« Commentary of the Day | Main | Consult the Oracle »

February 29, 2008

Favorite Childhood Books

The discussion on this post about the relationship between good reading habits and strong performance on standardized tests reminded me of a short essay I wrote almost 20 years ago for my freshman English class.

It was written long before computers were commonplace, so it is in longhand, double-spaced, on notebook paper. Remember those days? Oddly enough, when I found it, it seems to be the first one I ever wrote as a student! I thought you might enjoy a glimpse of a far younger Cass as she started her journey back to school after ten years as a home maker; and at any rate the essay serves as a good lead in to today's discussion on favorite childhood books.


Reading: A Home Away From Home

I was born the daughter of a military officer, and in the course of my life I have changed homes more times than I care to count. But throughout all the years of change and upheaval, books have given me a steady fount of accumulated wisdom wisdom that has refreshed me whenever I have felt weary or confused.

My earliest memories of reading take me back to long summer afternoons when I was supposed to be unpacking my toys and books. Surrounded by cardboard boxes, I lost myself in adventure novels and fantasies like Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, and T.H. White's The Once and Future King. With each new book I devoured I was reassured that others before me had faced new and sometimes terrifying challenges and I came away filled with confidence and an impatience to conquer my new world.

By the age of twenty I was married and had moved away from my family to start a new life as a military wife and mother. Confronted with the challenges of raising two children alone, I turned again to books. Manuals on infant and child care taught me how to care for each new baby; when to call the doctor, or to expect a first tooth. Novels like Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice helped me explore and define the values I planned to pass on to my children. Whenever I felt worn down and bewildered by the constant demands of motherhood and military life, I retreated into another world populated by characters who had faced every kind of dilemma. I could compare their experiences with mine, and I always came away armed with a new perspective on my problems.

Ten years later, I have returned to school to finish my education. Having created my own inner world I am ready to explore the world around me. As I learn, I know that reading will continue to provide a place for me where, as in the mythical Shangri-La of John Hilton's Lost Horizons, time seems to stop and I can reflect and reaffirm my goals before I emerge: rested and refreshed.

So, what were your favorite childhood novels? Or if you can't remember them, which novels have you most enjoyed reading to your children, and which do they most enjoy?

Posted by Cassandra at February 29, 2008 08:19 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


"Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" - R.A. Heinlein (wrote his "juveniles" in the '50's. You may have heard of him)

That Tolkien guy; I read all those novels (The Hobbit and the Trilogy) one summer when I was 13. My oldest sister had started college and was exposed to that, so that exposed me. My other sisters never read the Tolkien books, so it's a funny malediction that my oldest sister and I share. She read them to her sons years later (and still has my First Edition copy of "The Silmarillion" !).

There are days when I wish I could escape back into the past and have those long summer days and nights, just to read and not be bothered by the world.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 29, 2008 09:53 AM

Tolkein is a mainstay in our house.

My youngest boy showed almost no interest in reading when he was small. This really bugged me b/c we love books so. Turned out that I think he was bored by children's books.

In 3rd grade, I started reading the boys The Hobbit (from the time they were babies, we always read for 1/2 an hour before bedtime on their beds - that was my favorite time of the day with them). Well, he just couldn't wait for bedtime. He grabbed the book and finished reading it himself, then proceeded to finish the entire trilogy himself!

Since then, he's been an avid reader - he literally devours books: philosophy, literature, anything he can get his hands on. When his fiancee came to visit us in California for the first time, the first thing both of them did was go right to the wall of book shelves in our living room and begin pulling books from the wall and discussing them like old friends.

For their wedding, they asked for a collection of classics (Plato, Aristotle, the works). So I feel good about this. And when I went down to visit my oldest boy, I spent my time buying and assembling new book shelves for their living room so they could unpack the boxes and boxes of books they had in their spare bedroom. I have more for them now, for my little grandson :)

I've been saving them!

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 10:16 AM

I didn't read many of what you'd consider 'girl's' books, but I liked Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and even read Little Men as a small girl.

In fact, I always wanted my wedding to be like Meg's. I think in many ways that book shaped many of my ideas about family life.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 10:19 AM

A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle, lots of Heinlein.

As for reading to my children? The Poky Little Puppy, just to listen to a crawling baby giggle.

I never read The Hobbit and the Trilogy. A boy in my 8th grade reading class was apey about them, and I was apey about him, so you'd expect that I would have read them, but I didn't. Now I have them, but having seen the movies (gag me!) I don't want to start. Maybe I still will in my dotage.

MathLad is a reader because of J. K. Rowling. I read Harry Potter 1, 2, and 3 to him because he just wouldn't pick up a book and read. I was out of town when #4 was delivered by a friend. He read it himself in I think 12 hours. He's been a voracious reader ever since.

Harry Potter 1-7 are what I re-read when I really need to get away and can't go on vacation. I don't think I would have read them if I had seen the movies first, however. The movie you make in your mind is so much better than the one that comes to the theater. I guess that is an argument for me to read the Trilogy, and the Hobbit before a movie is made, isn't it?

Posted by: MathMom at February 29, 2008 10:20 AM

Oh MathMom.

If you liked Potter you will love LOTR. I can take or leave the Hobbit, to be frank.

But the LOTR is on my short list of books I read and re-read just for the sheer pleasure of the language. It is like Shakespeare; there are passages that just move the heart with their beauty.

Another couple of series I read as a child and re-read every few years are Mary Renault's books on Ancient Greece - lyrically and beautifully written. You can google them, but here are a few:

The Praise Singer
The Mask of Apollo

They are magnificent.

And Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy is also a must read:

The Crystal Cave
The Hollow Hills
The Last Enchantment

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 10:26 AM

For making a small boy laugh:

They Came from Argghhhh!

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 10:28 AM

Ok, Cass, I will start reading them. It will take a while, though, as I am currently reading The Al-Qaeda Reader, which is not The Al-Qaeda Reader's Digest, if you get my point.

Posted by: MathMom at February 29, 2008 10:41 AM

My dad owned a large warehouse out of which he ran his business. I must have been around 6 or 7 when I discovered a cache of boxes containing books and magazines in a corner of that warehouse. I unpacked a box containing the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mystery's. All this was discarded by my older brothers and sister! I also found E.R.Burroughs - Tarzan and Mars series. The R.E. Howard - Conan books, and Louis L'Amour novels. Hog heaven baby and the start of a long love affair with Mystery, SF and Western stories.

My mother also owned her own small business and subscribed to Life, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics and many other periodicals of the day for her customers reading pleasures. I used to go to visit her business after school and read the magazines when I could not find sufficient mischief to stir.

Of course in those days, we had a couple of sets of encyclopedias (both World Book and Britannica, why I never understood) in built-in bookshelves in a room that mom was fond of calling our music room. The place where my sister's old mahogany Beckwith piano was parked. Sis gave that piano to my girls, so it now occupies a place of honor in the music room Walkin' Boss uses and my girls once used for exorcising their musical spirits. It has always seemed to me that reading, math and music are attached at the hip. Good fertilizer for young (and old) minds.

Those are my earliest memories of reading, other than the fine literature I encountered in the Dick, Jane and Spot series.

Mom and dad being farm kids growing up during the depression missed many educational opportunities and wanted to make sure that their kids did not suffer the same fate. What a generation of Americans those folks were.

Now I have an entire wall of a basement stacked up with books I managed to wind up with from mom and dad after they passed away. And an unused bedroom which is piled up with boxes and bookshelves full of books. Why I even found an old slide rule I used long ago, post-abacus, pre-calculator era.

The undeniable truth is that if you can read and comprehend, you can leverage the wisdom written by others for your own use. In almost any endeavor. It's just that simple.

Sorry about the ramble. I suppose I should have read the Reader's Digest more often. =8^}

Posted by: bthun at February 29, 2008 10:59 AM

I, too, didn't read *girl* books when I was young. Having older brothers that were required to "look after your little sister while we're at work", I was thoroughly immersed in sports by the time I was three. So my favorites were books about sports and the outdoors. I was blessed with the most wonderful teacher in the second and third grade who introduced me to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald and The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I have since introduced those books to S.W.H.N.O.B. and, being the voracious reader she is, she has already cruised through two of them since Christmas -- along with the reading she is required to complete for school.
My father imparted upon me a love of science fiction as a kid, so as an adult (or at least a semi-reasonable facsimile of one) I have read many of the well-knowns such Asimov and Donaldson, and several not so well knowns as well. I have poured through Frank Herbert's entire Dune series several times, as well as the novels his son wrote after finding a trunk and safety deposit box containing all of his notes -- including ideas, characters and synopsis for completing the *story* -- after his father's death. My daughter is named for one of the characters in the original novel because I so admired her strength, intelligence and beauty.

Posted by: Sly2017 at February 29, 2008 11:20 AM

The Ship Who Sang
All of the Dragon books by Anne MacCaffrey
Just about all of Louisa May Alcott's books
Just about all of Gene Stratton-Porter's books
The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald
The Yearling
Where The Red Fern Grows
The Iliad
The Odyssey
Grimm's Fairy Tales
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Aesop's Fables
Nancy Drew
The Hardy Boys

One thing I loved about reading; you can go back and reread certain passages because of the way they made you feel and the way they made you think.

Anything by Robert Louis Stevenson
A.A. Milne
Beatrix Potter
Meg Cabot's 'Princess Diaries' series for total fluff.

Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series. Well written
and fun.

The Dark Is Rising series was underwhelming

Howard Pyle's versions of Robin Hood and King Arthur

I liked 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' by Lemony Snicket.

Little House On The Prairie series

Spiderwicke Chronicles

Eva Ibbotson's books are darkly funny and I don't recommend them unless you have a warped sense of humor and aren't too squeamish.

The Betsy series of books by Carolyn Haywood.
Mary Stewart's series about Arthur...The Crystal Cave books.

The Deryni Chronicles

Angelique by Sergeanne Golon.

G.A. Henty

At the beginning of every month we go to our lovely Barnes And Noble to let the children select a book.

And way back when, my older sibs bought books from Scholastic that were really good. There was one book by Gordon Sherreffs (I am not sure of the spelling) called 'The Haunted Mine.'

Great stuff back then.

Posted by: Cricket at February 29, 2008 11:44 AM

I'm guessing Jessica, but don't tell. I read pretty much anything that was at hand in our house. I read all manner of fantasy and science fiction (Tolkien, Heinlein, Saberhagen, David Drake, too many to name), I read the classics (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Man in the Iron Mask). I remember reading a book my brother brought back from college called "The Social History of the Machine Gun" (a good read too). I read Robert Bakker's Dinosaur Heresies, which I recommend for any teenager or adult who's even mildly interested in dinosaurs.
I don't read as much as I used to, mostly from a lack of time, but when I am on vacation, my bride actually worries that I'm not having a good time since all I do is read. I have explained to her several times that reading is what I do to relax and have a good time. And you'd think she'd understand since she's a big reader too, but she prefers doing the social thing on vacation.

Posted by: MikeD at February 29, 2008 11:44 AM

Mrs Piggle Wiggle? I thought I was the only warped teen on the planet who read them to the kids I used to babysit.

I have them all...absolutely fun and fantastic books. Her tongue in cheek dedication to her children ran thusly: 'To _____ and ___, who
couldn't possibly have been the inspiration for these stories.'

Posted by: Cricket at February 29, 2008 11:48 AM

Santa gave me books from the Weekly Reader Children's Book Club. Hence, my introduction to "real" books, not Golden Books. Among those, Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint, Half Magic, and Follow My Leader (about a blind boy and his guide dog) were favorites.

As a 10-year- old hospitalized for a month, I had little to do but read. I devoured Little Women, Island Stallion, Black Beauty, and began my journey through all the Nancy Drew books. Finished them, and discovered Hardy Boys. Out of desperation I started the Bobbsey twins, which my 4-year-old grandson likes to have read to him.

As a librarian, I'm always happy to see some of those old favorites still in circulation in the children's collection. I also have the "librarian's curse" of bringing home a handful of books each day. Consequently, I'm always reading about 5 books at a time.

Posted by: Sloan at February 29, 2008 12:08 PM

OMG. Where the Red Fern Grows. I'd forgotten that one, probably b/c I got it from the library and it's one of the few I never owned. That was a classic, though. I remember it well.

And Ivanhoe and the McCaffrey series. I just recently reread Scott's novels. No idea why. Just did.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 12:11 PM

I saw Ivanhoe (the movie) aboard my Dad's ship as a girl. Never forgot the experience. Own the old movie now and love it. Had a huge crush on Sam Neill as a girl.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 12:14 PM

Saberhagen, Mike? Have you read his *Swords* chronicles? You would probably enjoy Margret Weis and Tracy Hickman's "Death Gate Cycle", which IMO is one of the most imaginative *worlds* ever created. I also love R.A. Salvatore, although, I've not read anything by him since "The Highway Man".

Yes, Cricket, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. My daughter absolutely loves them. I thought of those stories often when we went through the "Small Eater, Tiny Bite Taker" phase. When friends were asking what to get S.W.H.N.O.B. for her birthday earlier this month, I suggested Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. She received two books (one with the aforementioned story) and has already completed one.

Posted by: Sly2017 at February 29, 2008 12:22 PM

I think I may have mentioned it, but I'm re-reading Ivanhoe even now.

Moby Dick is another great book -- both easier to get into than you'd expect given its size (a ripping, merry jaunt, in fact); yet far deeper and more resonant than you will realize at first. One of those books you have to keep putting down, because you realize you've just read something powerful, and need a few minutes to sort out what it was and why.

The Ballad of the White Horse is a third. It is the "one book," that read enough times will reveal everything you need to know about life. Or so it has often seemed, to me.

The Fitzgerald translation of the Iliad; and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, which I can pick up and open to any page, and be at home.

And the Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit, of course: I owe my marriage to Tolkien, you may not know. That's a long story, for another day.

Posted by: Grim at February 29, 2008 12:22 PM

"Where the Red Fern Grows" was the first book to make me cry.

Posted by: Sly2017 at February 29, 2008 12:28 PM

"I owe my marriage to Tolkien..."

Ok, I'll raise my hand....you've got me curious....

Posted by: Sly2017 at February 29, 2008 12:31 PM

"I owe my marriage to Tolkien..."

Ok, I'll raise my hand....you've got me curious....

Not too surprising, considering your handle. Couldn't miss the reference to the burly skin-changer fella.

I read a lot as a kid too, although quite frankly I can't remember all the titles. I just recall that I enjoyed most of it.

Some of the stand out authors for me were -- of COURSE -- Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Heinlein. Especially "Starship Troopers". My dad had an old beat-up copy with these huge grape-fruit looking spaceships on the cover... or were they bugs? But, I recall reading that thing to pieces.

Other titles that I can think of that I thoroughly enjoyed were 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' by Baroness Orczy, 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and as mentioned 'Where the Red Fern Grows'.

Also had a fondness for Westerns as a kid. Louis L'Amour stands out in my mind, and various other westerns whose titles and authors escape me, but snippets of plot remain stuck in my head.

Posted by: Kevin L at February 29, 2008 12:52 PM

The very short version is that I met her through an early online (pre-Web) Tolkien group. Dear Sovay also, at the same time and in the same place -- I don't know if you've been around the Hall long enough to remember Sovay, who used to come around once in a while to scream and yell and wave her hands around. She'd call me all sorts of names, and storm off. I always found it mystifying, because she knew me in person, and we got along famously; but somehow she could believe that the same man she knew to be unfailingly chivalrous, kind to women, children, and animals was some sort of evil monster planning to eat the poor and force poor feminists like herself to bear unwanted children, and perhaps oppress someone.

I digress. In any event, we all met through this group. The lady who became my beloved wife was considering moving to Savannah, to pursue a graduate degree in the fine arts; and she asked me to accompany her and her friend Denise, having enjoyed my company online, and having a faithful roommate to defend her if I turned out to be awful.

Her roommate bailed out on her, after she'd already promised to come.

So we met under the Sunsphere in Knoxville, TN; and I had to wait there a little while. A security guard became suspicious and began to pester me to know why I was loitering. I explained that I was meeting someone; I'm sure she (the guard) thought I was planning stealing cars, which was a problem in that neighborhood at that time. In any event, my future wife (still having never met me in person) arrived just as this security guard was making clear that she considered me a potential felon, which must have been thrilling to a woman whose roommate was not coming after all.

I was glad to get out of there, but quickly began to wonder why I had agreed to saddle myself for a week with a woman who gave every appearance of being extraordinarily uptight, with her high-neck collar and pearl necklace and tight bun and big glasses. She, meanwhile, noticed that I was carrying a gun (as I always did; and still do, quite lawfully).

Such was the beginning of what must be one of the finest romances man and maid ever had. By the end of the week she was carrying a knife thrust through her belt, wearing a cowgirl hat I'd bought her (her grandmother, it turned out, was a horsewoman who'd once given her a Stetson; and she loved horses), and we were as thick as thieves.

When she decided to move to Savannah, I went down three months early to find us (separate) lodgings, and myself a new job, since I had decided I was moving to Savannah also; the only place I could find in a good but cheap neighborhood had nothing available for six weeks, during which time I lived in a tent on Skidaway Island. That was surely the loneliest time of my life, wondering if she would really come, having no work and no friends and no family, and watching my limited funds spin away while searching fruitlessly for employment.

But she did move down; and while I never did find decent work, I decided to follow her example and go back to school, getting my Master's degree; and we were married before the end of several wonderful years.

Not that she was easy to win; almost that whole time she stood me off, in spite of our strong bond, but out of fear of confessing to love and getting married.

I was persistent, though, and one winter she was to return home to visit her family -- the mother and father we've just buried -- in Indiana. She booked a flight, which were expensive in those days before Jet Blue and Airtran, and us college students both living mostly on student loans. Due to bad directions, we got stuck in traffic and she fretted more and more. The more upset she got, the more I couldn't stand it; until finally I told her to stop worrying, that if she missed the flight I'd drive her to Indiana myself.

Well, she missed the flight. As good as my word, I simply loaded her luggage back into my car, turned it around and drove right up I-75 to Chattanooga, from there to Nashville, Louisville and Indianapolis without more than stopping once for gasoline. We got in that same evening.

Her father thanked me kindly, and made me a bed on the floor by the door. :)

But the next morning, he gave me permission to seek his daughter's hand; and she gave it; and I kissed her -- and then drove away before her mother found out. :)

It's been a fine few years since then. I can't wait to get back to her. I've probably gone on too long about all that, missing her, and I beg your pardon. But I did warn you, and you did ask. :)

Posted by: Grim at February 29, 2008 12:57 PM

It's a wonderful story Grim, and I for one am glad to hear it.

I think love stories are wonderful. I suppose I am mushy that way.

I guess it is because I have never stopped believing that love is the most important thing in the world.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 01:03 PM

Cass, you really have to try the Hobbit again. Take it in small doses.

My late son loved Harry Potter, but LOTRs was
GOSPEL. He couldn't ever get into the Hobbit either, until we went over it a little bit at a time.

The Engineer gave me permission to buy double copies of certain schoolbooks. It was a bit of an expense; about 150.00, but worth every penny
to read along and discuss points as they were presented.

And Grim...I wanna hear the story too.
*builds up the fire and sets out a few bowls of popcorn, a plate of sliced salumi, cucumbers, bread and butter and drinks of choice*

Posted by: Cricket at February 29, 2008 01:08 PM

Dang. You posted while I was composing.
EAT UP! There's more.

Heh. That is a KEWL story.

Posted by: Cricket at February 29, 2008 01:12 PM

Outstanding story, Grim! So much so that I may be able to maintain a congenial attitude for perhaps the first 10 miles of driving CA freeways as I make my way to the commissary for payday shopping.

As to The Hobbit, it is MH's favorite book. I have read it, but I still can't *get into it*. Therefore, I never read the LOTR books. I like the movies well enough that someday I may try again.

Now, cover me, I'm going to the commissary......

Posted by: Sly2017 at February 29, 2008 01:37 PM

Oh, I've read the Hobbit 4 or 5 times, Cricket.

I don't hate it. I just don't like it as well as the rest of the LOTR. Just as I didn't like The Two Towers as much as the rest of the trilogy. Just a personal preference I guess.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 29, 2008 01:51 PM

I can't recall all the books I read as a child.

Some of the picture books?
Harry the Dirty Dog
Various and sundry Golden Books

Other books?
Amelia Bedelia
Black Beauty
Misty of Chincoteague (sp?) and others by the same author
Agatha Christie stories

I'm sure there are many others I could recall if I thought long and hard enough...

Oh, and something I forgot to mention on the other thread when someone mentioned abridged classics: Go to the grocery store and find the Little Debbie snack cakes. Check the back side of the boxes for the order form to buy hardcover books VERY cheaply (to include shipping). I bought the complete abridged set first (titles like Heidi and Treasue Island), and when I can afford, I want to get the same titles in their original (more expensive, but still cheap: they can be bought individually, of course, but getting the set make each book less expensive...).

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at February 29, 2008 01:55 PM

I didn't read Tolkien until recently. I decided I wanted to read the books before I saw the movies. I started with The Hobbit. It took a little while to get used to his style of writing, but once I did, I quite enjoyed the stories...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at February 29, 2008 01:56 PM

I won't repeat many of favorite books and series already listed. There was a Cherry Ames series similar to Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys, except she was a nurse. Each book was a different nursing field, beginning with her start as a nursing student. I read every mystery story I could get my hands on, both as a child, and now. This included classics like 'Woman in White' by Wilkie Collins, Baroness Orczy's 'Scarlet Pimpernel', and Jacques Futrelle's The Thinking Machine short stories, and of course, Sherlock Holmes.
I loved books about adventurous kids without much adult presence. A series by Arthur Ransome beginning with 'Swallows and Amazons' fit this mold, they are British, but come into print in the US periodically. My dyslexic son had trouble with reading, so I used many books on tape with him, in addition to reading to him extensively... he loved Edgar Allen Poe and Huck Finn.. but a series he did actually read was by Gary Paulson. 'Hatchet' and 'Brian's Winter' were two of them. My other two read anything. Science fiction was devoured as I grew up Heinlein and Asimov in particular. My youngest shares my enjoyment of several science fantasy authors that use lots of puns. Terry Pratchett and his disc world books, Robert Asprin's Myth-adventures and Piers Anthony Xanth stories.

Posted by: Heather at February 29, 2008 02:06 PM

yeah...the Two Towers is dark and you see the total betrayal of the Good Guys by Saruman.

I thought you hadn't read it. My mistake.

I had to read it slowly again to fully appreciate the Hobbit. Tolkein, being An Army Guy tucks in the strategy and thinking without you realizing it.

To me, Bilbo stealing the Arkenstone was an interesting dilemma. After all, the dwarves had hired him as a burglar, to take back tht which was rightfully theirs...then becomes a thief when he gives the Arkenstone over to the 'other side'
as a bargaining chip.

The uniting of the Elves, Dwarves and Men against the goblins is another good lesson about what we have to gain and lose.

My favorite part of the Return Of The King were the added notes and appendices that filled in the history.

I loved the LOTR; detested but read the Chronicles of Narnia to the CLUs and they disliked it as much as I did.

Well, dislike is too strong. I guess it didn't have the whimsy I associated with the Hobbit and
the intensity of LOTR.

Posted by: Cricket at February 29, 2008 02:08 PM

When I was little, I read a whole bunch of the Thornton Burgess books--things like Little Joe Otter, and Billy Mink, and Old Mother West Wind. These books have gone out of fashion. But they're wonderful for small children.

Later on, I dove into SciFi when it was still very Not Respectable. There were magazines like Galaxy and Amazing, and Ace double novels (you read from the front to the middle for one novel, then turned the book over and read from front to the middle again).

Now? Milton, Pope, Shelley, lots of history, popular science (in effect, the new SciFi). Has anyone out there heard of William McGonagle, Poet and Tragedian, the Bard of Dundee? If not, you might look him up. Unquestionably the worst poet in the English language.

Posted by: Gammer Gurton at February 29, 2008 02:09 PM

I don't like 'His Dark Materials' by Philip Pullman. He starts off okay, and it sort fizzles from there.

Posted by: Cricket at February 29, 2008 02:11 PM

"Saberhagen, Mike? Have you read his *Swords* chronicles?"

Yes I did Sly, as well as his Berserker stories. Different genres, but excellent storytelling throughout. He wasn't my favorite, but I tend to be a sucker for series. If the first book entertains me, I pretty much have to stick it out. At times I've regretted it (like Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality) and sometimes it's been extremely rewarding (Book of Swords was a good payoff if a bit abrupt).

Posted by: MikeD at February 29, 2008 02:17 PM

I learned about the value of hard work and loyalty from "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel." I learn about the law, the sacntity of life and the importance of family from "The Five Chinese Brothers." I learned everything else worth knowing from a Playboy I swiped from The Olde Goode Shoppe.

Posted by: Reads With Lips at February 29, 2008 02:25 PM

I come from Argghhh!

I have to list authors, more than books, with some exceptions.

Robert Heinlein
Isaac Asimov
Andre Norton
Larry Niven
Jerry Pournelle
(sensing a trend?)
Philip Jose Farmer
Michael Moorcock
Edgar Rice Burroughs (ah, Dejah Thoris!)
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Casca books by Robin Moore.
Battle Cry by Leon Uris.

Horton Hears A Who

Ah. Life before the Innernuts and cable. T'was really better in some ways.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at February 29, 2008 03:14 PM

"Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint"!
Wow! I remember reading that as kid, really good story for young kids.
I remember also reading some of the "Tom Swift" books at my mother's cousins' house (they were a lot older than her; now they are both gone). The house was a pretty place on a lake, and sitting there reading was a happy childhood memory

I read a book in my early teens that still sticks with me, even though I haven't re-read it. It's hard to find, and I only know one other person to ever read it (on my rec, and he didn't really like it). "Islandia", by Austin Tappan Wright. I see a copy in the used book store once in a while, and I am tempted to buy and read it again.

Anybody ever heard of it or read it?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 29, 2008 03:33 PM


What a great thread. The faves I can remember are (like you) T.H. White's "Once and Future King," plus Bertrand R. Brinley's "The Mad Scientists' Club" and Heinlein's "Glory Road" and "Starship Troopers." I did not read William Goldman's "The Princess Bride" until after graduating from high school, but would now count that as a favorite, too.

Posted by: Patrick at February 29, 2008 03:52 PM

I have a problem with the "His Dark Materials" books, although I have not read them. The author is an athiest and he himself states that his goal with those books is to recruit readers (children) to athieism. That is one series that I will never place in my personal classroom library.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at February 29, 2008 04:46 PM

Trying not to repeat and only to add. I have only boys (now grown), but among the best which I read to them (and them to me)

I have not heard Dr. Seuss (particularly the masterpiece "Green Eggs and Ham"). I have not heard Grimm and the full grimness of his fairytales. I have not heard the rhymes of Mother Goose. -- now all of this was young kids.

I also read my kids, Pilgrims Progress (Bunyan), various books of the Bible (although always Jonah, Ruth, 1 Samuel, and a little gospel), the Master and Margarita (Bulgakov), Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), some Twain stories, The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway) --

beyond this Tolkein and L'Engle, and C.S. Lewis were of course included along with a number of other books above-mentioned.

My children are reasonably literate in their 20's. I also really loved reading with them, and hope to some day to have grandchildren with which I may sometimes do the same.

Posted by: levi from queens at February 29, 2008 05:03 PM


Another of your wonderful threads!

The first childhood books I can remember - "The Little Engine That Could", "Where The Wild Things Are" and the Curious George books.

One time I wandered into the coolness of the local public library after a summer day of swimming or playing baseball. I can still remember the way the book smelled when I took "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" off the shelf. It's comforting to know that foggy, 19th century England will always be there.

Posted by: Country Squire at February 29, 2008 09:16 PM

I got started at four with a short story in F&SF Magazine called "Callahan and the Wheelies." I was intrigued y the cover art and my parnts said "Read the story", so I did, and was hooked!
Azimov, Heinlein, E.E."Doc" Smith, van Voght, Niven, Pournell....

My grandparents gave me a subsciption to a monthly anthology called "Best in Childrens Books"
Each book was a collection of everything from Greek Mythology to poetry to Geography. My parents got me a series from Random House called "All About..."Books: Great Scientific Expeditions, Inventors and their Inventions, Rockets and Satellites, the Solar System, the Human Body, etc. I read them from cover to cover over and over again, and used them as references for more term papers and science projects than you can imagine.

I finally donated both sets to my Grammar School's Library where I hope they got well worn.

My principle also saw the value of my love of reading. At a PTA meeting when my parents asked what she did if I started to get out of line, she answered: "Just threaten to take away his books!"
Boy, did she have my number! (Now LadyDiver threatens the same thing!! To quote the greatJubal Hawshaw: I'm henpecked!!

Posted by: MasterDiver at February 29, 2008 10:04 PM

Every time Cass starts a books thread, I have seen my personal library increase. Miss L, PP
of HDM is a twit. While I like allegory in fairy tales, I don't like some takes on classics.

I haven't read Paradise Lost, but that is what
PP is trying to do in 'His Dark Materials'. Rewrite it. I will need to read it pretty closely to see what the relationship is, but
sometimes you have to know what the other side is saying in order to defend against it.

Personally, I was appalled that a woman here in GA wanted to keep the Harry Potter series out of
a school library because of her personal belief
that the books promoted witchcraft and the 'supernatural.' I was appalled because she
had not read them. Not one page. I think she was afraid her eyes were going to be burned or something.

Or she would really really like them, develop an obsessive crush on Daniel Radcliff and move to Scotland to work for JK Rowling.

I dunno.

You certainly don't have to have them, but I would
recommend reading them so you can be aware of
what is being said and refute it.

Posted by: Cricket at February 29, 2008 10:17 PM

Well, here I am, late to the party as usual and everyone's stolen my thunder.

For me it was the classics, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Verne, Heinlein, E.R. Burroughs, Howard's Conan series, etc.

About the only ones I haven't heard mentioned yet were a great series called Alfred Hitchcock's "The Three Investigators" which was of the same genre but way better than the Hardy Boys, and a series of biographies of great leaders and influential people, written for kids (can't remember the name of the series). I remember learning about Pershing, Patton, and Custer, among others, in that series.

There was also a series of books that had "illustrated classics" in the title that I really liked. As a pre-teen, the copious color and b&w pictures made Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick, and other great novels much more entertaining.

Posted by: a former european at February 29, 2008 10:22 PM

As a child I never really had much time to read but when I did these were a few of my favourites....

1.) The Liberal Incisional Hernia By Crovella, Feliciano ; Bartone, Giovanni ; Fei, Landino

2.) Gastrointestinal Pathology of the Radical Left for Dummies: Mesenchymal Neoplasms, and Cytology of the Gastrointestinal Tract of Liberals. Dr. Harry Upchuckagin.

3.) Your First Lobotomy and what to do with the Liberal Leftovers: Schuster & Bingham

4.). Redifining Defecating Proctogram: The Occult Rectal Prolapse Syndrome and how it is Changing the Way the Democratic Party Runs: Smith and wesson Publications...

Just a Little light reading.

Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at February 29, 2008 11:18 PM

I came in late enough to start with that I forgot we were talking about "childhood" books.

I read the Hobbit the first time in Kindergarten, in a comic-book form that existed at the time. I read it for real as soon as I was able; and over and over, throughout my childhood and early teenage years. I didn't read LoTR until late teens, but as a child, I was deeply interested in the Hobbit.

(The lesson of the Battle of Five Armies, by the way, is not that we all have to work together to solve our common problems -- it's that even working together, wizards and dwarves and elves and hobbits and eagles are going to be overcome until a proper Viking Beserker shows up and knocks the bad guys into place. The lessons for modern life are instructive.)

I read Howard Pyle's books to great delight as a boy: his book on Pirates was a particular favorite, as was his work on Robin Hood, and King Arthur. He was a great writer for boys.

The older Boy Scout Handbooks were wonderful books too, although I'm told by Ron Fox that the new ones have lost almost all the things I valued about them. The Dangerous Book for Boys looks like a decent substitute, but if you can lay hands on the older Handbooks -- the ones that still talk about how the Scout Oath is like a Knightly Oath, or the oath of the Athenians -- you'll find a son will love it.

Posted by: Grim at February 29, 2008 11:24 PM


If I find the time, I might read HDM. However, I refuse to buy them, and I won't put them in the classroom library that I provide. I'm not going to try to get them removed from a school library - I'm just not going to put them in MY classroom library. Anyhow, since I don't have a classroom yet, it may end up being a moot point, if I don't get a grade old enough to be reading books at that level. Time will tell.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at February 29, 2008 11:35 PM


Can you remind me of the title of that book for boys you posted about a while back on your blog. I don't think I remembered to add that to my list of books I want to check into getting for that classroom library...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at February 29, 2008 11:36 PM

I believe that would be The Dangerous Book for Boys, ML. It's got just about everything, from how to kill, skin an eat a rabbit, to how to talk to girls, to lessons on the history of artillery and Robert the Bruce.

Posted by: Grim at March 1, 2008 12:05 AM

Thanks, Grim...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at March 1, 2008 01:14 AM

Oh wow...I could get lost in this post just as I can get lost at the Tattered Cover bookstore in downtown Denver.

As a kid, I read anything with words on it. If I didn't have a book to read, I read the cereal boxes. Just off the top of my head...

the entire Black Stallion series
Little House series
autobiographies of just about anyone (my preference for non-fiction was evident at a young age)
Wrinkle in Time (Miss Lowe read this to us in 3rd grade and I was hooked!)
Swiftly Tilting Planet
Shel Silverstein's works
all of Dr. Seuss's works (my favorites are The Sneetches and Horton Hatches an Egg)
Where the Wild Things Are
Encyclopedia Brown
Jungle Book
Dr. Doolittle
The Chronicles of Narnia
all of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series (my control issues were evident at an early age too!)
Animal Farm and 1984
all of the Alexander books by Judith Viorst
Velveteen Rabbit
Diary of Anne Frank

I could go on and on...and on. But it's late and I need sleep. I'll add more if I remember.

As for The Dangerous Book for Boys I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone. They have one for girls too. Need to get that one.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at March 1, 2008 04:36 AM

The Daring Book for Girls is a pale facsmile of it's predecessor, The Daring Book for Boys. While purchasing several copies of the latter for Christmas presents, I happened upon it. Figuring it to be as good, I picked it up and spent a good few minutes thumbing through the chapters. I wasn't impressed in any way shape or form. In fact, I was a more than a little insulted. IMO, it's way too condescending. I sent my presents to families with both boys and girls because I think the DBfB is a great book for everyone in the family -- young and old alike.
Just my opinion....

Posted by: Sly2017 at March 1, 2008 11:44 AM

As A Mother Of Sons and One Girl Who Is Outnumbered, I looked at the Dangerous Book For Girls. I did not buy it. She knows how to do most of the stuff in there already, courtesy of many Saturday morning work details with either her father or me or with the family.

That said, I see nothing wrong with the book in terms of encouraging girls to know how work ought to be done. There will come a time when they need to have this knowledge in order to know WHAT needs to be done, HOW and even prioritize it.

It isn't as intense as the book for boys, but it is a decision I made based on what I had seen of the book and what my daughter already knew.

Posted by: Cricket at March 1, 2008 06:30 PM

AFE, I LOVED the three investigators! Jupiter the fat techno geek was the BEST! I have been trying to find those books on ebay since 2000! They had the Hardy Boys all wrapped up! I found a couple of them and read them to my older sons...only to have the library 'discontinue' them due to lack of interest.

There was one book I remember reading in 6th grade about a boy who finds or is given a solution to rub on his shoulders and he sprouts wings. They only last for one night with each application, but
it was a fantastic story and I haven't been able to find a copy of it since.

Posted by: Cricket at March 1, 2008 06:35 PM

Hey Cricket -

Re The Three Investigators: Does this help?

I am currently buying the "My Teacher Is An Alien" series, used, off Amazon, for my young clients to read aloud when they are doing their therapeutic listening. I like buying used books from them. Some books, such as Gray's Anatomy, is $135 new, but you can get a good condition used one for $15 + $3.99 shipping. You can pay more for shipping and get it faster, but I usually have my books in a week regardless of the speed I choose. If the used book + shipping is only a buck or two less than new, I'll buy new because I'm an Amazon Prime subscriber (all the 2nd day shipping you can use for a year for $79!), but you can often buy the book for $0.01 + $3.99 shipping, i.e., $4.00 total, and that is often $10-15 less than new.

Posted by: MathMom at March 1, 2008 08:33 PM

THANK YOU!!! Expanding the library yet again.
I finally remembered the name of that elusive book! 'Black and Blue Magic.'

Hummming off to add More Kewl Things to Chez Engineer.

Posted by: Cricket at March 1, 2008 11:14 PM

Black and Blue Magic, 6 used and new from $2.97!

Posted by: MathMom at March 2, 2008 09:13 AM

The first book I remember reading was Rocket Ship Galileo, by Heinlein. I read voraciously when I was younger (still do, for that matter, but not quite to the same extent). My father's rejoinder, when any of us complained of boredom, was, "Have you read every book in the house?"

That being said, there aren't any novels that I've read to my daughter. She was just five when her mother and I divorced. They moved to another state, but I kept my hand in by checking children's books out of the library and reading the stories onto cassettes for her to play at bedtime. She still has the cassettes, fifteen years later.

Posted by: wheels at March 2, 2008 02:39 PM

I read Footfall by Larry Nivel and Jerry Pournelle early on.

But the first two books I ever read was Peter Pan and The House in the Snow. Then Narnia series.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 2, 2008 03:49 PM

"Last One Home Is A Green Pig" was one good younger reader book I recall liking. I still have it and read it to KJita/let KJita read it to me. It is about a race between a monkey and a duck. It encourages competition (and arguably taunting, though every time one of the characters taunts, he suffers a set back, so I guess the message is good), but at the end the competitors are good sports and promise to race again tomorrow. I like the "competition is good" message, even for the loser. Not like the sissy feelings oriented stuff they want us to tell our kids today.

I also read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown. I think there was a similar book series of a different name, but I'm not sure. If there was, I read it, too.

As a young teen, I read a non-fiction book about a dog that won championships as both a show dog and a hunting/obedience dog, allegedly a rare thing according to the book. I ended up reading that book several times. I named a dog I had as a teenager after that dog. "Prince [something else - tom I think - I just named my dog Prince], Championship Dog" was, I think, the name of the book.

As a youngster and teen, I read a lot about sports and collected and dealt in baseball cards at flea markets and "court days" around Kentucky. I read a lot of periodicals -- Sports Illustrated and Mad Magazine for two.

I don't recall any other "favorite books" right now, but I remember reading a lot of books, and reading early, well and all the time as a kid. Weird.

In high school, I read Catch-22 at least 3 times. Loved it. Still do.

I didn't read any of that sci fi crap some of you did. The kids who talked about those books also played D&D. I wasn't interested.

Dr. Stuhl, good to see you again. You are still too funny.

Posted by: KJ at March 3, 2008 11:22 AM

Encyclopedia Brown! I loved those books! I still remember the case about the glass of ginger ale.
I can't wait to introduce them to S.W.H.N.O.B., she's gonna love them.
Thx, KJ!

*off in search of...*

Posted by: Sly2017 at March 3, 2008 11:41 AM

science fiction crap?


"Here There Be Dragons" and "The Search For The Red Dragon" by James A. Owen.

Eragon is silly.

Posted by: Cricket at March 3, 2008 04:20 PM

I must have been a weird kid. I loved biographies. Among the ones I remember most are those of Amelia Earhart, Annie Oakley, Louis Braille, Helen Keller. I am a sucker for true stories of triumph over adversity.

Was also fond of Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, and mysteries of all kinds.

Posted by: April at March 5, 2008 01:56 PM