List Love 7.1: Children’s books I have fond memories of, part I of II

In continuation of my last Top Ten Tuesday post, on books I wish I had read as a kid, I decided to repost a reworked book list from my old blog. It is on two parts, and part 2 will be posted on Saturday.

Meet the books that shaped my reading habits.
These are the books that moulded my reading habits and affected my future reading preferences. Some of them are still favourites but others I haven’t read in years.

I first read all of these books in Icelandic, and later some of them in the original languages. All were originally written in other languages, and nearly all of them are available in English, in some version. I haven’t bothered with my favourite Icelandic children’s books because very few (if any) of them have been translated into English, although several have been translated into German and one or more Scandinavian languages. Therefore you will not find on this list any books by Guðrún Helgadóttir or Ármann Kr. Einarsson, to name two Icelandic authors I liked, although I read them none the less.

Surprisingly, considering my interest in detective fiction, there are no Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books on this list. Instead of delving into those, a number of each having been translated into Icelandic, I went straight from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie and didn’t make any YA stops in-between. I have yet to open a Nancy Drew book, and have only read one Hardy Boys book, and that was only a couple of years ago, to fact-check The Arctic Patrol Mystery, which takes place in Iceland. But on to the books:

The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Fantasy/adventures/parables.
I was given these before I could read (actually, I think they were a christening present) and loved to have them read to me. Later, when I could read for myself, I devoured them and got to read the tales my parents thought were too dark for a little kid. Still later, when I got a copy in Danish, I discovered that the Icelandic translator had taken all sorts of licence with the tales. I have long been planning to finish reading them in Danish, but somehow never got round to it.

Aesop’s Fables. Fables/parables.
I enjoyed reading these delightful tales long before I knew what a fable was. The edition I have is full of pictures and enjoyable to look at as well as to read.

The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss. Picture books with rhymes.
How I envied my brother those books when we were children! The Cat in the Hat was able to make as much mess as he pleased - and able to clean it up and make it look as if nothing had happened. Being good little kids, we rarely did anything that destructive, but that didn’t mean we didn’t want to. It was fun to sit and read the books to him while we both looked at the pictures and dreamed...

The Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson. Fantasy.
Probably the first pure fantasy novels I read. These are wonderful books about the Moomintroll family and their friends and neighbours and their adventures. My favourite was Comet in Moominland, which is actually a rather dark story.

Enid Blyton’s Adventure books (and to a lesser extent, the Five Find-Outers and the Famous Five). Mystery, adventure.
My favourite was The Valley of Adventure. I always disliked how wimpy the girls in those books were, and always identified myself with the boys. I loved the exotic locations these kids would find themselves in, and these books are possibly the beginning of my interest in both travel literature and mysteries.

A children’s version of the first two books of Gulliver’s Travels - that’s the ones about Lilliput and Brobdingnag. Fantasy.
To my knowledge, the full novel has never been translated into Icelandic, and the children’s versions have had most of the satirical bite taken out of them by well-meaning editors who have reduced them to simple tales for children. [Edit: There is now a translation which was nominated for the Icelandic Translation Award in 2012.]

Norse and ancient Greek myths.
The books I first read (and still own) in this genre are wonderfully illustrated versions for children that are (sadly) long out of print, but for adult reading I recommend the perennial Bulfinch’s Mythology, especially for the Greek/Roman myths. I also read and loved the Gylfaginning part of Snorri’s Edda, which is the main source of the Norse mythology you find in modern books on the subject.

The Mary Poppins books by PL Travers. Fantasy.
I read at least four of them and loved them all. Mary is such a wonderfully proper and yet wacky character that you can’t help liking her. The dark overtones completely went over my head.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Fantasy.
I was 8 when The Hobbit came out in Icelandic, and it cemented my lifelong liking for fantasy. I had cut my reading teeth on fairy tales, legends and myths and this was a natural continuation of that process. Although there are no children in the stories, both hobbit and dwarves are no bigger than children, and their behaviour is rather childish at times, which makes them appealing to children. An added pleasure is Tolkien’s style which is simply sparkling with good humour.

A Bear Called Paddington and its sequels, by Michael Bond. Fantasy/alternative reality. The adventures of the well-meaning but clumsy Peruvian bear and his English family. My brother owned the books, but I read them.

Continued on Saturday.


George said…
I'm a huge Dr. Seuss fan. THE CAT IN THE HAT is probably my favorite kid's book. In Third Grade I started reading TOM SWIFT and THE HARDY BOY series. I even read some NANCY DREW.
Bibliophile said…
I also liked the Tom Swift books, but the ones I read were translated in the 1950's, and the translator had clearly had some problems with the sci-fi stuff, so some of that completely went over my head. However, I still remember them fondly.
George said…
I started reading those TOM SWIFT books in the 1950s (I was about 7 or 8 years old). Years later, I found some TOM SWIFT books that were written decades earlier. One concerned a "run" on a bank (obviously a Great Depression novel). Still later, I found out there was no single writer of the TOM SWIFT books. The publisher had a stable of writers who churned the books out. That explained the unevenness.

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