Childhood Reading

“Il n’y a peut-être pas de jours de notre enfance que nous ayons si pleinement vécus que ceux que nous avons cru laisser sans les vivre, ceux que nous avons passé avec un livre préféré.” (Marcel Proust “Journées de lecture”)

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book.” Proust

 

I recently gave my parents their favorite childhood books.

My mother often talked to me about L’histoire de Mitchi, le petit ours brun, and I love hearing how she and her little brother would re-enact the scenes in their garden, running around playing “Mitchi”.

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I love hearing how my father would go to church on Sunday and then immediately head out to buy his favorite comic strip, Tex Willer.

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It’s fun to imagine one’s parents as little kids.  A little girl with a barrette in her hair.  A little boy with a Davy Crockett hat.

 

Do you know your mother or father’s favorite book as a small child?  Or what was your favorite book when you were little?

 

 

84 thoughts on “Childhood Reading

  1. What a wonderful gift, Letizia. My parents grew up very poor. My dad in the mountains of West Virginia and my mother in a small mill-town in North Carolina. Most stories they talked about were verbal and they past many on to me. I do remember reading Mother Goose Rhymes and enjoying them.

  2. I remember my books by the time I was a tad older — like middle school-ish — but I just don’t remember my favorite childhood books… : (

    (And I have no idea as to my parent’s, but you’ve given me a lovely thing to seek out and try to surprise them with!)

  3. What a great gift! Sadly I don’t know what my parents’ favourite early childhood books were, but Dad reckoned Lorna Doone was the best book ever written and Mum was a great fan of all things Robert Louis Stevenson, especially Kidnapped. I grew up on Enid Blyton – Mr Pink-Whistle was probably my first hero!

    • How great that both parents had very specific favorite books and authors as adults; so often it’s hard to choose. One wonders when they were first introduced to the novel, how old they were, what they were doing in life.

      I had to google Mr Pink-Whistle – what a great character!

  4. I had lot of favorites as a small child, Babar, Rapunzel, The Owl and the Pussycat, Go Dog Go. But I remember the first ‘real’ book I read all by myself, My Father’s Dragon, it was the most wonderful feeling… and so I claim that as my favorite. I’m sorry to say I don’t know my parents favorites, but I’ll ask them!

    • Babar was one of my favorites as well! I’m not familiar with My Father’s Dragon so I will have to look that one up, but I do know what you mean by finally being able to read books on one’s own – what freedom, what independence, what joy!

  5. The first real books I read on my own were the Thornton W. Burgess books — Peter Cottontail, Old Mr. Toad, etc.. I have a feeling those originally belonged to one of my parents.

  6. I don’t really remember my favorite books until I started to read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. Oh, how I devoured those!

    I prided myself from almost understanding the French quote without looking at the translation below. Almost. Years of non-use have melted my French away. 😦

    • A series is a great way for children to fall in love with reading, I think. I can just imagine the copies of you Little House books – worn and bended with reading.

      Did you study French at school? I’m sure it’s all there and would all come back if you were thrown in the right situation (i.e. road trip to Paris anyone?)

      • I majored in French. Thought I would be a French teacher at first. When I switched to pre-med, I finished out the French as well. I also worked as an Au Pair girl in Paris the year after high school. Really must blog about that interesting experience sometime. Would love to go back to Paris!

  7. Great idea! Those illustrations make me feel nostalgic for some reason. We had some really old Curious George books around that must have been used by my parents when they were younger. My brother and I always loved Where the Wild Things Are and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. It’s funny that so many books like that would probably be collector’s items today.

    • I like that the Curious George books may have been your parents’. Someone else mentioned that they may have read some of their parents’ childhood books growing up – it’s such a sweet image, the different generations of children’s hands holding the same books.

  8. That really was a great, thoughtful gift. I have no idea what my parents favourite books were and sadly it’s too late to find out. Funnily enough, I re-read a childhood favourite yesterday ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ and really enjoyed it!

    • I just looked up ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ as I wasn’t familiar with it and it seems like such an enchanting story. I will have to acquire it. What a lovely idea to reread one’s favorite childhood book!

  9. I remember reading more from the age of about ten. Enid Blyton, the British children’s writer was a favorite. I was annoyed at about age eight when my parents gave me Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories….I did read most of it as I got older. I would also take books from my parent’s collection and try to figure out a story. I think though that my favourite childhood book was the incomparable The Swiss Family Robinson. We had a beautifully illustrated edition in our house.

    • Your comment made me think about how quickly we define our reading preferences, loving Blyton but not Kipling immediately. And how wonderful to have a beautiful illustrated copy of The Swiss Family Robinson in the house. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  10. My Mother’s fav childhood book was “Granny’s Wonderful Chair”. I spent years going to countless used bookstores in every city I was in … and finally found it here in Vancouver. I still read it when I feel in the need of childhood comfort and memories.

    • That’s so great that you finally found it! It must have been a fun adventure trying to track it down and now, as you point out, you can read it whenever you desire.

  11. Letizia, that’s very cool. And thoughtful. I don’t know my parents favorite books of childhood and I wish I did. For me: I learned to love reading when I found Paddington Bear. Unfortunately my boys don’t want to read them with me. Maybe when I have grandkids. Thank you for sharing.

  12. How great that you found the originals. My mom was distantly related to A.A.Milne, so we grew up with his books ad nauseum. But like one of your other readers, one of my favorites was “My Father’s Dragon,” and “Scuppers the Sailor Dog.” For my mom it was “The Scottish Chiefs.” About the only book my dad ever mentioned was “The World Encompassed” by Sir Francis Drake. But I think he was made to read that in school in pre-war England.

    • It’s funny that Winnie-the-pooh wasn’t your favorite, but you probably got an overdose of it. “Scuppers the Sailor Dog” – I’ll have to search for that one, as well as “The Scottish Chiefs”!

  13. These prezzies are fantastic, Letizia! I just love that little bear 😀

    I don’t know what my parents favourite books were but mine was Pooky by Ivy Wallace 😉

  14. What a thoughtful gift! I don’t know their favorites, actually. Mine was Stuart Little. However, I’d read anything you put in my hands 🙂

  15. Seriously…daughter of the year award! Best present idea ever. I guess I don’t really know what my parents read when they were pups. I should find out. As you know, my mom is a big bookworm, so it would be interesting to know what she started off with.

    Two of my favorite childhood books from when I was a bit older were definitely “The Secret Garden” and “A Wrinkle in Time”. I’ve gifted “A Wrinkle in Time” a few times to some children in my life and it’s always a winner.

    • I know “The Secret Garden” but not “A Wrinkle in Time” so will track that down.

      I’m sure it will be interesting to hear what started your mother off on her lifelong love of reading!

  16. That was a lovely gesture. 🙂 My parents also grew up poor and started working at early ages, so I doubt reading was high on their priority lists as kids (unfortunately). As adults, however, they both read quite a lot, so I guess they made up for it! As a child, I was fascinated with, what was at that time, an old, well worn copy of The Littlest Angel, which I still have. I also love the story of Ferdinand, the bull, especially the illustrations. Teaching first graders gave me even more of an appreciation for children’s literature and the joy of reading out loud. I just love children’s books! I have so many favorites now. They have such great and simple wisdom to impart – thinking of Charlotte’s Web…and The Secret Garden. Being a children’s librarian would have to be ‘the bomb’, surrounded by books, and reading them all day! 😀

    • That’s great that you still have your worn copy of The Littlest Angel! It’s so rare to keep one’s books from childhood, I find. Having parents that read a lot around you, even if they didn’t read much as children, must have influenced you in some way, encouraged you to seek out books and to curl up and read. You’re so right, children’s books are such a delight: to read and even just as visual objects, as art. Teaching first graders must have been a great experience!

  17. My dad is from England, and he loved the Noddy books, and I vaguely remember what they were about. Maybe a wooden boy?? My mother’s fave was Secret Garden. I love the presents you gave your parents — what a great idea!

    • I’ve seen the Noddy books but have never read them. It’s great that both of your parents’ books are still in print to this day; the stories live on…

  18. Great post. I read from Davy Crockett when I was young. What comes to Tex Willer, I read it yet today. One publisher publishes them. Tex Willer has been published in Finland during 60 years. Last time I read the story by name (Italian: La collina degli stivali. 🙂

    Did You know: The Phantom. It is popular in Finland yet today, due to republishes.

    • I told my father that Tex Willer is published daily in Finland – he was so excited! When he or I goes to Finland we will have to look for it, haha!

      I’ve heard of The Phantom (at least the comic strip, if we are talking about the same thing), but haven’t read it yet.

  19. I grew up in a house filled with books. My father was a minister who believed that books were first priority over clothing, furniture and I have often suspected, over food. His favourite place was the public library or the thrift shops. Second hand books were the way to go. Whenever we moved – and that was often – we would first pack up the books. We stored books under the beds if there weren’t enough bookshelves. It is no wonder that all of his children have a deep love and respect for the written word. My father agree with Cicero, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” A wonderful post, as usual. I true joy to stop by…

  20. What a neat idea! I’ve no idea what my parents favorites childhood books were–I should ask them. L’histoire de Mitchi, le petit ours brun looks adorable!

    • Isn’t the bear so cute? The illustrations and color are lovely in this book. I hope you get a chance to ask your parents about their favorite books as children – it leads to fun stories about their childhoods!

  21. I feel very fortunate that my mother actually saved her childhood books and gave them to me. She loved Nancy Drews and I have her old hard covers. There were also a series of Storytime books that she kept. I loved them all, too, but my daughter wasn’t as enamored. I am saving them for future grandchildren instead. Hopefully we’ll have another little bookworm in the family someday.

  22. The first book looks beautiful…I love children’s books. For myself I remember Each Peach Pear Plum, being the first book i ever picked up at school which I picked up again a few years ago and is always good for a nostalgic rampage, as it were.

    There was a book I was looking for for years just for one single image that was ingrained in my memory. I found it in a US bookshop and low and behold, it wasn’t that book that the image was from. I was quite sad.

    Thanks for sharing, memories are wonderful and make me want to relive more of my own. Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana had a similar effect on me as well.

    • Each Peach Pear Plum is a wonderful title; I will have to track down that book!

      It’s funny how an image from a book can stay in one’s mind. What a shame you weren’t able to find that one book. Hopefully you will track it down one day. Or perhaps come across it unexpectedly in the future, who knows?

      • I hope I come across it randomly, I like the sense of the romantic…I will have to keep my eye out for all 70’s and 80’s kids book in case anything seems familiar.

        Each Peach is a bit of a classic so should be easy to find…then you can have literally minutes of fun hunting through the illustrations!

  23. Hi Letizia, I finally ask my mother 😉 she grew up in Mexico in a ranch, so there were not a lot of books, Cinderella and Pinocchio were the one she remembers, she taught it was strange then I mention the blog, oh ok she said, funny. For me the little prince was one of the first books that touch my heart, when I was a kid I love the library and the librarian ;). But, during high school I did not read at all only what the teacher told us, I wanted to be with my friends that change in college. Has that happen to you, a period of no reading, now I cannot see myself do that.

    • I’m so happy you asked your mother! It’s good to see some classics like Cinderella and Pinocchio as those were not mentioned yet. The Little Prince is one of my favorite books, even as an adult, too.

      I have gone through rare periods of not reading, never for more than a few weeks, but it’s like “reader’s block”. Quite terrible really, haha!

  24. Letizia what an awesome idea I hope my kids remember mine (where the wild things are) Captured my imagination and the passion to draw. My mother loved Enid Blyton as a wee girl and my dad use to read Flash Gordon comics. Thanks for taking me back……enjoyed your post.

  25. Hello Letzizia… I had a few favorite books as a kid… One was the story of a bee and that one was really nice as the illustrations were japanese… I also had Bradbury´s”The gril who switch off the night” which is a classic. There were many others but I know remember them as I cherished those childhood books . Maybe one day I´ll take pictures as you did here.

    Great post, best regards, Aquileana 😛

    • I love Japanese children’s books. I have a couple and the illustrations are just beautiful.

      I’d love to see some of your childhood books on your blog one day 🙂

      Thanks for the tweet, A. – much appreciated!

  26. My mother’s father died during the Depression, and her mother scraped by doing mending, ironing and taking in boarders. One of the boarders left a box of books when he moved out–mostly dull stuff–but also a copy of Alice in Wonderland. My mother’s first book! She said she read it cover to cover, and as soon as she was done with it, she turned back to page one and started reading it again. And again. And again! I think it must have held a deeper meaning for her during a difficult period of her life–escape and adventure and humor, and it’s all about a little girl who manages to overcome many difficulties.

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