Saturday, November 28, 2009

Children's Books

With Where The Wild Things Are (which I reviewed here) and The Fantastic Mr Fox, these past few months have brought us true gems when it comes to adaptation of children's books - or rather, masterpieces aimed primarily at children. The likes of Roald Dahl, my absolute favorite writer when I was a kid, and Maurice Sendak, are true magicians, true artists who do not pale in comparison with the greatest writers.
Right now, I am reading a recent scholarly volume, Children's Literature - A Reader's History From Aesop To Harry Potter, by the respected University of California professor Seth Lerer. In this fascinating study, Lerer pays tribute to extraordinary authors such as Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss, and makes you yearn to rediscover those eye-opening classics. My only regret is that there are not more illustrations (the few we are treated to, such as the one below, are really great) and that none is in color; it seems to me that the imaginary universe of many authors has been enhanced by illustrators (I would hate to read Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake's sharp drawings), or in cases such as Sendak's, are an intrinsic part of the book.
The books that illuminated my childhood were, among others: the Noddy series by Enid Blyton, which got me hooked on reading, Odette Joyeux's La Porte Ouverte, chronicling the live of a little girl learning ballet at the Opéra de Paris, anything by Roald Dahl and later anything by Judy Blume, the Nancy Drew novels, Martine Petit Rat de l'Opéra (which I blogged about here), Kessel's Afghan tale Les Cavaliers, Pipi Longstocking, and more.

Christmas present tip: a beautiful copy of a classic children's book is always an enchanting present...

25 comments:

Ross said...

Children's classics always make great Christmas presents. I also like to find new authors, this year all my nieces and nephews are getting a copy of Ghostnapped by Ashley Howland, it's a great read and can be purchased at:
http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/Ghostnapped.html

Laura in Paris said...

THe only book I remember from my childhood is Andersen Fairy Tales. I was far from being the avid reader that you were! But I'm going to explore Amazon and see what "Andersen" brings.

Sam said...

That illustration - it's Edward Lear! I'd bet my life on it!! I adore his work and the Owl and the Pussy cat is one of my top ten all time faves...what a fabulous book you're reading there! Children's literature is so important and wonderful and the illustrations are often seared into one's young memory forever with great fondness. Gorgeous post! :)

Solange said...

I love children's books and I feel that they do indeed make excellent presents.
Especially the illustrated old books are a real treasure!

Debra said...

I love children's books-and I'm acquiring quite a collection here. I love the classics- and there are so many 'new' books out. I want them all.

iñaki said...

I want to read and read and read. but I have to work and work and work instead.

xx

Mary-Laure said...

ROSS - the book looks great, I love mysteries. It's wonderful that you're on the lookout for new authors.

SAM - I don't know The Owl And The Pussy but I'll check it out, as you have such impeccable taste in art!

SOLANGE - yes, back in the days they would illustrate even books for grownups.

DEBRA - how wonderful you have a little collection for when your grandkids visit.

INAKI - ah, I know that feeling.

Eni said...

I am glad to learn that you are a great Enid Blyton fan. Unfortunately, I never got into reading a lot of Noddy books since by the time I came to know about Enid Blyton, I was about 12 and thus felt the Noddy bookish were pretty childish for my liking i.e. fit for kids between 3 and 6. However, I did read a couple of Noddy books for my grown-up research on Enid Blyton culminating in a book titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.bbotw.com).

Stephen Isabirye

Mary-Laure said...

ENI - how FANTASTIC that you wrote about the Famous Five - I read their adventures in French; they were called le Club des Cinq.
I have great admiration for Enid Blyton, who created so many amazing universes for kids.
I'll definitely look up your book - thanks for the reference.

Joanna said...

I adored reading a host of books growing up: from Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach to all the Nancy Drews; from The Babysitter's Club to the more frightening R.L. Stine. And I recite the poems of Shel Silverstein to this day. I won't ever stop reading books for children; The Secret Garden is on my list of books to reading 2010.

Great post, Mary-Laure!

Angie Muresan said...

Love children's books and we have so many old classics. There was an estate sale two years ago, down the street from us, and there was just a group of us there that first rainy Friday morning. The woman had been a librarian and was moving with family somewhere warm, and the children did not care to take her books along. I bought her entire collection of children's literature, 1200 books for under $500! To this day, I cannot believe it.

Mary-Laure said...

JOANNA - I knew you'd find this interesting!
I absolutely want to read The Secret Garden too, actually, as it was one of my dear Nancy Mitford's favorite books.

ANGIE - Wow, getting your hands on the collection of a librarian, that would be my absolute dream!
Good for you.

bookbabie said...

I can't wait until my new granddaughter is old enough to start watching these wonderful children movies!

Beth said...

Those who truly love books never lose their love for those childhood classics & I take great delight in buying such gifts for children at Christmas.
Two of my own childhood treasures – Little Women and Winnie the Pooh – hold a place of honour in my dining room! A strange way to decorate? Perhaps. But it gives me such pleasure to see them there.

Mary-Laure said...

BOOKBABIE - ah yes it's great to rediscover what we love thanks to little ones...

BETH - I'm with you, I love displaying my books! I adore Pooh (who doesn't?) and of course Little Women; my favorite is Jo, who's yours?

Jenna said...

I love love love children's books! I read a few on Thanksgiving and it made me quite happy! Simple pleasures :)

Hila said...

I have so many childhood favourites: Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Little Prince and who could forget Spot :)

mansuetude said...

Great tip!

Just got a copy of Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet--(in the mail) and am so disappointed by the cheap quality of the paper; these words deserve more care than this version. Really bothers me... Am i spoiled?

Mary-Laure said...

HILA - Ah, Alice in Wonderland! I know some passages by heart (How doth the little crocodile...) but it was not a childhood discovery for me; I only read it a few years ago.

MANSUETUDE - you spoiled reader you! However I do understand; the quality of the paper, the design of the cover, the font type etc., everything is very important to me.

donna baker said...

Hello Mary-Laure. I just bought many copies of children's books at the flea market this past weekend. Did you know there is a biography currently out about Louisa May Allcott? She smoked hash and wrote risque stories for the pulps. I can't wait to read it.

Mary-Laure said...

DONNA - no, I had no idea but have read a little in the past about her unconventional upbringing and life. I need to look up the bio, thanks for the information!

Beth said...

Jo, of course - the bookish one!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

I still love reading children's books today. I grew up reading all the Enid Blyton books - Noddy, The Famous Five, the Mallory Towers series, the Wishing Chair etc.. My sister is two years older than me and taught me to read along with her so I was always a pain in class when I wa very little, i.e. I could read all the "Digger the dog" readers well before everyone else! and they didn't know what to give me to work on. I still love reading now and wish I had more time...

Alya said...

I adore Roald Dahl! He filled my childhood with the most exquisite imagination! I seriously think he is the best children's writer of all time.

Mélanie said...

You are right that makes a perfect christmas present . I've always loved children books