Written by Glen Huser, President of CWILL BC
Sixteen CWILL members met on December 6th in Christianne’s Lyceum upper room to share the books and stories and songs that had a special meaning for them as they were growing up. Candle light and wine, a groaning board of great snacks . . . an evening to remember.
Here are the favourites that emerged . . .
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Suzanne de Montigny chose the well-loved Montgomery series as one that inspired her to become both a teacher and a writer. She brought along the actual paperbacks she has cherished since she was a young girl.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Nayoung Jin recalled how she was criticized by a particular teacher for her love of fantasy and the lovable “unreal” characters of the Saint-Exupery classic—but that didn’t stop her from continuing to admire the book. A second book, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is another that she has continued to read—especially when she feels the need for a good cry!
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
Mary Jane Muir told about how this book was one that helped her to heal following the untimely death of her mother. It also led to a lifelong love of horses and horseback riding.
Blackies Little Ones’ Annual
At the age of five, Beryl Young went to stay for with her grandparents in Saskatchewan. When she left, Blackies Little Ones’ Annual—a huge illustrated volume of stories, poems and articles—was gifted to her by her first grade teacher who inscribed all of the names of her classmates. Well-worn and well-loved, Beryl remembers this as being a testament to the fact that she could read very well at that age.
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
Linda Bailey, with a laugh, recalls reading this popular fantasy when she was quite young and believing that it was essentially nonfiction—that there actually was a mushroom planet, a tiny habitable moon of the Earth. It had been explored by two boys—so Linda was mystified when so much fuss was made when the Russians actually landed some bit of metal on the earth’s other moon (which paled with what David and Chuck managed to achieve on their interplanetary visit).
The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope (a pseudonym)
Norma Charles remembers looking forward to babysitting jobs when she was a young girl, hoping that those for whom she was babysitting would be away at least four hours so that—with a salary of 25 cents an hour—she would have enough money to buy the latest Bobbsey Twin novel. The series, written by several writers, followed the adventures of two sets of fraternal twins. The young Norma loved them, but reading to her own children, she would choose something penned by the more talented Beverly Cleary.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Illustrator Zoe Si has been a fan of Roald Dahl since childhood—and Matilda, with a strong central female character, has been a particular favourite. Quentin Blake, Dahl’s illustrator, with his deft strokes and great sense of humour has been an inspiration for her own artwork.
Christmas in Killarney
(An Irish Christmas song written by John Redmond, James Cavanaugh, and Frank Weldon)
Lori Sherritt-Fleming paid homage to her Celtic roots by singing this to us—a lovely touch in the midst of . . . well, we won’t call it a “prosaic” evening but an evening filled with prose.
Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
This was Lee Edward Födi’s choice, and he went to some lengths to track down a second-hand copy exactly the same as the one he once owned and read many times. Titus’ story follows the adventures of Basil and his personal biographer Dr. Dawson, mice who live in the basement of a Baker Street house where Sherlock Holmes is a tenant. Charming illustrations by Paul Galdone.
Miss Hickory by Caroline Sherwin Bailey
Kathie Shoemaker chose this 1946 Newbery-medal winner as a favourite from her childhood. She remembers loving stories about dolls and other diminutive characters such as The Little Fur Family series by Margaret Wise Brown with perfect illustrations by Garth Williams (the books themselves were small and originally had fur-wrapped covers). Other favourites: Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library and George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Janet Whyte remembers how Max’s wild rumpus appealed to her as a young catholic girl (who was definitely not encouraged to participate in a rumpus with wild things of any sort).
The Sand Lady by Corinne M. Litzenberg
Kari Rust remembers spending a summer holiday at Crescent Beach a perfect spot for imagining how a mermaid might materialize from items assembled from beachcombing. The idea of making something from small found objects was appealing. Kari also loved Three Little Pigs retold by Fiona Carmichael with illustrations by Shosuke Takihara that tantalized with amazing perspectives and abstractions.
The Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series
These were favourites of Nancy Hundal when she was growing up. Nancy was not the only one who noted that children are not especially critical in their reading preferences—they love book for a lot of reasons beyond how well they are written. But later, as an undergrad at UBC, she recalls enjoying the discovery of strong novels for young readers by Canadian writers—books such as Christie Harris’s You Have to Draw the Line Somewhere and Ruth Nichols’ A Walk Out of the World.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was the book I chose as my favourite. First introduced to me as a told-aloud tale by an aunt (whom I thought had invented it), I was delighted to discover the actual book in a reclaimed small town library I operated for a couple of years as a teenager. And then I fell in love with the 1949 movie starring Margaret O’Brien (a black and white film with the restored garden sequences in colour). Comparing notes with Janet Lunn many years back, we both chose this novel as the one we loved best.