Birthday present! And a joyous one this time.

I cannot get enough of these books about childhood reading. I gulp them down like lollies from the jar. In Storytime, Jane Sullivan (who writes a column about books for The Saturday Age) goes back to a dozen of her childhood favourites, first recalling what them special, then re-reading to see how accurate her memories were, and giving some adult context and reflection. So we have chapters on E. Nesbit, the Famous Five, Wind in the Willows, Little Women and more.

There was only two of Jane's choices that I'd never read. One was a collection of horror stories and the other was a comic strip, "The Silent Three," which appeared in School Friend magazine. Well, would you believe, I have several 1950s School Friend annuals decorating my living room (thank you, Judy Ballantyne!) so I was able to check out "The Silent Three" for myself, with their improbable hooded robes and their plucky ivy-climbing and ingenious riddle-solving. Utterly ludicrous but I could definitely see the appeal.

I knew I had to buy this book when I heard Jane mention a book she was sure no one else in the world had read: Gillian Avery's The Warden's Niece, which was a particular favourite of my own. Apparently the illustrator who produced the distinctive ink-blotted pictures for the book lived at the bottom of child-Jane's garden, and gave her a copy! I adored Maria's adventures in 19th century Oxford (which paved the way for all the other Oxford-set books I was to love in the future) and her detective work in company with the boys next door and their embarrassing bean pole of a tutor, Mr Copplestone. I completely agree with Jane that Gillian Avery is overdue for rediscovery.

The one book we disagree on is Little Women, which I loved and Jane couldn't stand. I fell in love with the March family and I was charmed by their playacting and mock-Pickwick newspaper, which grated on Jane's nerves. But hey, it's so dull when we all agree.

I tried to make Storytime last longer, but I couldn't help myself -- finished it in two days.


  1. Storytime's my list too. I have been eyeing it off at the bookshop where I work. Now I think I just have to have it. I do enjoy re-reading the books I loved as a child; I love reading about other people's re-reading! I have re-read 'Little Women' more than a few times, and though there are all sorts of aspects I find difficult, the sheer liveliness and believability of the girls - that darling Jo! - always sweep me along. And I love it that they are concerned with doing good and being good, not looking good.
    I'm reading adult things for book group at the moment, but I think an E.Nesbit spree might be quite cheering!

  2. Oh YES! What a good idea. I think I might dig out The Story of the Amulet, which I think I will appreciate more since reading this weird book about archaeology to Ms 18 -- all about Babylonia etc. Excellent!