Six Degrees of Separation: from a Pink Rabbit to a Twenty Two Ton Whale

Books and reading

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

Six Degrees of Separation: Kate W

My last book from last month becomes my first this month.  It’s Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, and it was a story everyone in the family at some point read as it could appeal to anyone over the age of nine. It is a largely autobiographical account of the author’s journey during the Second World War, as a nine year old child, from Germany via Switzerland and Paris to London, where the family finally settles in pursuit of safety.

All my books this month link together.  They are books which my children, now in their 40s and 30s enjoyed, which have been saved through the years and been passed down.to be read to their own children.  Some books have reached their 8th custodian.  They’ve done so well because back in the day, I strengthened the covers of those Puffin Paperbacks – the only publisher then dipping its toe into this particular market – with cardboard from cereal packets, and covered them with tacky back.  Despite this care, a few books have disintegrated, and it’s a special pleasure when my now-adult-children scour the shops to come up with a new copy of their childhood favourite.

We’ll have to continue with Judith Kerr.  Is there a child in England who hasn’t enjoyed The Tiger who came to Tea?  A passing tiger drops in on a mother and daughter,  cheerfully eats them out of house and home before thanking them politely and wandering off. And they all – probably – live pretty much happily ever after.  The family’s on Copy Number Three of this book.

My children also enjoyed reading about Kerr’s Mog the Forgetful Cat series.  This daffy but much loved cat gets herself into all kinds of domestic scrapes, but of course it always turns out comfortingly well in the end.

Another animal adventure came with The Elephant and the Bad Baby, by Elfrida Vipont – and wittily illustrated by the just-deceased Raymond Briggs. An elephant meets a bad baby and offers him a ride.  They go ‘rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta down the road’ meeting one helpful person after another.  But do you know what?  The baby ‘never once said please.’ And that has consequences.  Lesson eventually learned, everyone in the story has tea together on the very last page.

My children of course joined in the chorus of the previous book.  And they joined in reciting The Quangle Wangle’s Hat, by Edward Lear, and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, even before they could talk fluently.  This book has been loved to death, and has eventually been replaced.

On the top of the Crumpetty Tree

The Quangle Wangle sat,

But his face you could not see,

On account of his Beaver Hat.

For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,

With ribbons and bibbons on every side

And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace,

So that nobody ever could see the face

Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.

Who couldn’t love nonsense such as this?

Everyone in the family knows every word of Quentin Blake’s Mr. Magnolia, and will recite it still, at the least provocation.

Mr. Magnolia has only one boot

He has an old trumpet that goes rooty toot

And two lovely sisters who play on the flute.

But ..

Mr. Magnolia has only one boot…

It’s not the same though if we can’t at the same time enjoy the joyous abandon of the illustrations.

And as a right proper northern family, we all enjoy reading about Stanley Bagshaw, by Bob Wilson.

In Huddersgate, famed for its tramlines,

Up north, where it’s boring and slow,

Stanley Bagshaw resides with his Grandma,

At Number Four, Prince Albert Row.

Lovable-but-dim Stanley’s adventures are recorded in rhyme in strip cartoon fashion.  Any title tells you how improbable his adventures are:  Stanley and the Twenty Two Ton Whale, anybody?

Two generations enjoy Stanley Bagshaw’s adventures

Most of these titles are still in print, a tribute to their long-standing charm and ability to engage small children – and indeed their parents.

Next month’s starting book is Zoë Heller‘s Notes on a Scandal.

63 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from a Pink Rabbit to a Twenty Two Ton Whale

  1. What a lovely list! And beautiful pictures.

    I’m only familiar with Mog the Forgetful Cat, and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. My childhood was full of Australian books featuring wombats and koalas and gumnuts and scary Banksia men. Lol.

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    1. And I can remember reading one such book, back in the 50s. I simply can’t remember its name … or author. But it seemed very exotic with its wombat and kangaroo.

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  2. Oh your selections are such fun Margaret. I’ve never heard of The tiger who came to tea but I’m now going to look out for it for the grandchildren. And The Quangle Wangle’s Hat … loved that. I have the version on the right of your two images. Fun chain.

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      1. I have no idea! Did you know, I had no idea who Winnie the Pooh was growing up? It was my London born husband who introduced me to them. I think he instilled in me the love of British writers.

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  3. What a lovely theme for your chain this month! I’m not familiar with all of those books, but I know the Judith Kerr ones. I also had a beautiful illustrated edition of Edward Lear’s complete works as a child, obviously including The Quangle Wangle’s Hat!

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  4. What an absolutely delightful post Margaret. Together with the great joy of thinking of all the millions of children, and adults, who have delighted in these, and many more, stories, I am reminded, sadly, of the failure to ensure that education is freely available to all throughout the world.

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    1. Indeed. And not even equally available in the allegedly prosperous UK. As Susan comments above, one in five children has no books at all in their home. And not likely to get any this winter, I’m sure.

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  5. It’s great when generation after generation are reading the same books! I am not familiar with any of them, but having grown up in Denmark, that probably isn’t surprising.

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  6. You reminded me of wonderful times when my mother, Frances, would read us stories. Your children and grandchildren have benefited from starting their reading journeys as children. You gave them a gift that keeps on giving. A marvelous post that reminds me that reading opens new worlds of possibilities and opportunities.

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    1. Remembering reading together form part of my very best memories of when the children – and now the grandchildren – were small. And books for small children have come on such a lot. No excuse for not reading with a babe in arms these days!

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  7. I have to confess that one of the best things about having children was being able to read all those fabulous children’s’ books. Mog was a favourite along with Each Peach Pear Plum and the Hungry Caterpillar of course. I am ashamed to say I didn’t find Stanley Bagshaw. Mr Men and some of the Little Misses were always found in the Christmas stocking. It’s a shame that some parents don’t read to their children, I was always sad when mine could read for themselves and bedtime stories became a thing of the past.

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    1. There’s no shame in not knowing Stanley Bagshaw. I think he has most appeal for an audience familiar with the urban West Riding. And yes, surely we all loved the Very Hungry Caterpillar. My little Spanish granddaughter has a board book copy and demand we read that on a regular basis. Yep, Each Peach Pear Plum – all good. But I wasn’t a Mr Men fan. Can’t win ’em all!

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      1. But I am from the urban West Riding!! My youngest granddaughter used to insist on the OH reading her ‘The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters’ every time we saw her!

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  8. Oh how I love your list this month. and every month. Children’s books are amazing and timeless. It is fascinating to see children’s books from a different perspective. These books are the foundation leading to a lifetime of reading and curiosity. I finished the Owls of the Eastern Ice and have passed it on to the science teacher with whom I share a classroom.

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    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Owls. Now, one of THESE books would be far less demanding ;). And I gather from another blogger that you probably don’t know any of them, just as I don’t know any American young children’s books. Strange that they don’t get shared across the ocean in the way books for adults do.

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      1. That thought crossed my mind, but I suppose there are some authors that cross the ocean such as Roald Dahl or JK Rowling or Dr. Seuss. I might try my hand at a six degrees post later in the month. May take a bit of thought and time.

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      2. You’re right, some children’s books HAVE travelled. But only Dr. Seuss is for very young children. If you have time to do a Six Degrees post, that would be great. Those of us who contribute are very supportive of one another’s efforts, and several American bloggers participate. Though it has to be said that for some reason, it’s a rather man-free zone.

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    1. I loved your chain, particularly as I liked your first three books, so … welcome. I think one of the best things about parenting young children is getting a chance to enjoy those picture books. Your family will have its own favourites.

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  9. Just lovely! Some of our family favourites here and some new ones too. Since my two grandsons are now past this stage and I don’t anticipate any more littl’uns in that generation, I may have to wait for the great-grandchildren before exploring. That may be a while 😳 There again, my son’s Yorkshire born partner most likely read Stanley to her boys. Maybe she even still has a copy… I shall enquire!

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    1. It’s years since I read any Elfrida Vipont – apart from The Bad Baby. Definitely worth a revisit. And I enjoyed your chain, though had some difficulty commenting.

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