When you were a child, what was your favourite book?

18 06 2011

I read a lot as a child. I really enjoyed school and pony stories, but I did read other stuff as well, honest!

Enid Blyton featured quite heavily. Not so much Famous Five and Secret Seven so much as Malory Towers, The Book of Naughty Children. All heavily moralistic!

On a similarly moralistic note, I loved the Jill books by Ruby Ferguson. They were about a girl whose father died and she and her mother, a children’s author, moved to a small village. The other children in the area were very into riding and Jill was desperate for a pony, although she’d never ridden before. The books focused on doing things properly, being honest, putting one’s pets first etc. Jill was by no means a sickly sweet heroine – she would quite often be struggling with frustrations and “ignoble thoughts”. Unlike her friends, she and her mother were not terribly well-off and Jill was always taking part-time jobs and looking for ways to support her ponies. “Pot-hunting”, entering shows with the sole of wish of winning prizes, was seriously frowned upon in these books – a stark contrast with the more modern books I’ve picked up! There is also no boy-chasing at all – another contrast with modern pony stories. I would whole-heartedly recommend these.

The Pullein-Thompson sisters were great favourites as well. Again, they were not about chasing boys and trophies and, as in the Ruby Ferguson and Enid Blyton books, the lazy and the conceited always got their comeuppance!

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley was a favourite and I still re-read that from time to time. My brother gave me it for my eighth birthday and it really stands up to the test of time. It’s about a girl called Penelope who lives in London and, with her brother and sister, goes to spend the holidays with relatives on their farm in Derbyshire. The farm had been the home of the Babbingtons, who plotted to save Mary, Queen of Scots, who was incarcerated at the nearby Hardwick Hall.

None of the heroines in these books shies away from doing things because she’s “just a girl”. They all face up to things. None of them thinks she only exists in the mirror of men’s eyes.

The values in these books had a big influence on me: no one likes a show-off, put your animals first, take responsibility for yourself (it is NOT your mother’s fault that you have forgotten your PE kit!), be truthful, kind and considerate and look up to your elders.

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