Sunday, January 5, 2014

Childhood Favorites

There's few things more comforting than curling up with a book that you loved when you were a kid.  I liked many books, but I picked these four as the ones that still seem as magical and meaningful to me now as they did then. These are all classic books that opened up worlds to me--some (numbers two and three) remain titles I'd cite as two of my all-time favorites--and I hope they'll inspire you to relive books you loved during a time that you may have forgotten.  Maybe you'll even discover a new favorites here--it's not too late to fall in love with these wonderful stories.

1.  Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
There happen to be six books in the Mary Poppins series (I've only read the first four).  All the books are wonderful works of fantasy--there's a new story in every chapter and each is more engaging and implausible than the last.  You may recognize some chapters from the Disney movie (also a great film), although don't be surprised at some parts (including Mary Poppins' not-so-cheery disposition) that are unique to the book.  I think that the magic of Mary Poppins lies in the fantastic happenings of the stories--each just believable enough to make you think, just a little bit, that you wouldn't mind a Mary Poppins of your own.
The quote: "'Don't you know that everybody's got a Fairyland of their own?'"

2. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
I can't quite say, truthfully, that I fell in love with this book.  In this case, I fell in love with a character.  Peter Pan was dashing and impish and enchanting--I could fully understand why Wendy followed him to Neverland that fateful night.  This book contains a parade of lovable characters, so whether you're a Wendy or a Captain Hook, there'll be one for you.  Peter Pan is the rare story that is lighthearted, but while still confronting some tough themes, such as the nature of responsibility.  Mostly, it's a tale of love and triumph--and don't we all need more of that?
The quote: “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” 

3.  Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 
Alice In Wonderland is a kooky, colorful story of an imaginative girl who falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a mysterious world called Wonderland.  Part of the thrill of Alice In Wonderland is the fact that everything is fair game in this strange world (think pig-babies, haughty caterpillars, mad tea parties, and, of course, smiling cats) and you follow along with Alice eagerly, holding your breath to see what Wonderland will hold for you next.  It's fun to live, at least for a little while, in a world that has no limits, and Alice In Wonderland is as inexhaustible as they come.
The quote: “Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 

4.  The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène Du Bois
The Twenty-One Balloons is an adventure of the purest kind--it has diamonds, a mysterious island, volcanoes, earthquakes, and lots of balloons.  The back cover of this book contains what is quite possibly the most riveting, gotta-read, need-to-know premise I've ever seen.  A man aspires to, in a year, cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon.  So how does he end up, three weeks later, with twenty hot air balloons--and in the Atlantic?  Enough said.  You will not be able to put it down.
The quote: “Half of this story is true and the other half might very well have happened.”

Childhood, and these fabulous books, hold an undeniable magic and thrill. I'll leave you with Alice In Wonderland's famous riddle:  Why is a raven like a writing desk?  Better tell me in the comments, because I haven't the slightest idea.

Did I leave your favorite out?  Leave me a comment and let me know!


  1. One of my all-time favorites is All of a Kind Family. I always imagined my grandmother shopping on Orchard Street, plucking the chicken for Shabbat, knowing all the characters. I wanted to meet the library lady.
    And I also loved the Mary Poppins books. Glad someone special has my old copies.

  2. I loved, and still love, The Little Prince. I read it in English, in French, as a young girl, as a young adult and to my children. Every time I read it, not only do I enjoy the Little Prince's innocence, loyalty, and joie de vivre, but I regain perspective on how to slow down and really take things in, to love, to enjoy, and to dream.

    1. I considered including The Little Prince on this list, but I ultimately decided that there was too much material to be analyzed and discussed in it and I wouldn't be able to fit it all here. Perhaps another post. I love The Little Prince too--the interesting perspectives on life depicted, especially the prince's, are very meaningful.

  3. If you love Mary Poppins and PLTravers, I think you should see Saving Mr. Banks. I learned a lot about PLTravers and really enjoyed the movie.

  4. May be you left the books by Roald Dahl! He made my childhood childish! I also agree with your choices. Nicely written.