All children have stories that they wish to be read to them again, again, again. I’m not sure I was ever the kind of child that said ‘again, again, again’, but I certainly had my favourite stories. There were many books which I still own which make me feel all warm inside when I consider reading them, or just looking at the pictures. That’s the thing about children’s stories; the pictures really make them something special. Some adult books would really benefit from the occasional picture – The Night Circus, filled with such imagery and the cover decorated in such a beautiful way, would really be even more spectacular with a few pictures dotted between the pages.
There were some stories I would have loved to own, one example being The Jolly Postman (and the Christmas version) which always appealed because of all of the activity you could partake in during reading. But regardless of that regret, it’s not a book that ever kept my heart.
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet* and Allen Ahlberg was and will always remain one of my favourite stories (though it could perhaps be considered a poem). I bought a new copy not long ago because I’m not sure where our old copy went. I even bought a copy for a friend’s baby because I believe that every child should grow up with the Each Peach Pear Plum rhyme. I know it by heart, sometimes I miss bits out, but it’s there in my brain and I can’t ever get rid of it.
Janet and Allen Ahlberg are firm favourites of mine when it comes to children’s books. Naturally, they were the creators of The Jolly Postman. They also created a story called Burglar Bill and not to forget the Happy Families series.
They wrote such likeable characters, even making a burglar sound warm and gentle. But one of my favourite Happy Families books is Mrs Wobble the Waitress (along with Mrs Lather’s Laundry). She was, as it says on the tin, a waitress who wobbled. It became so bad that the poor woman lost her job and had to turn her living room into a café. There’s something so heart-warming about a story that has a happy ending and the Ahlbergs were very good at that.
The Ahlbergs don’t get all of my childhood fictional love though.
Today’s the Day was a story about vegetables, talking vegetables of course. They put on a sports day and it’s all rather exciting. I wish I could find the author’s name but short of me actually tracking down the copy buried somewhere in our house, it’s an old book which is long since out of print. Unfortunately. I’ll always remember one phrase from that book though, and it’s a very good phrase: step by step, little by little. A perfect mantra to live by, if you ask me.
Finally, I will end my list of favourite stories as a child with Little Bear Goes to The Moon. It’s such a precious story and I first came across it in the Big Red Book I mentioned last month. The author Elsa Holmelund Minarik wrote a whole series of stories about Little Bear, from what I understand, but his trip to the moon has always been my favourite. What made the Little Bear story so perfect wasn’t just the story, but the pictures as well. They were beautifully crafted by someone called Maurice Sendak and he deserves as much praise for this wonderful favourite of mine as the author.
I was lucky enough to be watching children’s television one day when a series came on called Little Bear and what should happen? He went to the moon. I sat through that episode and felt such joy at the fact that Little Bear’s voice was real and he was still there making other children as happy as me.
It saddens me that some children don’t get the opportunity to be read to by their parents, that they don’t learn that love of stories that I have and that many people do have. I think it’s a massive shame because they probably missed out on a lot of wonderful moments not just with their parents but with the world of fiction. I’m only glad that I was able to get that opportunity.
* I just learnt that Janet Ahlberg died in 1994 which makes me feel so sad. She was such a wonderful illustrator. I had to use one of her illustrations for this post, which I dedicate to her and the wonderful joy that she broughts so many children.