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.
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?
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.