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Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Childhood Readers & Favorite Books

Originally posted at YAAYNHO

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Childhood Readers and Favorite Books

My Childhood Readers and Favorite Books
Be prepared! There's a quiz at the end. What were your favorite books?

We were very poor when I was growing up. Because of this, I rarely received new books until I reached my early teens and began asking for them for my birthday.
I’m not claiming I was never given any books. One of my earliest was a tiny collection of fairy tales—each its own book, and once all housed in their own cardboard box. Published by Birn Brothers of London, each book was only about 3 by 3 inches, each cover a drawing of the story inside & colored mostly in royal blue, orange-red and yellow. Every other page within—they have about 80 pages each—was a rather intricate ink-drawn illustration of that part of the plot. I still have some of them: The Three Bears, Jack the Giant Killer, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Hop O’ My Thumb, & Beauty and the Beast.

I tried to find these on the web but the closest I could come was at:
They were my first introductions to fairy stories and fables. Once I knew them practically by heart, I always looked for more. But it would be many years before I had copies of Grimm, Andersen and Lang. When I was a preteen, I asked for someone to give me Grimm and Andersen for my birthday. I bought the Lang four volume set as an adult, along with the complete Grimm.
I love Winnie-the-Pooh! Disney, I guess, did a Winnie-the-Poo special a couple of times a year back in the day. Always something to anticipate!  Each show was a faithful retelling of a Pooh chapter. They even included the line which goes this?  "...all the way from the bottom of page 2 to the top of page 4..." Piglet is my favorite WtP character. Even though he's small and vulnerable he sticks it out in the most "dangerous" 100 Acre Wood situations! Okay, so there maybe a bit of calling for help involved but he doesn't go hide until it's over. 
I named my laptop before this laptop "Piglet" chiefly because it's so small compared to the laptop it replaced. Once upon a time, a Geek Squad tech had trouble with this. I don't remember why. Maybe he had spent the previous day with Eeyore? 
My parents gave me some Golden Books. Who here remembers those from their childhood? Most of these contained one story each: shortened versions of Little Women or Little Men or early spin-offs from TV shows like Rin-Tin-Tin or Spin & Marty from the late afternoon Disney show.

The Golden Book that I remember best was huge: both thick and composed of larger pages than most Golden Books. I remember riding home from someone’s house or the store--most likely it was my Aunt Josie Mae's house--flipping through it and just staring at all of the stories and the illustrations. Treasure! Once I had worked my way through from end to end, I had consumed: Heidi, Peter Pan, Hans Brinker (The Silver Skates) and a variety of fairy tales I had never read before. My favorite involved a young man tasked to find out where three princesses went at night. (I think they went dancing.) He followed them for three nights and brought back proof of their whereabouts: a silver leaf, a gold leaf, and a diamond leaf. Of course, he was rewarded by marrying the princess of his choice.

The Golden Book that I loved best was the one on horses. I was enamored of horses at that age and I thought every color illustration a work of art. I also set about memorizing various useless but fascinating facts. Did you know that Arabian horses have one less rib than other horses? So said my Golden Book. I also had a copy of Black Beauty.

Well, by now, I’d developed the reputation for being a bookworm, so it’s no surprise that my best friends gave me books for my birthday. That’s how I acquired “Donna Parker at Cherrydale” and “Polly French & the Surprising Stranger”. This pair were my first introductions to “teen romance”, to the extent that it was mentioned or described in those days. (1950’s)

The Family Cache of School Readers

Now, for a little “school reader” esoterica. You’ve been wondering when we would hit this section, right?
The core of my childhood reading collection for years were school readers which my parents had used in elementary or junior high school. Both sets of grandparents lived in the same city and parents were required to buy the readers their children used in school.
I still own my mom’s second grade reader, my dad’s 8th grade reader and the fourth grade readers of both my parents.
These are real treasures on more than one level. Obviously, there’s the connection to my parents. In addition, most of these books were filled with beautiful illustrations. The kind which required time, skill and patience to create.
The wealth of authors involved is truly astounding! So is the variety of styles and subjects in the stories and essays! Please excuse me while I don't get up on a soapbox--and fall off--but still manage to mourn for schoolchildren who will never receive the riches that were bestowed on us year after year. To be clear, the books we were lent each semester bore little resemblance to "new". I had a history text in sixth grade which was more mold than paper. I just don't understand what happened to early education in this country since the time when I was being, uh, early-educated.

Excuse me while I bore you with descriptions of these old books.

The Winston Companion Readers---Second Reader; Winston, 1923.
My favorites: Mr and Mrs Vinegar (my mom's favorite), The Wolf and the Fox, The Keg of Butter, How the Turtle Saved His Life, How the Sun the Moon and the Wind Went Out to Dinner, Tiny, Peeriefool; Ashiepattle and the King’s Hares.
Do you see a trend here? Fairy tales!
Here's a peek at the gorgeous cover at:
Many illustrations inside are nearly as intricate as the cover, especially the end papers.


My mom’s fourth grade reader was my second favorite book:
Good Reading: Fourth Reader; Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1927.

Favorite Stories:
The Turnip Children, The Elephant, Some Birds to Look for this Fall, Red-Riding Hood, Fables, Mice, Woodchuck Ways, David & the Giant, The Boyhood of Washington, Thor Among the Giants (loved this!); First Aid, Chip And Peep (memorized this), The Fly (memorized this), The Fairy Folk (memorized this & recited it at some kind of Brownies show for parents); A Letter from President Roosevelt, The Runaway Furniture (Intelligent and angry furniture, with a righteous cause! Very cool!).

Who are the authors? Do modern elementary school readers still try to introduce classic writers in fourth grade? Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Robert Louis Stevenson; William Shakespeare; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Walter de la Mare; The Younger Edda; Robert Browning; Teddy Roosevelt. (Wait til you see the authors in the 8th grade book.)


My dad’s fourth grade reader still amazes me because of the often serious subject matter and again for the illustrious authors.
Fact and Story Readers: Book Four; American Book Company, 1931.

Divided into the following sections:
Pt.1 Sailing the Seven Seas;
Pt.2 Boys & Girls Who Became Famous;
Pt.3 Out-of-Door Tales;
Pt.4 Doing the World’s Work;
Pt.5 In Story Land;
Pt.6 The Making of America.
Much of this was pretty stern stuff compared to my mom’s reader.
The publishers chose works from a variety of respected authors including the leaders in fairy tales: 
Thackeray’s The Bronze Door Knocker (extract from The Rose & the Ring—this story scared the bejeebers out of me!)); Charles Kingsley; Hans Christian Andersen; Emily Dickinson; Andrew Lang; Jonathan Swift; Walter de la Mare. 
You can find the cover of this one here:

What? No Shakespeare? Not in that collection or in my mom's but I did have my uncle's copy of Lamb's "Tales From Shakespeare". I didn't know what an apostrophe was so, for years, I thought the author called young readers "lambs".
And finally my dad’s eighth grade reader. Speaking of formidable books!

Divided into:
Pt.1 The World of Nature;
Pt.2 The World of Adventure (which includes: Masque of the Red Death; Noyes’ The Highwayman; A Christmas Carol; and the Lamb version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream;
Pt. 3 The Great American Experiment;
Pt.4 Literature and Life in the Homeland.
William Cullen Bryant; Wm Wordsworth; P B Shelley; Wm Shakespeare; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Robt Browning; Edgar Allan Poe; Sir Walter Scott; Henry Longfellow; Ch Dickens; Lord Byron; Joyce Kilmer; Daniel Webster; George Washington; Abraham Lincoln; Woodrow Wilson; Theodore Roosevelt; Robert Burns; Rudyard Kipling; Oliver Wendell Holmes; John G Whittier; Nathaniel Hawthorne; O Henry; Mark Twain.

The illustrations are few and tiny, and the cover isn’t impressive but you can find it here:

I don't know if this is clear--since I have the books and you don't--but there are very few women writers in any of these books. Principal characters in the fiction pieces also tend to be male. I never noticed this  back then, which is a blessing! I might have received a subliminal signal that “girls" don’t write.    ;-)


My paternal grandfather gave me three beautiful books a couple of years before his death--which would have been when I was about fifteen. These three are still much beloved:
“Robin Hood and His Merry Men” by Rosemary Kingston and illustrated by Alice Carsey.  So there were –some- women involved in writing and illustrating books. The exquisite illustrations were some of my favorites.

A collection of Rudyard Kipling’s "Stories and Poetry", featuring a richly-colored cover of two men on horseback chasing each other across a rugged terrain. This is the illustration for the poem “East is East, and West is West”. Which I like--except for the end. But, hey, it's Kipling.

I was enthralled before I opened the book. Wow, did I have trouble with the dialectical writing, though!


"The Complete Sherlock Holmes" This volume may have been published before authors began creating non-canonical stories. Does anyone know when the first Sherlock Holmes pastiche was written?
Six publishers had each printed multiple editions of Sherlock Holmes collections beginning in 1892. The volume my granddad gave me is copyright 1930, by Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Are you up for a Sherlock Holmes story challenge?

Doyle created these illustrations for five different stories. In which story can each be found?


And that’s about it. I’m sure I had other books—well, like the complete run of Donald Duck comics (for the mysteries, I’ll have you know).
But these are the books that I treasured as a child and that I still treasure today. God bless all those who wrote them and who gave them to me.

What books are your treasures from your childhood or teen years? Please tell us about them!
Sherry Thompson

How's that Sherlock Holmes quiz coming along?

Marooned (Narenta Tumult 1.5). 
Read Chapter 1, here! It really is going to be published. Soon. I promise!
The Narenta Tumults: SEABIRD
EARTHBOW    Vol.1     Vol.2   (oop)

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