This month’s book list is the start of a new series where we ask contributors to share a list of the books that raised them as readers. Starting off with Gecko Press CEO and Publisher Julia Marshall.
A few years ago, Gecko Press ran some focus groups over high tea at the Museum Hotel in Wellington. We wanted to find out how people found out about books, what books they remembered, whether anyone read to them, and what sort of priority children’s books had for them.
I will never forget the depth of emotion all these people felt when it came to the children’s books they had read or remembered as a child. In some cases they didn’t own books as a child, and that made them all the more intent on bringing books to their children and grandchildren. The people who had grown up with no books at home had nonetheless somehow discovered books, probably through their teacher or school librarian or a grandmother, as is the case for so many of us.
The books we read and remember as a child really do the heavy lifting of raising us as a reader. These are some of the books that raised me.
Borka: The Adventures of a Goose With No Feathers by John Burningham
I have always loved ducks in picture books. Ducks and chickens were all I could draw as a child, and are still.
Borka was a goose with no feathers, and he needed a jersey! I remember I loved how he got warm with some knitting.
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese
Another duck! But this time, one who lived on the Yangtzee River – I loved that word. I also loved that Ping had 42 aunts and uncles and cousins. I worried that he had missed the boat, and that he was in trouble for that. I understood not wanting to be in trouble.
Then things went very badly for Ping and he was lucky to come home alive, and everyone was pleased to see him. I loved that. I would have been pleased to see me too.
Winnie-the-Pooh and Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne , illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
My family grew up on Winnie the Pooh. I find it interesting that the next generation doesn’t seem to love him so much as we did.
I can sort of quote huge chunks of Now we are Six and Winnie-the-Pooh. “I thought at the time,” said Rabbit, “though I didn’t like to say anything, that one of us had eaten too much. And I knew it wasn’t me,” he said.
Perfect comic timing.
I am David by Anne Holm
This is a beautiful story translated from Danish about a boy escaping from a concentration camp. I read it often, and I love how he managed to survive and to keep going, even though things were so hard. Everything turned out all right in the end, but it was fraught at times.
I will be interested to read this book again with my today self.
The Borrowers by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth Krush and Joe Krush
This is one of many books I liked about tiny people who live between the cracks. Things were very difficult for the Borrowers because they were so small, they could be eaten by mice or rats, and distances from the top of the table to the floor were daunting. They had to cohabit with humans even though they should remain invisible.
The children had special powers, in my memory, and noticed much more than adults who had lost their sense of adventure and sensitivity when they grew up. I do still believe this is the case.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
I loved everything about Pippi—her independence, lateral thinking, confidence, cheerfulness, and yet she was also vulnerable and kind.
I liked the horse who lived in the kitchen and that she cleaned the floors by skating on scrubbing brushes.
She always put a brave face on things, and she told fantastic stories. I wanted to be like her.
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