Thursday, July 24, 2008

Top Ten Children's Books from my 80s Childhood

After Read Alert's links to the Guardian top tens.

1. Momo by Michael Ende
A richly disturbing children's book about time and narrative. Written by the author of The Neverending Story, a German guy (and man, is it German - you know, in a totally great way). It's title in the US was The Grey Men after the creepy bad dudes, that literally sucked time out of the world (smoking it in cigars).

2. Charley by Joan G. Robinson
I love Charley (her real name is Rowan). She thinks she's being sent to an aunt who doesn't want her so she runs away and makes a home in the chicken coop, then goes a bit wild and loopy. I love all the survival aspects, how she scavenges food and drink. It's a good blend between Famous Five adventure and something a little more psychological without ever being truly dark. It's a great abandonment tale with a neat little twist and a satisfying ending.

3. Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
I haven't read this for years, and love everything Rumer Godden has written. But this was the one I love most, because it's a doll story and a Christmas story.

4. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (closely followed or perhaps trumped by Greenwich)
Actually the whole series really. Dark is Rising is probably the essential volume. But Greenwitch I loved because it was a very female story, about a deep power associated with coming female adolescence.

5. The Silver Crown Robert C. O'Brien
Everyone should read this book. That is all. ANd I snuck in a token American.

6. The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
We read this as a class in grade six, then I read it again a few times as a teenager and once or twice as an adult - in fact I think I'm due to read it again. It's about understanding war through children's eyes who get their hands on a gun. I love WW2 fiction.

7. The Little Grey Men by BB
Who was the enigmatic BB? In the day and age the answer is a click away but I spent many hours puzzling over this peculiar pseudonym. Anyway, this was a great book about some grumpy miniature men (gnomes that is) who go looking for their brother Cloudberry. This all sounds twee, but it wasn't at all. This was one of those books I just found one day, wedged in the bookshelf. My parents owned a lot of books and every now and then I'd discover treasures - this was how I first read Seven Little Australians, Little Women and the Billabong Books.

8. Chocky by John Wyndham
My first sci-fi. I think I saw the tv show first but both were good. Wish you could get the tv show on DVD now. Read this in grade two. I remember because it was the year I was at Glenorchy Primary and Dad got it out of the library for me (he was the principal, we ruled the school). Oh NO WAY! Just found the series on Amazon. Gotta get it.

9. People Might Hear You by Robin Klein
I never met a Robin Klein book I didn't want to pass off as my own, but this one is my fave. Got this for Christmas on year and within a few minutes my dog Toby had chewed the bottom lines off the first nine pages. I read it anyway several times (I was a great rereader), and then looked up those lines much later.

10. The Green Wind by Thuerley Fowler
This is a QLB (quiet little book), but has a warm place in my heart.

Cripes, I've just realised how anglo-heavy this is. I read American books too, and particularly liked Paula Danziger - I'm sure she's who taught me how to write dialogue. And Paul Zindel, Betsy Byars, Beverly Cleary's Ramona books...And of course I read lots of Australian books too. Strictly Playing Beattie Bow should go on this list because it was my favourite for absolutely years, but it got squeezed out. Elephant Rock by Caroline Macdonald and Pen and Pencil Girls by Clare Mallory (about a group of south island girls who write and make their own book, including sewing the pages together) are two NZ books I adored. I loved Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit too and I can't believe I made that list without Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes or anything by Nina Bawden. Oh I could make this list all over again. Better stop now or I'll be up all night and it will become a top 100.

What are your favourites from your childhood?