Once Upon A Time…..

I have a confession to make: I love childrens books. LOVE them. Would rather read them than adult books. Not modern ones, they have to be classic childrens books. Among my favourites are the Little House on the Prairie series, the Anne of Green Gable series, the Little Women series, Winnie the Pooh, Wind in the Willows, the Swallows & Amazons series, the Just William books, What Katy Did, The Wishing Chair and Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, and anything by Carol Ryrie Banks.

I was thinking about it last night, while listening to Wind in the Willows, and knitting. There’s something so very comforting and reassuring about childrens fiction. The writer aims to entertain, to soothe, to amuse, but never (as is the case with so much adult fiction) to impress or shock. There’s an innocence about childrens fiction, and a simplicity that soothes our muddled up adult minds.  And very often childrens authors capture the quirks of human nature in a way that more sophisticated adult fiction fail to do. Can you read Winnie the Pooh, or Wind in the Willows without instantly identifying yourself with one of the characters?

So are you like me, do you turn to childrens books when you need comforting, soothing, reassuring? If so, which ones, and why?

26 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time…..

  1. I’ll admit to re-reading the Anne books every year, perfect comfort reading in the winter months. I love the Little Women books and I’d love to go back and reread the Little House on The Prairie series (must ask my Mum to dig out my copies…). I also discovered Georgette Heyer as a teenager (I’d exhausted Austen and this was suggested to me as an alternative) and I love re-reading her books (my favourite being Venetia).

    I think it’s the innocence of then that attracts me – there’s a cosiness in reminding us of when we were young and everything was safe and secure, unlike the scary adult world. I’m reading Winnie the Pooh to my oldest boy (he’s two) just now and then we’re moving on to Paddington Bear. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to read the Narnia and Chronicles of Prydain books.

  2. I love children’s books too – I’m currently re-reading Noel Streatfeild. Some of my very favourites are the Chalet School books , the Anne of Green Gables series, Little House series, the SEcret Island and Family at Red Roofs(Blyton), An old-Fashioned girl(L.M.Alcott), the Family from One End Street, the Narnia books, the Hobbit,a traveller in time, the stream that stood still. To name but a few!

    I think with me it’s the comfort thing; different books are associated with different parts of my childhood. They bring back pictures of my parents, siblings, life as it was then. I feel safe, happy and for a while I forget the here and now.

  3. For me it isn’t just children’s classics which do this, but classics in general, Austen is a firm favourite of mine. They are just more gentle and elegant. Beautiful escapism.

    You have made me want to go and dig out my Little Women and Anne of Green Gables books though. It’s been an age since I read them.

  4. What an appropriate topic, since I just finished re-reading Anne of Avonlea yesterday. 🙂 I love children’s classics and most teenage fantasy. I’m not actually a big fan of adult fantasy, mostly because of the shock value–characters kill each other or have sex for no real reason. My very favorites, although I don’t read them often enough, are Roald Dahl and Edward Eager. Eager, in particular, wrote books in the mid-20th century that have a really timeless feel. Their characters are normal children, often in normal families, and even the magic seems sensible, like it belongs to the real world. His books are a bit like Nesbit’s 5 Children and It, except without thousand-year-old gnomes.

  5. Oh I love the Anne series too, but my favourite LM Montgomery book is a not an Anne one, it’s called The Blue Castle, I’ve read it many many times, pure escapism 🙂 I also love reading the Green Knowe series by Lucy M Boston, I read them as a child and still keep going back to them. Oh and the Box of Delights by John Masefield… I think magic in children’s books sometimes needs less explanation, as kids are inclined to see the magic in everyday things more easily than adults. That appeals to me, as I love to be reminded of how I saw the world before boring things like tax returns and supermarket shopping 🙂

  6. I just finished listening to the Little House audiobook series. Even better than the books (or perhaps I’m older now and don’t mind hearing about how head cheese is made!) I’m going to DisneyWorld in 18 days and need to find something to listen to on the plane while I knit–any suggestions for classic children’s books on CD? Thanks!

  7. As a former children’s bookseller, I have to say that there are some wonderful new children’s books that have come out in the past few years. You have to stay away from the wannabe Harry Potters, but there are some which I think are destined to become classics.

    I’m currently reading Inkdeath, by german author Cornelia Funke. This is the last book in a trilogy, and I’ve been hooked since the first page of book one. Nominally it’s a story about what happens when a story becomes real, but there is a lot more going on than you first might realise. The whole world pulls you in and you can get lost there. I’m intrigued to see what might happen in the last quarter of the book.

    As for old favourites, I love the Narnia books. And I remember reading and re-reading The 101 Dalmations, Ballet Shoes and the Children of Green Knowe.

  8. Yep, I like children’s books too! On top of the ones you mention, I also like the Narnia books and Diana Wynne Jones (especially the Chrestomanci books). And I still have an old book of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales that I had as a child. And I rather like the Chalet School books, too!

  9. I adore children’s books. Alice in Wonderland has always been a favourite, plus of course Narnia, Ballet Shoes, anything by Enid Blyton, Swallows and Amazons, Peter Pan…

    I love that they accept that anything can happen, and that strange things can be perfectly normal.

  10. I still have all my old kids books and they are my comfort blanket – if I’m feeling a bit down or unwell, out come my kids books. My favourites are the Anne of Green Gables series, the Chalet School, Noel Streatfield, Swallows and Amazons, Enid Blyton’s school stories – Mallory Towers and St Clares, Little Women and the What Katy Did series of books.

  11. Ooh, so many memories here. I must dig out my copies of the Katy books – haven’t read those for ages. My go-to comfort reading is the Chalet School books. I am slowly collecting the republished (unabridged!) versions from Girls Gone By publishers – they also republish neglected classics by Lorna Hill (remember the Sadlers Wells series?) and Malcolm Saville, among others. I love Anne of Green Gables, of course, but probably marginally prefer the Emily of New Moon trilogy. I haven’t read much Enid Blyton for years, though I used to love her, probably because I’ve been affected by the snobbish attitude to her works that was so prevalent a few years ago. However I recently bought “Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer” by Jane Brocket (it’s v. cheap at Book People at the moment) which gives recipes for all those childhood favourites that Blyton writes about so evocatively, so I’m very tempted to read a few Famous Fives!

  12. This is a great post! I have so many favourites but my most treasured childrens’ book is ‘The Little White Horse’ by Elizabeth Goudge. Followed by the Green Knowe books and all the Christiana Brand ‘Nurse Matilda’ books.

  13. All the above, plus Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, Chalet school,Indian in the cupboard books Lynne Banks Read I think? They made a film of the first one.
    Diane Wynne Jones any,
    TH White the sword in the stone.
    Gerald Durrell

  14. I LOVE children’s books too! My children are now 27 and 29 years old, so bedtime stories are long since gone, but I’ve saved all their books and every now and then, I’ll dig one out, read it very slowly, and imagine a child by my side. My very favorite author/illustrator is Tasha Tudor. Her lifestyle is 19th century New England. She’s such a talented, amazing woman. In so many ways she reminds me of my Grandma Emma. Her illustrations simply mesmerize me, and she has the most unbelievably beautiful gardens. For a really magical read and such a hoot read her “Corgiville Fair.”

  15. I am convinced that the Winnie the Pooh books were written for adults. The humour is just far too subtle for teeny tiny people. I can remember reading them in my 20’s and laughing so much that the tears poured down my face. And the illustrations – oh the illustrations. Best books ever. By a long way!

  16. Paddington Bear every time! Whenever I feel a bit blue, I read the bit where he’s at Paddington station and he gets marmalade everywhere and I just howl with laughter and I’m taken back to being 8 and reading it for the first time. Happy days!

  17. I have recently being reading the Famous Five Stories. They are great. I had just read the book in which Dick is talking about Cherry cake when I got Cherry cake and Ginger Beer. I made the Cherry cake and it is a great hit both at home and at work. I am also reading at the moment the St Clare’s stories another Enid Blyton Collection about twins Pat and Isabel. The Find Outer Stories are also good and I have been reading those too.


  18. I love children’s books – especially well-illustrated ones. I saw Tasha Tudor mentioned, but also Mary Azarian (check out Symphony for Sheep!). And in a totally different style, the pictures in Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing by Satoshi Kitamura just make me laugh.

  19. I’m keen on children’s books too. In fact, I’m currently reading one of my favourites from the ‘Billabong’ series by Mary Grant Bruce.

  20. I listen to audio books quite a bit too. I loved Josephine Bailey reading “The Secret Garden”, her voice is delightful to listen to. Also “My Antonia” by Willa Carter is a wonderful book, one that I will listen to again and again. Jeff Cummings’ narration brings the book to life too.

  21. I’ve enjoyed reading to my children from when they were very small (I think my youngest got a bedtime story from the day he was born!) but now they’re getting a bit older (eldest is nine), I’m really beginning to enjoy what I’m reading to them too. We discovered the Michael Morpurgo books about a year ago and every one is a winner, never failing to make me cry at some point (the animal books in particular are very good, try The amazing story of Adolphus Tips). We make regular library trips and have unearthed some real treasures there. I read the entire Little House on the Prairie series when I was breastfeeding – hours of reading fun! A good book for recommendations on books for 8-12 year olds is The ultimate book guide – I think it contains about 500 book reviews.

  22. I adore children’s books and read them all the time, as does my DF – everything from picture books to literature aimed at older children. My all time favourite is Winnie the Pooh. That bit when Christopher Robin tells Pooh that he can’t “do nothing” any more – ack! It gets me every time. So sad. I read children’s books for lots of reasons, often for escapism as the stories are always so wonderfully creative. I do sometimes read for nostalgic reasons, too. My current top tip is called “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness which, besides having an exceptionally cool title, is a very refreshing read.

  23. Oh yes! Children’s books are my comfort reading. I’ll admit to diverging from the classics into all sorts of modern ones, (The Golden Compass, possibly the best book ever!) but whether they are amazing works or literature or a little silly, but sweet, they are always incredibly satisfying. My unfounded theory is that it’s because at their heart they follow a fairy tale-esque format, and there are some basic elements in those stories that is incredibly satisfying to find in other contexts.

  24. dh is reading Carrie’s War to dd1 at the moment – much more for him than her!

    I read What Katy Did about a zillion times when I was about 10 yrs old…especially when I was feeling under the weather..