catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Favorite children's books

with 23 comments

Some of the people at our place are involved in children’s books, in fact all of the people here have been involved, if only in reading them. Others are writing and illustrating them.

This is one of the books that the Rathouse Webmistress has illustrated for Christmas and this is another.

There is a curious tension between the kind of thing that is demanded by political correctness and the things that the majority of children actually like. The result of this is that the most recommended books (for example the ones short-listed by the Childrens’ Book Council) are not always the best or the most popular, although it is very helpful for sales to get a Book Council sticker on your book.

Anyway, leaving that aside, would people like to nominate some of the books that they encountered early in life and never forgot? We had some very old ones that were kept in a tin-lined trunk to keep out vermin. They dated from the turn of the century and shortly after, including one that was very blatant World War I propaganda, about a dog that bit people but ended up dying itself. The dog was Germany and the people it bit were France, Belgium and England.

Then there was the May Gibbs drama of the gumnuts and their friends, in conflict with the dreaded Banksia Men and their fearsome ally, the great Snake. I remember the horror as the good and courageous Mr Goanna, defending the gumnuts, apparently plunged to his death in the river, grappling with the Snake.

And there was Anthony Ant and the Earwig Pirates, the Pooh Bear stories, Peter Rabbit…


Written by Admin

November 26, 2006 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

23 Responses

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  1. For me, Chronicles of Narnia.


    November 26, 2006 at 10:02 pm

  2. In no particular order:

    Sun on the Stubble, Colin Thiele
    Pastures of the Blue Crane, H F Brinsmead
    The Magic Pudding, Norman Lindsay
    The Hobbit, J R R Tolkien
    Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift

    There are probably quite a few I’ve missed, but those come immediately to mind.


    November 26, 2006 at 10:10 pm

  3. A huge, huge book of fairy tales that got read to me before bedtime before I learned to read. No idea who compiled it but it had pretty much everything in it. Snow White, Puss in boots, The ugly duckling, Sleeping beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Pinnochio, Rumpelstiltskin, Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, etc. My young brain was stuffed with every fairy tale written in the western world from a pretty young age.

    Some English adaptation of Journey to the West (i.e. tales of the Monkey God)

    The very poignant origin story for The Amazing Spider Man. I’m cheating, this is a comic book but it was very memorable. Peter Parker gets superpowers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Peter Parker refused to help policeman catch a thief when he could have, and prefers to use his powers to make money. Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben who raised him with Aunt May after his parents died gets killed by the same thief. Peter decides ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and dons the mask. This is a perfect morality tale.

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 10:20 pm

  4. bullshit. Kids shouldn’t just be reading happy stories. You want kids to have a healthy view of life. That’s why i always read my kids Roald Dahl stories when wifey wasn’t around. I wanted themo have a totally realistic view about life which meant cynicism and warped imagination at it’s best.

    What could beat the story about the pigs making it through the abattoir as a good bed time story.

    Narnia ?Phhhhh!


    November 26, 2006 at 11:17 pm

  5. happy endings? Some of these fairy tales can be pretty Grimm …

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 11:31 pm

  6. Just kidding Jase.
    Jeez, I used to read some of the Dhal stories to the kids and I kept wondering how the hell did they make it as children’s stories. The guy was a looney.


    November 26, 2006 at 11:41 pm

  7. So was I, JC. In fact I was doing a Homer Paxton, didn’t you notice?

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 11:50 pm

  8. Homer doesn’t do elegant nuance, jase. He takes a sledge hammer approach. So sorry if I couldn’t connect the dots there.


    November 27, 2006 at 12:12 am

  9. Where is he these days? He usually follows Cl and I round saying he doesn’t agree with us about something by throwing Clinton an Keating into the pot.

    That new moniker alone has put the kabosh on CL ever updating his site for sure if his EP jihad is any indication.


    November 27, 2006 at 12:20 am

  10. I should have mentioned the Baa Baa series. And I was really upset when I only found Tintin when I was grown up and got to read them to my own children.

    Of course kids who read will read anything they can get their hands on, it is just a matter of finding it.

    Rafe Champion

    November 27, 2006 at 6:54 am

  11. Roald Dahl is wonderful, as are proper, scary fairy tales. Of course the degree of scary nasty stuff that’s appropriate depends on the individual child – some, like my son, are very robust. Others are not, and if you’re the one up comforting them after a nightmare and choose not to read them frightening stories then fair enough.

    I love Maurice Sendak , but my current fave is Anthony Browne. I like Mem Fox’s “Boris the Pirate” (now there’s scary) and “Where is the Green Sheep?” although her last one seems a little forced.


    November 27, 2006 at 2:44 pm

  12. Guliver’s Travels SL?

    I know it can be read that way, at least the first couple of books – I don’t know what kids would make of the stuff in the third part rubbishing newton and Descarte.

    Steve Edney

    November 27, 2006 at 3:13 pm

  13. Gulliver’s Travels is like the Simpsons, Steve. It operates on several levels.

    I read it as a kid and saw what a kid sees. When I came back to it as an adult, I had lots of those ‘ah, so that’s what he’s on about’ moments.


    November 27, 2006 at 3:24 pm

  14. I had an illustrated compendium of “Aesop’s Fables” and quite a few Roald Dahl books.

    My favourites though were the Charlie Brown “‘Cyclopedias”, The Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings trilogy.

    I also used to enjoy reading Footrat Flats comics.

    Unlike Jason, I was young enough for “Journey To The West” to be on TV by that stage, so didn’t need to read the book. And besides, the TV version was the best. show. ever.


    November 27, 2006 at 4:50 pm

  15. ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Sendak.
    ‘The Magic Pudding’ by Lindsay.
    ‘Just So Stories’ by Kipling.
    ‘Revolting Rhymes’ by Dahl from which these lines I still remember after all these years:

    The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
    She wimps a pistol from her knickers.
    She aims it at the creature’s head
    And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
    A few weeks later, in the wood,
    I came across Miss Riding Hood.
    But what a change! No cloak of red,
    No silly hood upon her head.
    She said, “Hello, and do please note
    My lovely furry wolfskin coat.”


    November 27, 2006 at 5:04 pm

  16. I watched Monkey on the box as a tacker too – good stuff, it was, with Sandy, Pigsy and the Buddhist nun. I can’t even remember what they were supposed to be doing, but the adventures on the way were pretty good.


    November 27, 2006 at 5:08 pm

  17. ‘wimps’ should be ‘whips’


    November 27, 2006 at 5:10 pm

  18. ‘Monkey’ was sublime, but doesn’t have those extra layers for adults unfortunately, as I discovered going back to it recently. Loved it as a kid, even made my own staff with gold-painted ends.


    November 27, 2006 at 5:12 pm

  19. You’re so animated about kids books, fatty.

    What happened, you couldn’t make any of the sports teams?


    November 27, 2006 at 5:52 pm

  20. It is for me at least impossible to read “The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me” by Roald Dahl without breaking out into song.


    November 27, 2006 at 5:52 pm

  21. Poor JC didn’t learn to read until recently, so pretends to read to his kids when really he is making up for all those lost years.


    November 27, 2006 at 6:28 pm

  22. The ‘Just So Stories’ were fun, especially the one about the great grey green greasy Limpopo River. And ‘The cat that walked by itself’ inspired me to become a social isolate.

    Rafe Champion

    November 27, 2006 at 8:16 pm

  23. SL, they were supposed to be going to India to collect the Sutras of buddhism or something.

    Unfortunately they just ended up beating up a lot of demons and shagging a lot of Chinese girls.

    Wikipedia entry here.

    FF: Maybe no extra Simpsons-style subtexts, but it’s quite funny to watch a childrens show that has the main character quite clearly calling the bad guys “Sissies” and “Poofters” as he beats them into a pulp.

    I’m not sure if that kind of language was an addition by the BBC team that redubbed the voices or a direct literal translation of the Japanese version. I wouldn’t be surprised either way though.


    November 27, 2006 at 9:04 pm

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