On special Thursdays throughout the year we look back at some of our favorite childhood memories. This Throwback Thursday, we are discussing some of our favorite childhood books. If the books we read shape our character, they certainly did twofold when we were young and impressionable.
Jennie Looks Back
For some reason, the books I read as a child have stayed with me in a way that books I’ve read later in life haven’t. I’m not sure why; the books I read when I was five or 10 are of course much less complex than anything I read now. But still..many of them have a power over me that is almost indescribable.
One such book is an Easter book called The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. This book has everything – lovely illustrations (really breathtaking in color and detail), a wonderful story and a great moral for kids. It’s an awesome book for any child, but little girls will especially appreciate the female empowerment theme.
Written by Du Bose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes was first published in 1939. It tells the story of a young, ordinary girl bunny called Cottontail who dreams of growing up to be The Easter Bunny. Other bunnies scoff at her – she is not one of the “big white bunnies who lived in fine houses” or a fleet jackrabbit – what chance has does she have?
Cottontail grows and marries and eventually has 21 (!) little baby bunnies (she is a rabbit, after all), but she never gives up on her dream. How she achieves it is beautifully told – a story of faith and perseverance, with a good heaping of old-fashioned cleverness.
Amazon lists the book as being for ages 4-8, but I happen to think it’s appropriate for all ages (hey, even infants will appreciate the pretty pictures). It’s rather long for young kids – 48 pages – but perfect for reading to your child over a couple of nights the week before Easter.
There are several books from my childhood that I could go on at length about, but The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes brings together beautiful artwork and a story with real heart. I will always love it.
Ann Looks Back
I am a reading teacher. You might imagine this means I read a lot as a child, but I didn’t. My parents, avid readers, made bi-weekly trips to the public library with their large family when we were children. I usually checked out books, too, but I don’t recall any of them making an impression on me. We had a collection of children’s short stories at home that we all read, but I didn’t love them either.
It wasn’t until I was 12, that my love of reading was sparked. I found a paperback in my older sisters’ room that drew me in from the first page: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. On a preface I read a poem called “Ten Little Indians” that sounded like a nursery rhyme, but described the gruesome death of each “little Indian” one-by-one, “and then there were none.” CREEPY! My 12-year old mind was absolutely riveted, trying to solve this spooky mystery. I remember being shocked and impressed at the end, though I forget “whodunit” now! Luckily, Agatha Christie wrote scores of mysteries, enough to keep me reading for enjoyment through my teens. I believe many people owe their love of reading to this brilliant Englishwoman.
Lily Looks Back
I did not like my 4th grade teacher. She was a sharp contrast to my kind and encouraging teacher in 3rd grade. My 4th grade teacher wasn’t happy in her job and had a mean streak. After lunch, she would read aloud to the classroom. Since I didn’t really want this woman I didn’t care for to read to me, I would pull out a book of my choice and go into my own little world.
One day, as we were finishing up reading, I noticed several of my girlfriends were crying and sniffing. At recess, I found out they were upset that Beth had died. “Who was Beth?” She was one of the sisters. “What sisters?”
I was intrigued about this book that had moved my friends to tears. I was no stranger to the library and soon checked out a copy of Little Women. I was immediately engulfed into the story of the four sisters being raised by idealistic parents. They loved each other, they fought like real people but met situations head on with the dignity and grace of the era. I finished it in a couple days while the class continued listening to daily bits of the story. Then, I read it again, and again and again.
New England during the Civil War was such a different time; women couldn’t vote, working women were looked down upon, proper girls were only supposed to do girlish things and went for carriage rides in silk dresses. Against the bounds of society, this family stood together for goodness and commen sense. I wanted to be Jo! I wanted to do all the things a boy could do and write just like valiant Jo. I wanted to turn down dashing and rich Laurie and opt for living a more hardscrabble life of realness with my courtly German husband. I adored musical Beth and the coquettish Amy. Then there was Meg, sweet but boring Meg suddenly discovering that she loved the earnest young Jon Brook. I was taken by every sentence which led to another good sentence. I loved living the life of these four sisters.
When I went to renew my copy, I found Little Men and Jo’s Boys. I read those just as quickly as I had Little Women. Then, I read them again and again. I began reading everything I could find by LMA and asked for her books as Christmas and Birthday presents. As I got older, I came to admire LMA as I learned about her belief in more progressive ways for women. I was impressed with her independent thinking against the class system of her time. She led an interesting life as her father was a man of causes for just living. He was an intellectual pastor interested in communal living, a vegetarian, a teacher and an abolitionist. As a teenager, I continued to reread her books. I never got tired of Louisa’s words.
I think a copy of Little Women makes a wonderful gift for newborn girl.
As an adult, I was thrilled to visit the Orchard House where Louisa wrote and set Little Women. I consider it one of the high points of my life to have seen artistic Amy’s (May, was her real name) poker sketch of a cherub. It’s a happy thought whenever I go to open the fridge door and see my little souvenir magnet of the basket of apples.
Please share some of your favorite childhood books!