Saturday, 27 December 2008

Pondering About Books

The changing face of books was brought home to me a while back, by my niece. She was talking about'Book 5 in the Heidi series'. Heidi was one of my favourites too, but it was, and still is, a cloth covered hardback, still in my possession though slightly the worse for wear. It was a complete volume in itself, not a paperback series that may, or may not, follow the original storyline.
This started me thinking about my other childhood books. I never had so many that I couldn't list them still, if I wanted to. I must admit to not keeping various Annuals that came my way (like Rupert, Girl or Eagle, as well as the odd Beano or Dandy) as I didn't consider them to be 'real books', snob that I was even at that young age, but all my original, true children's classics are still in one of my over filled bookcases.
Mary Mouse, by Enid Blyton, was my first book. About the size of a chequebook, it had two pictures to a page, with a minimum of text, and it was read to me as bombs fell from the sky...
Eventually came the era of Mickey Mouse Comics that sometimes appeared, mostly due to the generosity of Auntie B, not a real aunt, but given the title out of politeness. It would have been unthinkable for me, a child, to have addressed her by her first name alone.
She it was who gave me 'The Littlest One His Book'; it triggered my love of verse, which has lasted from that day to this. To begin with, she used to read to me from her copy, but when she saw how much I love it, she bought me one of my own - which I have to this day, albeit in a new binding... This she followed in due course by AA Milne's 'When We Were Very Young', 'Now We Are Six', 'Winnie The Pooh' and 'House At Pooh Corner'. My eternal thanks go out to her for the coutless hours she spent reading them to me, before I could read them for myself.
Sadly, Walt Disney's commercially biased cartoon characters have overtaken the beautiful line drawings in the original books, but true connoisseurs of Pooh will, hopefully, still appreciate them.
The Littlest One book was illustrated with delightful drawings on every page, by A H Watson, and its author, Marion St John Webb, wrote the whole book as a small child might speak, i.e. 'I expect' becomes 'I 'speks'. In this terribly 'politically correct age', this may well horrify a modern day editor, but I'd like to assure any such beings that, from a reader's view, it makes the poems more charming and memorable.
The book was originally published in 1927, though my copy was a much later edition. I would be so pleased to think that anything I wrote might endure half as long in anyone's affection.
Maybe this one, inspired by my grandaughters?


For sunny days I've sandals, with flowers on the toes -
I think one is a daisy and the other is a rose.

For chilly days I've pink boots with fur around the top
and four big, floppy pompoms that go kerflip-kerflop.

For stormy days I've wellingtons to walk out in the rain
and jump in lots of puddles, then jump in them again.

But when it's dark and time for bed, the slippers on my feet
have many tiny twinkling lights, so I dance instead of sleep!

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