It all started because of a hedgehog in a dress. A moose with braces. And a snake slithering out of its pants. The kids and I were at the library and there on the shelf in lurid lime green was a book that I vividly remember reading when I was a kid: Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing. It’s been re-issued and my kids thought it was as hilarious as I did back when I was small. Their favourite page was the chicken laying an egg in its trousers.
It was like being caught in a deluge of rain. All of a sudden I was being pelted with memories of the books I loved when I was a kid. The Topsy and Tim series. Does anyone else remember those? Or Babar the elephant? I remember I wanted to be Babar’s wife, Celeste. It’s probably the only time in your life when you can get away with wanting to be an elephant!
Another book I remember vividly was one of the Curious George books: Zozo Gets a Medal. In my version, the monkey’s name was Zozo – apparently they renamed him in the books published out of the UK because, at the time, the King’s name was George and they didn’t want to publish a book in which a monkey had the same name as the king. Looking back, I wonder why I never once thought it was strange to be reading about a man dressed all in yellow, from the top of his hat to the bottom of his trousers, which were so perfectly tucked into his long brown boots.
It’s great to still see so many of the books from my childhood being avidly read by my kids. All the Dr Seuss books seem timeless – my favourite was Because a Little Bug Went Kachoo! – as do the Berenstain Bears books. Both my girls can quote large sections of Bears on the Moon off by heart, as can I. Richard Scarry’s books are also a big hit; it seems that cats wearing braces and worms with hats never go out of fashion.
So, what books have I missed or forgotten about? Let me know. And next blog, I’ll be talking about some of the contemporary kids’ books that I think might become classics, books that might be read by our children’s children in many, many years time.