Oooo, this week's Top 10 Tuesday is a fun one, excellent for a nostalgic time like Christmas. Our friends at The Broke and The Bookish shared with us their 10 favorite books from childhood, and have asked each of us to do the same. I'll tell you a secret little story about my absurd, childhood self. When I was four (which is about where my memories begin), I first began to notice how much of her spare time my mother spent reading. She just seemed to enjoy it so much, and I was desperate to figure out what was the illusive joy of all the squiggles in the books. I remember so vividly the small bookcase that sat in her bedroom, with her boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder sitting in the place of honor on it. I actually went to her once, crying because I wanted so badly to learn to read, but convinced that I'd never manage it. Reading just seemed like some magical, exalted art that was surely beyond my young mind! She assured me that I would learn, and as in so many other things, she was right.
10. The Little Green Frog by Beth Combe Harris--Maybe 200 people on this entire planet have heard of this book, and there's a reason for that. I do not look back on this one with unmixed pleasure, because it was part of the curriculum in my radically conservative, fundamentalist Christian school. Those people made my family look like pot-smoking, free-loving, dirt-worshipping tree-huggers (and believe me, we WEREN'T)! Still, this was one of my favorite books as a child, so I've included it as a tribute to my 9-year-old self, who didn't know that she was being obnoxious in the way she expressed some fairly odious opinions. Usually.
9. Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen Taylor--I LOVED this book, and though it was also included in the aforementioned curriculum, it was a much better book all round (largely because it was just a simplified retelling of the ORIGINAL Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan). It made a book that would've been nearly impossible for a little kid much easier to understand, and I really enjoyed it. (I haven't read it in years, though; it might just annoy me today. Just caveat emptor, there.)
8. Blue Willow by Doris Gates--I adored this book so much when I was young that I made my Mom look through the dishes with me in every thrift store we entered, in the hope of finding something that looked like a Blue Willow Ware plate. I'll confess to you that I don't even remember what it's about now--something to add to my re-read pile! Yay!
7. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin--Trust me, the information about who illustrated this book is quite important; together, words and images left me in a rapture of joy and a blubbing mess simultaneously when I reached the end of this poignant story. I don't want to give spoilers, but let's just say that I spent a lot of time dreaming of owning things I could never afford when I was a little girl.
6. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell--"The first place that I can well remember..." Those are the opening words of this book, and when you hear it performed on audio cassette by Haley Mills, the true Britishness of the work leaves an indelible mark on your impressionable young mind. Like Uncle Tom's Cabin and other great books intended to prick the conscience of their readership, this book is not for the faint of heart, and now that I think back on it, I'm really surprised that this is considered a children's book, because in many ways, it is not at all. It was meant to illuminate the appalling conditions under which many working animals lived in Britain at the time, and it certainly did a good job! Still, I loved the stories of proud Black Beauty and sweet, patient little Merrylegs. If you're such a great animal lover that you think you wouldn't be able to bear to read this one, just think of it this way--read it and constantly think to yourself how glad you are this stuff doesn't go on that much anymore!
5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie--I first encountered this childhood classic by means of the audiobook, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, even though some of its Victorian English puzzled me at times. I could still appreciate adventures and dangers and sword fights and pretend games. I remain determined to read the rest of them some day. (Oh! You didn't KNOW there was more than one Peter Pan book by Barrie? Well, there are; check 'em out!)
4. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers--I was a little older when I read this series, in my teens, but I lapped up every word just the same. When P.L. Travers left the theater after attending the world premiere of Walt Disney's film adaptation of her books, a reporter asked her what she thought of it, and she said with a rather sardonic smile, "Oh, let me be silent." I was a bit taken aback the first time I heard about that, but after reading the books, I felt I understood her reticence a lot better. As if this needs to be said again--the books are ALWAYS better!
3. Joseph by Joyce Landorf--A truly odd one thrown in the mix here, yet the first time I read this book, I was eleven, and I think it really helped fan the flames of my obsession with Egyptology. My mother would absolutely have fainted if she had known about the steamier scenes in this book! I have to laugh to think back about it now. It really wasn't anything more than, "Boy and girl admit they are heterosexual, and therefore attracted to each other. Extended kissing. Fade to curtains blowing in window on a lovely summer's evening." Still--I was ELEVEN! This was major-league action to my young mind! Believe it or not, that was NOT the main attraction for me, though. (I know; you don't believe it.) It's true! This is actually a pretty well-crafted story. And it brought ancient Egypt alive for me in a way that nothing ever had before at that young age. I include it on this list because it demonstrates that I've ALWAYS been eclectic, and that "age-appropriate" has always been one of my LEAST favorite phrases.
2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery--*Sigh* OMG, what is there to say about my beloved ANNE?! She was the heroine of my childhood, the first time I discovered that there were other girls like me in the world--you know, nerdy girls who like to read more than they like to play with dolls, and who occasionally act like outlandish tomboys instead of prim young ladies. I never COULD get the hang of being a "young lady." I was too busy arguing with boys and playing with Hot Wheels. Anne was proof positive that you could do all those things, and still get married and have a bigillion kids. She rocked then, and she rocks now--the 19th-century Hermione Granger.
1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White--It really is hard to believe that any book could outrank Anne for the coveted spot of 1st place, but for me, this was "the one that started it all," as they say. My second grade teacher read it aloud to us, and I completely fell in love with the story of Fern--another tomboy--and her most unlikely pet. I borrowed my brother's copy of it, re-read it so many times that the cover fell off, and never did give it back to him. (I think I still owe you a copy of Charlotte's Web, brother of mine, if you'd like me to buy you one.) It was one of the first books that I ever managed to read by myself, and I read it about once every six months for the next five years or so. It launched a life of reading; the teacher who read it to me launched a life of teaching. Books can do amazing things.