When we started this post, we had planned to write a list of 20 books that we considered the most influential in our lives; but the more we tried, the more we were troubled by our approach: for one thing, our decision to select twenty was incredibly arbitrary; for another, Freda, especially, hates “top 20” lists, because you always end up having to cut something good or important in order to make things fit. Thinking about it, we realised that this is really a problem we’ve both had for years: all too often, you end up being forced to cut something valuable in order to make things fit a certain, standardised, frame.
(Disclaimer: we’ve both worked as editors, so we also know the importance of a clean cut when necessary.)
So with that said, here is the first part of our list (unnumbered) of books that have meant something to one or both of us, and that, for one reason or another, we recommend to as many people as possible. Further lists will appear as we go.
In the beginning was…
- Shirley Hughes. Because no childhood should be without the guiding spirits of Alfie and Annie Rose, or the marvellous adventures of the children from Trotter street.
- Miss Rumphius – Barbara Cooney.
- Night Cars – Teddy Jam.
- Big Red Barn – Margaret Wise Brown.
- Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep – Eleanor Farjeon.
- The Dragon in the Rocks – Marie Day.
- The Mousehole Cat – Antonia Barber.
- Catkin – Antonia Barber. Because no one understands the mythical, mystical magic of cats like Barber does.
- Owl Moon – Jane Yolen.
- Anything and everything by the magnificent Janet and Allan Ahlberg, but especially Burglar Bill, whose cheery “I’ll have that!” is, to this day, a watchword in our home.
- Jillian Jiggs – Phoebe Gilman.
- Ox-Cart Man – Donald Hall.
- The Tomten – Astrid Lindgren. A beautiful gift to young children, and to those who once were young children.
- Graham Oakley. In addition to his brilliant Church Mice series, which was a staple of my childhood, Oakley also penned (and illustrated) the fabulous Foxbury Force. ~M
- Fred – Posy Simmons.
- Jill Barklem. Every Brambly Hedge book she ever wrote.
- Doctor de Soto – William Steig.
- Burnie’s Hill – Erik Blegvad.
- Working – Helen Oxenbury. Simple as can be, I can still remember the picture of a baby covered in spinach (it struck quite a chord with our family). ~M
To be continued…(of course.)