When I was a kid I always had my nose in a book. Most of the time you could find me in my room reading. Well, not exactly “find me” because I probably had the door locked. I was a quiet, self-contained, loner of a child.
As the only girl in my family I didn’t have to share a room and it was my sanctuary. I was about 6 or 7 when my dad built the house and my parents let me decide how to decorate it. I chose purple carpeting. Three of the walls were painted pale lavender and the wall with the window was wallpapered in a purple floral pattern. Over time I managed to collect a lot of plants. The room was small but it was all mine. If I wasn’t in school or playing dolls with my cousin next door, I was in my room reading.
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I believe it was my third grade teacher who read “A Secret Garden” to our class. I was utterly captivated. I mean…a SECRET garden! I’ve always loved flowers about as much as books so this was right up my alley. I loved it so much that I found the book in the library and read it again myself.
I still vividly recall asking my mom to buy me the book, “A Little Princess“. I was never one to ask for things which is probably why she didn’t hesitate. I was barely into the book when it began to remind me of “A Secret Garden”. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but later on I realized they had the same author. I can’t begin to say how many times I’ve read this book. Even as an adult I re-read it every few years. If I had to pick a single favorite book from my childhood, this would be the one.
Another favorite was “Little Women“. I enjoyed this story of the four March girls and their sweet domesticity. Jo’s love of reading and writing certainly appealed to me but it was Meg I personally related to the most. As the eldest in my family, as well as amongst all the cousins who lived in our neighborhood, I was used to taking care of everyone, much as Meg did.
I was probably around 10 when I was given my grandmother’s old copy of “Heidi“, which I still have. Of all the books I read as a child, this is perhaps the one which painted the most vivid pictures in my head. The Alps covered in thick grass and wildflowers, the goats, the rustic cabin, the cheese and bread…I can still recall precisely how I envisioned each of these.
The first time I recall laughing out loud while reading was when I read “Cheaper By the Dozen“. I was reading it late at night and having a hard time keeping the giggles quiet so my parents wouldn’t know I wasn’t asleep. I went on to read other books by and about the Gilbreth family, all of which I enjoyed.
I don’t remember if it was at the same time I was given the copy of “Heidi” but my maternal grandmother also gave me another reading pleasure. She had a set of six books about Linda Lane, a series written by Josephine Lawrence and long out of print. These had been hers as a child. My cousin and I split the set, each taking three of the books. I quickly read my three and the next time we visited I swapped with my cousin so I could read the rest. I have no idea how many times I’ve read the three I have. My aunt has the other three at her house and on many occasions when we have visited her in California, I have read the others. I would love to locate copies to complete my set. They are kind of hard to find. I just looked up one and it was $125! I need to do a bit more scouting, though.
One of my regrets is that I didn’t have anyone in my life who took much of an interest in what I read. My mom didn’t do much reading herself and while my dad likes to read, those were busy years for him as a business owner working long hours. I was totally on my own and missed some real treasures. I didn’t read “Anne of Green Gables” until I was about 30 and I almost wept for what could have been. I know I would have spent many happy hours with Anne if I had known her back then.
I also didn’t discover “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” until I was a young adult, another tragic loss for my childhood. I loved Anne but in many ways I was Francie Nolan.
There were so many other books. For instance, when I was in 4th grade my teacher had a small library of books in the classroom closet that we were allowed to check out. There was a fairly large collection of biographies. I’m not sure if I read every single one but I do know I read all of the ones about women. I would check one out, read it as soon as I got home and return it the next day. Amelia Earhart, Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Abigail Adams… I loved those books! And of course there were the Marguerite Henry books – Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, King of the Wind, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, etc. I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew books and even read some of my brothers’ Hardy Boy mysteries.
So tell me, what were your favorite books as a child?
Dee’s Favorite Children’s Books
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Cheaper By the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Earey
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I wrote a post about “A Little Princess” a few years ago which you might want to read:
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