We all have special books from our childhood, right?
For some reason or another, there’s usually at least one title that brings back emotions, memories, and desire to return to ‘the good old days’ when our Mamas sang us to sleep’ ( sorry, Twenty One Pilots, stealing your lyrics…)
Anyway, these books may not be thrillers, or great classics (although a couple are!) but I wanted to share them today with ya’ll, because I have such fond memories of each one. I still keep them in room. In fact, there are a lot of things in my room from my childhood… yes, I still sleep with stuffed animals 🙂
The books we read in our childhood DO shape us – or so I’m told… so – I present –
Spice Of My Shelves: #3, Childhood Edition
Title: Cheaper by the Dozen
Authors: Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
This semi-autobiography had my family rolling in laughter! (my Mom and Dad read out loud to my brothers and I). The premise of the story: 2 children recounting their childhood spent with 10 other siblings, a long-suffering mother, and an innovative, efficiency-obsessed father who loved to answer reporter’s questions about his large family. I cannot even describe just how funny this book is – if you don’t have time or inclination to read the book, at least watch the movie! Each chapter leaves you feeling good, and it is so fun to read about these children who experienced such an unusual childhood. From getting their tonsils out (on camera, no less) to taking IQ tests to lively family dinners, there is not a dull moment in this book.
The best character in the whole book is, of course, Gilbreth senior. His children paint a lively portrait of an eccentric man – most eccentric because of his love of efficiency. He actually teaches them the most efficient way to bathe! Which, honestly, I don’t think is such a bad idea… but be prepared, if you read this book, the last chapter will leave you so sad.
‘Dad had seen the car in the factory and fallen in love with it. The affection was entirely one-sided and unrequited. He named it Foolish Carriage because, he said, it was foolish for any man with as many children as he to think he could afford a horseless carriage.’
‘Mother saw her children as a dozen individuals, a dozen different personalities, who eventually would have to make their ways separately in the world. Dad saw them as an all-inclusive group, to be brought up under one master plan that would be best for everybody.’
‘Dad thought the best way to deal with sickness in the family was simply to ignore it.
“We don’t have time for such nonsense,” he said. “There are too many of us. A sick person drags down the entire group. You children come from sound pioneer stock. You’ve been given health, and it’s your job to keep it. I don’t want any excuses. I want you to stay well.”
Our next book is a picture book, full of different stories by different authors and illustrators. All the stories are about bears, however, which gives it the name:
Title: The Candlewick Book of Bear Stories
I have read my favorite stories out of this book over and over. It has stories appropriate for young children, yet even as I got older, I still loved reading the familiar stories to myself. I love this particular volume because it includes short stories from all kinds of authors, and illustrators. Besides, it’s about cuddly bears! And I loved books about animals. I still remember the boy who packed a picnic lunch… of sandwiches, chips, and an apple to crunch!
Our next title comes from an author, who, like the Gilbreth children, found herself writing a rather autobiographical novel. My parents read lots of historical fiction and nonfiction to us, and hands down this is one of our absolute favorites. I think even my Dad enjoyed this series, although he sometimes fell asleep while reading because he was so tired during the evenings. If you only check out one series from this post, read this series.. the ‘Little House’ books are fabulous. I’m introducing you in this post to the first book of the series, ‘Little House in the Big Woods.’ It begins Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family’s first home, a little log cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. This is a charming, sweet first installment, full of Pa Ingall’s fiddle music and good humor, Ma’s sensibility and care, and Laura and Mary helping with chores, making maple snow candy, occasionally getting into sibling spats and making up, and celebrating Christmas with pancake men and new dolls at their grandmother’s house. As the series progresses, the Ingalls move to what was then ‘Indian Territory’ to South Dakota, and Laura grows from a young wild girl to a hardworking teen to a school teacher to a woman in love with a boy she calls Manly. During most of this journey, she is accompanied by her loving family and a faithful dog named Jack.
I really think most girls will love these books, and they really are like first hand accounts of what it was like to live in the days of homesteading. Beware: This book talks A LOT about food – if you read all the books, go ahead and buy the companion cookbook – it’ll give you all the recipes you need to make the food Laura describes. I’ve made the eggnog recipe myself!
‘Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.’
‘Mary was bigger than Laura, and she had a rag doll named Nettie. Laura had only a corncob wrapped in a handkerchief, but it was a good doll. It was named Susan. It wasn’t Susan’s fault that she was only a corncob.’
‘They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shining eyes at those lovely Christmas presents. But Laura was happiest of all. Laura had a rag doll.
She was a beautiful doll. She had a face of white cloth with black button eyes. A black pencil had made her eyebrows, and her cheeks and her mouth were red with the ink made from pokeberries. Her hair was black yarn that had been knit and raveled so that it was curly…
She was so beautiful that Laura could not say a word. She just held her tight and forgot everything else.’
Our fourth book is also from a series. This is a fantasy series, written by an unlikely person – a college professor and informal theologian, named C. S. Lewis.
From a young age, Lewis loved telling stories about other worlds, places he would make up, where animals could talk. Out of this imaginative past time, came the land of Narnia, which, one fateful day, four children encountered in the back of a wardrobe.
Yes, this is the Chronicles of Narnia, a world where magic is real, animals talk, quirky English humor is the rule, and children go on quests (without grown ups!). You may have seen the movies made so far based off these books – the first movie and book is ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.’ I have to say, the symbolism in that first book is magical. The book I want to talk about in the series today, however, is my favorite installment in the Narnia saga – The Silver Chair.
A young boy named Eustace Scrubbs brings his new friend Jill Pole to the world he and his cousins have already been into several times – once in Narnia, they discover the prince, Prince Rilian, is missing. Aslan, the lion who sometimes calls the children into Narnia, sends them on a quest to find Rilian. Of course, he provides them with help, in the form of the morose marshwiggle Puddleglum, who proves to be the comic relief and yet perhaps most inspiring character of the whole book.
I adore ‘The Silver Chair’ because of its loveable characters (aka, Puddleglum!) and because not only does it have a good plot, it is full of beautiful quotes. As I become older and older, the more meaningful the words of these books, books meant for children, become.
‘ “I daren’t come and drink” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.’
‘ ” But first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.” ‘
“Good morning, Guests, ” he [Puddleglum] said. “Though when I say good I don’t mean it probably won’t turn to rain or it might be snow, or fog, or thunder. You didn’t get any sleep, I dare say.”
“One word, Ma’am,” he [Puddleglum] said, coming back from the fire, limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always likes to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing… That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world.” ‘
The final book I have to introduce to all of you is a cookbook… of sorts. It has recipes for mud pies, daisy dip, seesaw salad, and more. It is:
Title: Mud pies and other recipes: a cookbook for dolls
Author: Marjorie Winslow
Illustrator: Erik Blegvad
Surely I’m not the only one who made salads out of leaves, cakes out of mud, and sandwiches out of sand and bark? This official cookbook has been on my shelf for years, and inspired my imagination – no girl could ask for more.
Yes, my dolls ate very well, indeed.
‘Recipe for: Grilled Mud Sandwich
Spread mud between two slices of card-board or two old playing cards. Place on a hot flat stone or sidewalk in the sun to grill.’