Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Children's Books I

After 57 years of living in the same house, my parents recently moved; a different town, a different county.  (Good on 'em.)  As part of that process, they had a massive sorting out, which resulted in my mother sending me a book that played a role in both her childhood and mine: Albert, 'Arold and Others, written by Marriott Edgar and published by Francis, Day & Hunter Ltd of Charing Cross Road, London.  There's no date in the book, but I gather it was released in 1938 or 1939.

As a kid, what I loved about this book was its black humour and the fact that much of it was written for a Lancashire working-class accent.  What I particularly liked was that, in The Lion and Albert, young Albert, when visiting the zoo, gets eaten by Wallace the lion, and his parents are peeved for the wrong reasons.  It was one of those books I never tired of, and I wonder whether the books we read as children shape what we read (or write) as adults, and whether they shape us in other ways too.  What do you think?
The manager had to be sent for.
He came and he said "What's to do?"
Pa said "Yon Lion's 'et Albert,
And 'im in his Sunday clothes, too."

Then Mother said, "Right's right, young feller;
I think it's a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert,
And after we've paid to come in."

The manager wanted no trouble,
He took out his purse right away,
Saying "How much to settle the matter?"
And Pa said "What do you usually pay?"

I had three other favourites from this time, which are still on my bookshelves: Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner (I read this seven times, so possibly wasn't a particularly adventurous reader), The Story About Ping by Flack and Wiese, and The Otterbury Incident by C.Day Lewis.  Comics and annuals were part of my literary world too, but these had a much shorter shelf life, and I borrowed Enid Blyton's Famous Five adventures from the library on occasion.

To this day, I love kids' books, and relished that part of parenthood when there was a ready excuse to start buying and reading them all over again.  The cupboards and bookshelves are crammed with these too, and it's good to take them out and read again every once in a while.  I have many, many more favourites amongst them, but that's another story.

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