The Books of My Childhood

Last night I was thinking about buying a gift for a friend’s young child, and I thought how I didn’t want to buy clothing or toys that might not last, but something more lasting. And I got to thinking about books and how they have such a lasting impact, planting the seeds of the earliest imaginations. I started thinking about which book every child should get to read…which made me drift back to my childhood…. and these are the books I read as a young child that I can still remember to this day.

A Fish Out of Water – Helen Palmer

This is the story of a little boy who gets a goldfish, and is warned by the pet shop man not to overfeed it. And true to human nature, the urge to test it out and see what happens is too great. Alas, the goldfish is over fed, and grows and grows, until as you can see by the picture, it out grows not only his bowl, but the bath and the entire house. Great rhyming story and illustrations that capture the imagination. It struck the fear of overfeeding gold fish into me, so I guess there was a lesson there too.

The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek – Jenny Wagner

A very sweet story of the mythological Australian Bunyip. Darkish illustrations both delighted and spooked me as a child. The bunyip emerges from the creek not knowing what he is or what he looks like. He proceeds to ask a platypus, a wallaby, an emu, and finally a man who answers by saying that bunyips simply don’t exist. Poor bunyip goes away sad lonely until another strange creature emerges from a nearby billabong.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

I defy you to show me a child who doesn’t poke their finger through the little holes in this book.

Mr Tickle – Roger Hargreaves

I particularly remember having this book read to me and the anticipation building page by page because I knew what was coming. If you weren’t careful reading this book, you might find Mr Tickle and his long arms reaching around the corner of the room you’re in right now and find yourself well and truly tickled!! I love how children ask to be tickled, then scream with laughter and beg you to stop. This book reminds me of that.

Possum Magic – Mem Fox

Another Australian classic. It has become a favourite of my children too. When I was about 10 my uncle took me to a reading of this book by the author Mem Fox, accompanied by the Australian Symphony Orchestra. She signed my book. I love the illustrations in this one, and have enjoyed other books illustrated by Julie Vivas as well.

In the Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak

Perhaps not as well known as Where the Wild Things Are, this is still a great book. I still LOVE the illustrations! It’s about Mickey who is supposed to be going to sleep but finds himself floating into the ‘night kitchen’ where the bakers are busy baking the morning cake. He finds himself almost baked into a cake. They chant “Milk! Milk! Milk for the Morning Cake!” So Mickey flies in his dough plane right up to the Milky Way, dives into a milk bottle, swims back to the top and pours some milk down for the three fat bakers. The bakers rejoice and all is well. Thanks to Mickey there will be morning cake. Apparently this book was a bit scandalous at one stage because Mickey is naked. My 1980’s Australian primary school evidently didn’t have a problem with it.

There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake – Hazel Edwards

The hippopotamus gets to do all the things the little girl in this story wishes she could do. That is, take showers instead of baths, watch TV instead of going to bed and eating cake whenever she feels like it. I understand. I really do.

Has anyone else out there enjoyed these? What are you favourite books from childhood?


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