What were your favorite childhood books, the ones you cherished and read a thousand times and still remember vividly today?
One of my favorite books as a kid – aside from A.A. Milne’s poems and all things Peter Pan – was an old-timey tome called The Peterkin Papers. It was about a family that was book-smart but common-sense stupid. They were usually saved from their own idiocy by the appearance of their neighbor, known as the Lady from Philadelphia. For example, in one story they bought a Christmas tree that was too large for their living room. To accommodate it, they cut a hole in the ceiling. The Lady from Philadelphia pointed out they could have cut off part of the trunk, and they were like, “Duh!” I still have my copy of the book and read the stories to my daughter, who enjoyed them as much as I did.
But my all-time favorite book from my childhood? Edward Eager’s Knight’s Castle. It’s funny, touching, and magical, transporting four quarreling cousins back to the court of Ivanhoe, where they learn life lessons and come away with a grudging respect for each other. I love Knight’s Castle so much that I’ve tried to get the rights to it a couple of times for a TV or film version. I’m still hoping that happens someday.
A couple of years ago I finally found and ordered a copy of my favorite childhood book, Mystery on the Nine-Mile Marsh, on Amazon. It’s now available on Kindle. (If you scroll down the page on Amazon, you’ll find a glowing review from yours truly.) Re-reading it after so many, many years, I was surprised how well it holds up, despite being a bit dated. As an author now, I’m especially impressed with the suspense and pacing of this little reader. It’s a real page-turner! When I was nine or ten I checked this book out so many times, the school librarian told me I wasn’t allowed to check it out again. I was forced to get classmates to procure it for me! Here’s a nice archived post from the Maine Crime Writers blog about the author, Mary C. Jane, who wrote a dozen children’s mysteries in the fifties and sixties, all set in Maine. We had only the one book penned by her at my school, so I’ve got some catching up to do!
Even as a kid, I loved to read two things that I would carry on into my adult life: mysteries and series. In addition to Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, I also loved reading the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series. As the names give away, these series were about girls who babysat and girls who were twins. I can’t tell you a single thing about a single book. But I can tell you that I read each and every one of them. And would force my poor parents to take me to Livingston Mall just so I could scope out both Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Booksellers to see who had the better selection that month. Good times.
I’m sure I won’t be alone in this, but I loved all things Nancy Drew when I was growing up. I also loved anything scary, and I remember in sixth grade when my grandmother took away my copy of Amityville Horror because she thought I was too young. (Luckily, she “hid” it from me in her desk drawer, so I would just get it out after she’d gone to bed and read it in the dark.) I don’t really remember much about my reading habits before my penchant for mystery and horror kicked it, but one time I was at an antique store and found a darling picture book I’d had as a child with stories about naughty squirrels, precocious rabbits, and kittens who didn’t want to take a nap. It brought back so many memories! (Spoiler alert: The squirrels made amends to their next-door neighbor and the kittens finally did manage to doze off.)
Oh my, this is a difficult question. So. Many. Choices.
Aside from re-reading Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and the Meg series*, I loved everything by Edward Eager, especially Half Magic, and by L.M. Montgomery, not just Anne Shirley but the Emily Byrd Starr books too. Preferred books with female protagonists of the strong, sassy variety, but would read anything as long as it had something interesting happening. That sums up my childhood, pretty much: no matter where we went, I’d bring my book and could happily curl up and read for hours, squinting through my weirdly shaped eye glasses (that’s a whole different story).
*Not sure there was a full series title, just “Meg and…” like Meg and the Disappearing Diamonds.
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