Your childhood favorites?

Hi everyone,

David reading with Noah Lawson

Do you still have any books from your childhood? I was interviewed on Tuesday as part of a promotional campaign for Ozarks Literacy Council. The one and only question was, “What was your favorite book as a child, and why?”

My answer was that I had no single favorite. When I was little, my parents read to me, Mom with feeling, Dad with silly sound effects. I heard all the classics — Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, Mother Goose — because that was what my parents and family members bought for me. A bit later came Wizard of Oz, Bambi, and Winnie the Pooh, and those segued into Hardy Boys and a tendency toward nonfiction, mostly science.

Just before the folks arrived to do the video I went to the basement and straight to the box I remembered carrying down there not so long ago. In it were the books I just mentioned, some dated when Aunt Eva or Uncle Wayne or Aunt Helen or someone else who loved me enough to give me a book presented them to me starting back when I was six or seven.

As for the second part of the question, the “why,” a whole science has developed about how and why children learn to read. It is the one that begins with the obvious: few can survive and prosper in a world that demands that we be literate. But I think the question in this case was directed toward motivation: why did I like a particular book, any book in the first place. Why do any of us like a particular book?

In my case, books became my guides and trusted companions. I loved them because they were unchanging and always there. I loved them because in the beginning they were introduced to me by the two most important people in my world. The sheer joy of being read to pulled me forward and made me eager to learn how to read by myself.

What about the rest of you? Did you have a favorite childhood book, and why? Do you still have it/them?



26 comments on “Your childhood favorites?

  1. I have written about this often–middle of WW2, my father off in England, we (Mom, fact brother, me) are living in Tidewater Va with Mom’s parents having rented out our NYC apartment for the duration. I was 4. My three favorites borrowed endless loop from the librar: Ferdinand (anti fighting!), Millions of Cats (one cat–my dad?) saved from a massive fight, The Pleasant Pirate (who helps a widowed mother and her children.) I haveno copies of any of them because I read the library copies to pieces.–Jane

    • Thanks, Jane. Those of us with memories of that somber time have a special kind of treasure. I remember Ferdinand, also Millions of Cats. Don’t think I ran across The Pleasant Pirate.

  2. I too had too many favourites to choose one. But I will. When I was 6 or 7, my mother bought me a big Mother Goose book with a shiny red cover — and I loved it and read the rhymes and looked at the simple, two-colour pictures over and over and over again until the book literally fell apart. It was a fairly cheap binding, so that happened after just a couple of years. As an adult, I found myself longing for that book. I looked for it in every second-hand bookshop I visited — and I visited a lot. I couldn’t remember the publisher or the name of the illustrator, but I remembered the cover and the insides with vivid clarity. One Sunday afternoon at a flea market on 6th Avenue, I saw a big fat Mother Goose book. The cover was green and unfamiliar, but the size and bulk were right. I opened it and knew instantly that this was MY BOOK! OK, I’d have to live with the cover… but it was THE BOOK! My hands were actually shaking. When I asked the price, I knew I’d pay anything to have it — so when the woman said “Twelve dollars,” I didn’t bat an eye. That was more than 30 years ago, and the book has travelled with me to Nottinghashire, England, where I now live. I’m not parting with it again. (It turned out to have been published by Whitman Publishing in Racine, Wisconsin — so there may have even been a copy in the Western Publishing library in Racine; I had already scoured the library in the NYC office where I worked, with no success.)
    I had loads of other favourites — I borrowed every single one of Carolyn Heywood’s Betsy and Eddie books that the Highlawn branch of the Brooklyn Public Library had on its shelves. (I have since bought copies of some of them — eBay is wonderful!) A couple of years down the line I discovered Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, which transported me to a magical place. And I read as many of Andrew Lang’s “Fairy Books” as I could get my hands on at the library — Red, Yellow, Lilac, Grey… I loved them all. The Mary Poppins books were wonderful too. And there were, of course, many Little Golden Books, which were pretty much the only books I owned as a child (along with that Mother Goose book, of course). My favourite was Nurse Nancy. When, in my mid-30s, I became the editor of Little Golden Books, I felt that I had come home. What a privilege it was to have that job. And when I discovered, via a Facebook message that someone sent me out of the blue, that a Little Golden Book I wrote, “Mr. Bell’s Fixit Shop”, was someone’s favourite childhood book, I felt overwhelmed. It was better than winning the Nobel Prize — truly.

    • Ronne, what a sweet and wonderful story! I’m glad it had such a happy ending. You NEEDED a new copy of that precious book. I know of others, too, with stories about searches for books they once loved so dearly. I bet other readers here have had some similar experiences, if not for themselves, for their children or grandchildren. Books that take hold of our hearts never let go.

      How well I remember those Little Golden Days! On a shelf right above my head I keep a copy of each of my titles from those good times starting, of course, with BOY WITH A DRUM. For a while I was missing a few titles but a dear fan/friend bothered to track down every one of my titles for her own collection and in the process unearthed the missing links to mine.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your favorites and especially about that grand feeling of knowing that one your own books now lives deep in the hearts of your young fans. XO

  3. My parents bought some books at an estate sale when I was very young and among them was a book called Lolami: The Little Cliff Dweller. My sisters and I read it to pieces and all became fascinated with the culture of the Southwest Native-Americans. Several years ago, one of my sisters found a copy for me and sent it to me for a gift. How fun that was! I have to say, though, when I first read your post the books that popped into my head were the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I loved them all and read them over and over as well. Yes, I bought a set of them as an adult. They did not disappoint when I re-read them. And then there were the Anne of Green Gable books and… and… and… I could go on. Needless to say, historical fiction is my favorite genre. Thanks for the fun walk down memory lane.

    • And thank you for walking along with us, Rosi. It’s a wide lane with room for all. You may know that Wilder settled in Mansfield, Missouri not far from Springfield and spent the rest of her days there.

  4. Hello from Manitoba! I’ll type quickly before the next keynote speaker begins…

    We had a set of Junior Classics at our house – ten books full of wonderful stories of all genres. Each book was a different color. I wore them out reading them.

    Alas, the books disappeared at some point.

    Lucky for me, I found the entire set a few years ago at an antique shop! I still read one of these books every now and then. The magic is still there!

    • Hello over there in Manitoba. Thanks for squeezing in the time, Susan. I’m thoroughly enjoying these stories of favorite books and how hard we will work to keep or replace them. There is truly some magic in that!

  5. David, Your parents sound just like mine and the results were the same. I just failed that segue into science. I am forever grateful for the fact that they instilled a love of books and reading in me. I read somewhere the other day where somewhere said “If you have read a thousand books, you have been a thousand places. If you have never read a book you have only been one place.” How true! It is wonderful how books can take you so many places. – Jule

    • Hey everyone! No wonder my parents sounded so much like Jule’s. She’s my sister!

      Yes, we were lucky, lucky kids. I’d couldn’t guess how many books you’ve read over the years but I bet you’ve truly been to a thousand places. I love you.

  6. I had many favorites but some that stuck out for me, and are my earliest favorites, are: Ferdinand (like Jane), Small Pig, and Snowy Day. I had to get my own copies of those as an adult. 🙂

    • Interesting, isn’t it Teresa, that we hang onto our childhood books and even pursue them as adults, when many other parts and pieces of our early lives fade from memory and disappear, having served their purpose.

      • I bought them on the pretext of sharing them with my kids but everyone knows I really bought them for my own nostalgia. 😉 But it is very interesting! I wonder if as many non-writers do likewise?

  7. The 3 books I can think of that I loved as a child and left some sort of impression on me as an adult were “Mr. Snitzel’s Cookies” by Jane Flory, “The Secret Place & Other Poems” by Dorothy Aldis, and “Danny & the Dinosaur” by Sid Hoff. As I got older, I began reading every Hardy Boys book in print, and eventually became a huge Isaac Asimov fan.

    • Hey Matt. Having a good poetry month? Good books on your memory list too. I loved those Hardy Boy mysteries with a passion.

      • Month has been good…I have a poem in Highlights right now, I received f&g’s for “Flashlight Night” yesterday, and am continuing to send out ms after ms in hopes of getting my 3rd book deal. Beats digging ditches!

      • You are right about the ditch thing. Writers dig themselves into enough of them with the aid of pick and shovel. Congratulations on your continuing success, Matt. I’m loving it.

      • Ha, well, you’ve seen some of my writing and have not yet told me to cease and desist! I appreciate the feedback and support before, during, and after the Highlights workshop…it’s kept me going!

  8. My very favorite book as a child, hands down, was The Book of Giant Stories by David L. Harrison! I remember pleading to be taken to the McDonalds on east Sunshine (despite the fact that I abhorred the food) because there were pages of “my book” framed and hanging on the wall. Imagine my surprise upon first entering your home office as a youth and discovering that I knew the son of the author! I still have my beloved childhood copy.

    • Hi Kathryn! I’m happy to have written one of your favorite books. It came out in 1972 and is still in print. It has been around so long that some people assume it’s one of the old classics that has come down over time. I’d forgotten about McDonalds using pages on their wall. What a clever, inexpensive way to decorate! Thank you for bringing back such good memories.

  9. Thanks for these reminders of my childhood.  I’ve had the memories tucked away for years.  It feels good to get those memories out again.  My mother read books, my dad made up bear stories with sound effects.  Lucky me!  Maryann

  10. I can’t remember favorites from my childhood through all of the books I read to my children and classrooms full, but there was one which I chose to read because it was one I remembered vaguely from my childhood: The Story of Ping. The houseboat owner who takes his ducks around the Yangtze River calls the ducks (Ping is a duck, see) back to the boat with “La la la lei!”. It is fun to read aloud. My other favorite read-aloud (and kids will agree) is “Oh, Tucker!” By the late, great Steven Kroll.

    • Thanks, Janine. I still own a copy of The Story of Ping. I think someone gave it to Jeff or Robin when they were little. It’s such a fun story to read aloud.

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