Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Top Ten (ahem) Wednesday: Time to rewind

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (brought to us, as ever, by the Broke and the Bookish) is a Top Ten Tuesday Rewind, offering us the chance to revisit a previous theme.  I did think of picking one of the freebie weeks as my rewind week, thereby giving me the chance to make something up but it didn’t seem to be quite in the spirit of the rewind theme so, instead, I’m picking a theme from before I started participating in Top Ten Tuesdays.
And so, I’m going right back to the beginning, to the very first Top Ten Tuesday and revealing to you ten of my favourite childhood reads, thereby also making it very clear just how aged and decrepit I really am.  You will find no Harry Potter here for I was well into my working life by the time JK Rowling unleashed him on an unwitting world.  My list won’t include anything by Philip Pullman, Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson or Michael Morpurgo – again, I preceded them.  Nope, instead, we are heading back to the last days of glam rock, the hey-days of punk and the birth of the New Romantics to the part of my childhood after I learned to read but before I graduated to adult fare.  Sit back and either join me in wallowing in nostalgia or, instead, have a good laugh at the way we used to read.
1.       Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  If I’m being honest, I could probably fill out the majority of a list like this with Roald Dahl titles.  I can’t think of anyone else who has managed to infuse his stories with that hint of wickedness that so appeals to small children.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory plays both on that sense of mischief and every child’s love of confectionary to create an all-time classic.  I still have a copy on the shelves downstairs and am looking forward to sharing it with mini-Falaise
2.      The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter.  I could have picked a number of the Branestawm books for this list but used the first in the series for simplicity’s sake.  As a child, I delighted in the adventures of the absent-minded professor and his weird and wonderful inventions that were both improbable and doomed to failure. 
3.      The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton.  Without in any way endorsing the outdated views that pervade much of Blyton’s writing, she did write exceedingly good adventure stories.  It seems invidious to single out one of her series and not to mention The Secret Seven or The Famous Five but I think that the Adventure series was my favourite.  I liked the fact that the kids basically solved their adventures virtually without adult assistance and I also loved Kiki the parrot, an integral part of the gang.
4.      The Agaton Sax books by Nils-Olof Franzen.  I only read a few of these and can’t decide which one to use as my exemplar but these stories of the amazing Swedish detective (and editor of the Bykoping Post) were fantastic and hilarious.  And, even better, the English editions were illustrated by the brilliant Quentin Blake.
5.      Diving Adventure by Willard Price.  Another series I revelled in, Price’s children’s books featured two teenage zoologists, Roger and Hal Hunt, and their wildlife themed adventures.  I particularly enjoyed the sea-based ones and as Diving Adventure also included a James Bond-like underwater city, it became my favourite.  They’ve recently been re-issued in the UK and I have given a copy of the first two to my oldest nephew to try and entice him into their world.
6.      The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  At the age of around ten or eleven, I found a tatty old copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in a cabinet in our living room at home and, having already read The Hobbit, fell in love with LotR immediately.  The following summer, I won a couple of prizes at my prep school and used them to acquire the remaining two volumes.  The love affair continues to this day. 
7.      Asterix at the Olympic Games by Goscinny and Uderzo.  Please get out your violins and hankies now for a sad, sad tale.  You see, I was never really allowed comics as a child – my father thought they weren’t educational enough.  True, I managed to get the occasional read of my friends’ comics but none of my own.  But, one day, while out shopping with my mother, I managed to persuade her to buy Asterix at the Olympic Games as it was in paperback book format, albeit in black and white.  She didn’t realise it was actually a comic book.  Result.  Old Man Falaise was predictably unimpressed (with both of us) but I read it over and over until it fell apart.  The happy ending?  I persuaded my father that Asterix in French was actually educational and was then allowed to buy vivid colour hardback copies on our summer holidays in France, most of which I still have on my shelves.
8.      James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.  I was intending to list only one novel by any given author in this list but have to make an exception for the amazing Mr Dahl as I simply can’t choose between this and Charlie.  After all, wouldn’t it be cool to cross the Atlantic in a huge peach?
9.      Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.  I grew up in the suburban south east of England and so this tale of sailing and camping on the Norfolk broads was a dream-inspiring piece of escapism for me.  It’s quite “lashings of ginger beer” but none the worse for that.  I would have thought that anything that can inspire kids to put down the Xbox and venture outside should be encouraged.
10.   My Friend Mr Leakey by J.B.S. Haldane.  I can’t actually remember too much about this book other than it features a magician with a flying carpet, a little dragon who grills fish with his fiery breath and that I absolutely loved it as a small child.  My principal memory of it was that Mr Leakey gives the children custard apples.  As a small child, the idea of apples that tasted like custard blew my mind and I spent years trying to find a custard apple.  When I finally did (as a twenty something), I was desperately disappointed.
It’s funny but thinking about this list has brought back all sorts of memories of childhood reading, favourite books (I haven’t even mentioned The Moomins, The Phantom Tollbooth or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and childhood generally.  I know most of the above are probably a little innocent or simple compared to the “issues based” childrens’ books that appear to be so popular these days but I can’t help feeling that they are still worth keeping and reading with our little ones.  Or maybe I’m just viewing things through rose tinted specs.

4 comments:

Lindsay said...

I know Asterix! I'm an American and I currently live in Texas, but I lived in Germany when I was younger and can still remember the animated episode we watched in German class. It was about Asterix and Obelix tackling what translated to "the house that makes people go crazy," where they had to get form A-38. I tell that story all the time because it was so clever it's stuck with me for over ten years!

Diana said...

Fantastic list! I, too, am in awe of Roald Dahl. It's so hard to choose a favorite, but I have such a sentimental attachment to Fantastic Mr Fox.

I look forward to reading Enid Blyton. Sadly, she isn't well known in the States, so I never had the opportunity to read her books as a child. From what my English friends tell me, however, I will still enjoy them as an adult.

I look forward to following your thoughts on literature. :)

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