders if she can ever be glad again.
Set on an idyllic storybook farm, this is a heroically sad and compassionate tale of one friend’s sacrifice for another. Wilbur is destined to meet the fate of all farm pigs until his friend Charlotte, a spider, saves the day. By spinning in her web the mysterious words, “Some Pig’ she convinces the farm community that Wilbur, her friend, is worth saving. The exquisitely drawn characters in this tale endow what is basically a talking animal story with surprising depths of care.
Next week I will be recommending some reads that are more suitable for boys.
Do you like to read and re-read favourite books? Do you return to the classics of childhood for your own pleasure? What childhood favourites would you recommend to readers?