bewize: (Default)
[personal profile] bewize posting in [community profile] littleknownbooks
I thought I'd share five of my favorite children's books.

Some of these I've reread recently, but most I haven't. I was surprised to realize how old all of them were in relation to how old I am (they're a lot older!), so I want to be sure that I leave a caveat that - while I don't remember race!fail or any other fail in the books, I would be surprised if there wasn't some in there somewhere.

Regardless, I read these books until the pages fell apart as child and I loved them. I still think of all of them fondly to this day.

1. Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. This book was published in 1937, but I had no trouble reading it in the 80s. It told the story of the Wallace sisters, Mary (12) and Jean (10), who were traveling on a boat at sea when a storm forced them into a lifeboat with 4 babies under the age of 2. They were set adrift and eventually came ashore on a desert island, where they had to survive.

As a girl, this appealed to me immensely. I loved the adventure aspects, coupled with the homemaking aspects. The story is a loose retelling of Robinson Crusoe and I still think of parts of this book even now.

I have a tremendous fondness for it still. I should find a copy and reread…

2. The Prince of Whales by R. L. Fisher. This book was published in 1985 and was probably my first taste of environmentalism. It's the tale of a whale, Toby, who sings so loudly in his sleep that he is banished by his pod who fear that he will bring the Iron Hunters among them.

Alone on the open sea he meets a spirit whale named Thes who tells him of Diomeda, the Dream Eater, whose intention it is to eat up all the dreams in the world. Only one thing can stop him: Toby's music.

It's a classic tale of heroism and adventure and growth, with a bit of a messianic twist thrown in. The protagonist is wonderful and sweet and his adventures utterly captured my imagination.

3. The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This was originally published in 1915 and tales the tale of Marco, son of Stefan Loristan, who is a Samavian patriot working to overthrow the cruel dictatorship in the kingdom of Samavia. Marco befriends a street urchin in London, known as the Rat, and the two of them are entrusted by Stefan to travel across Europe and give a sign to other revolutionaries.

With all of the intrigue and adventure anyone could ask for, the reason this book became such a beloved favorite of mine was the characters. Each of them was so vivid and so real that I felt like they were real people. They also reinforced values like honor and charity and bravery.

Even today, this is still one of my absolute favorite books. It's passed into the public domain now and can be found free online if you just search for it.

4. The Four Story Mistake by by Elizabeth Enright. Originally published in 1942, this is actually the second of her four books about the Melendy family, preceded by The Saturdays, and followed by Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze. I read The Four Story Mistake first. It was one of my mother's favorites and it is just a tale of children being children.

The title refers to the house the Melendys move into, which ended up being a three story building with a tiny cupola on top, since the original builder ran out of funds. This is wonderfully reminiscent of movies like Pollyanna and just feels good. There is a lot of innocence in the books.

I haven't read them again in a while, and I have to say – I'm not positive how these books treat issues of race and I'd be a bit hesitant on that count. But, I don't remember anything that made me cringe (as a child), and do remember the fun of these children's lives.

5. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. First published in 1959, this tells the story of a runaway boy who decides to live in nature. Sam Gribley learns to survive in the wilderness of upstate New York in the Catskill Mountains. I remember that the details of this book were vivid and fascinating and it really appealed to me in the sense that a boy could make life what he wanted.

There are several adventures that take place, but nothing as sweeping as the decision to run away. Over the course of the book, Sam becomes increasingly competent. He also has occasional guests who visit him and help the reader remember just how outside the norm Sam's decision to live alone is.

I know there's a sequel, but I can't remember the name and I didn't like it as much. Mostly, I just love the idea of a kid having a grand adventure and this book delivered a quieter version of that trope.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-07 10:19 am (UTC)
tanaqui: Illumiinated letter T (Default)
From: [personal profile] tanaqui
I think I'm a little bit older than you, but I spent a lot of my childhood reading books of a similar vintage to these that were handed down from the previous generation or loved and recommended by them. I'm sure you're right that there were some horrible faily attitudes in many of the books of that vintage (in fact, I know there were in some of them) but I think there were also some great inspiring and involving stories about growing up and being more than you thought you could be, wrapped up as an adventure. All of these sound like books I would have enjoyed as a child - especially "My Side of the Mountain" - so thanks for sharing (and bringing back some nice memories of my own reading).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-07 06:31 pm (UTC)
littlebutfierce: (natsume yuujinchou snow)
From: [personal profile] littlebutfierce
Oh, I used to love My Side of the Mountain. I was into anything about people surviving in the nature on their own (anything from Swiss Family Robinson on), ha!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 10:43 pm (UTC)
dame_grise: b&w Waterhouse painting (The Lady of Shallot) (Wakaba's Book)
From: [personal profile] dame_grise
Baby Island? I read that book over and over and over when I was younger. I might even still have it in storage.


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