Sunday, 18 May 2014

A trip down memory lane... Vintage & Retro Children's Books

I think I may have mentioned before that I come from a book friendly household. The most common activity in our house when I was growing up, was to be reading a book. My mum was a huge reader and we would go to the library almost every weekend to bring home a HUGE stack of books each. I would usually take at least 10 or so books, all different kinds of stories. Mostly fiction and sometimes kids science books. I read The Baby Sitters Club, some Sweet Valley High (sometimes I wouldn't be allowed these as the story lines were a little to mature for an 8 year old), The Borrowers, The String Family, R L Stine, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Paul Jennings, John Marsden, Tessa Duder... and the list goes on! Most of these books from the 1990s!  

My Mum encouraged both my sister and I to read from a very young age. I do remember her reading to me a lot when I was little. We used to have a breakfast bar/nook in the kitchen in the house I lived in Auckland which had a set of inbuilt bookshelves underneath. I remember almost the whole bookshelf was full of books, mostly children's picture books. We used to pick a few to read over breakfast every morning. My Mum held on to a lot of these books and used them in her class to read to her pupils, once we were too old for them. I thought I would share with you over the next few weeks, some of the books that we used to read that are some of my favourites. A couple are VERY old now as I think they may have been acquired while Mum was in Teacher's College in the early 1970s. Most of the others are at least 25+ years old given I am in the very last throes of my 20s (who I am kidding I'll be 30 this year!) and my sister is older than me!

All these books were bought in a time WELL before the internet. Before online shopping, before the Book Depository, before reasonably priced book stores and huge department/bargain stores. We would often go to Wheeler's Books on Auckland's North Shore as they were one of the biggest book stores back then. I also spent a lot of my pocket money in a second hand book shop in Takapuna (my sister can attest to this also--- she is even more of a bookworm than me!) We had to rely on the library to see new books. Living in Auckland for the first part of my childhood meant we probably had access to quite a wide range of books, being the biggest city. 

It's only been in recent years that I've gone back to reading for pleasure myself. After 3 years of constant Academic reading for my Nursing degree, not only did I not have the time to read, I was pretty much sick of any printed material!
I'm lucky enough to have a child that has loved reading from a very early age. He has always been good at sitting still and looking at the pictures and listening to the story. Now he is 2 and a half, I'm enjoying reading some longer stories to him. He loves reading so much we've had to limit the number of bedtime books otherwise he'd want the whole shelf! I'm really enjoying discovering new and old books with my little boy! We're slowly but surely filling up his entire bookcase with books. I'm also really pleased that going to library is one of his favourite things to do.

So in no particular order...

My Book, by Ron Maris (1985)

This book is an early "open the flaps" book as you start outside the narrators house, and slowly work your way in, until the last page is "Goodnight". I always imagined it was me going inside of the house, and that the toys and bedroom were mine too! There are hardly any words too, so you can make up your own story about what might be happening.  

The Bears who Stayed Indoors, by Susanna Gretz (1984)

This book is about a group of five bears that live together with their dog. On a rainy day they take an "expedition" to the Moon. First they have to do all their chores and housework, then they make a moon and a rocket to travel in. After the big trip, there's tidying up and making moon cookies before a bit of time to relax before bed- after tidying up from dinner of course! Then they get ready for bed after a busy day.

I love the illustrations in this book. The colours are really simple and bright but the bears look lovely and fuzzy. They also have different personalities which are quite clear too. I think there were a whole series of books written about this family of bears. 

Elmer, by David McKee (1968)

And carrying on the bright and colourful theme, this is the original Elmer book. There are lots of books about Elmer, but the is the first one that started everything off. This was definitely one of my favourite books to read. The theme of trying to fit in, but then being accepted and special for being different, is something that I really like. Again, the illustrations are bright and colourful, but a little quirky too, especially the faces of the elephants and other animals in the jungle. It's no surprise this is still a really popular children's book. If you haven't read it, you just HAVE to!

Since this original story was published, there are a lot of other books about Elmer, doing all kinds of things. But of course you have to start with the first one!

The Plant Sitter, by Gene Zion (1966)

This is actually one of my all time favourite children's books. It's about a little boy called Tommy, who looks after people's plants while they are on holiday. It gets a little out of control and soon his entire house is filled with plants! 

He has a fantastical dream about the plants overtaking the house and growing all over the house. Something about this story really tickles my fancy! It's quite an odd little story, but shows the imagination of a small boy.

There's quite a couple nice little under lying themes through the story, the first, is being responsible and learning to take care of something, and the second, is for parents to take time to spend with their children. The reason why the plants get so out of control is because Tommy is left to his own devices to look after the plants. Once he learns about how to take care of them, everything works out well. And his parents start to take notice of what is happening too! 

I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of these old books. I've got a few more to share! What books did you like reading as a child?

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