Here are the final five books in my list of the first-ten-books-that-popped-into-my-head when I started thinking about favorite childhood books.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, is a book I loved as much for the setting as for the story of and characters. Turn-of-the-century Brooklyn seemed like such an exotic and faraway place. And yet the characters shared the same hopes and fears and dreams as me and everyone I knew. One of the books that helped me realize how much in common we all have as people, no matter where we live or how much we have or what we look like.
Another favorite book with an “exotic” setting was Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. The Alps! Frankfurt! Snow! The descriptions of how people dressed and what the scenery looked like fascinated me. This another of those books that
used to still makes me laugh and cry. Heidi’s clear-sighted observations about those she lives with, her adventures with Peter the goatherd, the relationship she builds with the grandfather who doesn’t want her–I admit that now it seems a little melodramatic, but whenever I reread the book I remember how much I loved it years and years ago.
When I was little, I wanted to be like Pippi Longstocking. She was so fun, so smart, so daring, and had the most exciting adventures ever. I couldn’t get enough of the Astrid Lindgren stories about her. I’m pretty sure they fired up my imagination in a way no other books ever did.
When I read Across Five Aprils, the story of the Civil War by Irene Hunt, I found it hard going. The dialect, the subject matter, the overall sadness of the tone–all of these slowed down my usual speed-reading pace. I remember thinking maybe I’d just quit and put it down, but I couldn’t. The story was so compelling I had to keep reading, and thank goodness I did. I still reread this book occasionally. Love how this story shows the devastation of war by focusing on a single family torn apart by the Civil War.
While I sometimes read books about animals, they were rarely my favorites. The two exceptions: My Friend Flicka, by Mary O’Hara and Ol’ Yeller, by Fred Gipson. I can’t even begin to count how many times I cried my way through these books. The bond between animal and boy never failed to move me, even though I wasn’t a boy and didn’t really care for animals . . . even more evidence that a good book pushes right past any barriers we readers may want to set up.
So that’s my list of ten. I could, of course, add many many more to my list of childhood favorites. I never even mentioned The Little Red Hen, Baby Susie’s Chick, and other Little Golden Books that were probably the very first books I read. Oh, and let’s not forget The Story of Ping, or My Side of the Mountain,or the Ramona and Beezus books, or Dr. Doolittle, or . . . . .