Revisiting Childhood Favourites

Earlier this week I was looking for light and undemanding airplane reading matter. I  can never sleep on long-haul flights, so I need to keep myself occupied without taxing the little grey cells too much. I chose ‘Das fliegende Klassenzimmer’ by Erich Kästner. It is less well known than his delightful ‘Emil and the Detectives’, and perhaps not quite as exciting (there are no gangsters or chases through city streets, although there are a few fights and and a nearly tragic accident). It is a school story, in essence. However, it has the trademark Kästner humour and his clear understanding of what it means to be an imaginative child trying to be good, but not always quite succeeding.

I used to love school stories as a child, especially boarding schools. Being an only child, perhaps I craved that constant companionship, the midnight conspiracies, the leisure activities that were just not possible to do with friends during school hours. Mallory Towers, St. Clares and the Chalet School were very real to me, as were the stage schools described in ‘Ballet Shoes’ or the Sadlers Wells ballet series written by Lorna Hill. But I also had the other typical girl’s obsession with horses: Ruby Ferguson’s Jill and her ponies books were my constant companions. Sadly, they seem to be hard to find or out of print nowadays.

One of the pleasures of having children is rediscovering old reading favourites and discussing them with a new generation. Of course, they don’t always have the same reaction — and not just because they are boys and therefore less interested in ballet or pony stories! My kids loved the whole series around ‘Five Children and It’ (especially ‘The Story of the Amulet’), but were left cold by ‘Swallows and Amazons’. ‘Treasure Island’ did not really rock their boat, while ‘The Hobbit’ did. They never really clicked with the Famous Five or Secret Seven, and I am still trying to get them to give Leon Garfield or Joan Aiken a chance.

My most fun rediscoveries, which the boys enjoyed just as much as me, have been: Paddington Bear, the Moomins, Asterix, Tintin and of course the above-mentioned Emil and his adventures in the big, bad city of Berlin.

What books did you love as a child? Have you reread them since and what do you think of them now? And how have your children reacted to your own childhood favourites?

8 thoughts on “Revisiting Childhood Favourites”

  1. OMG, I *love* Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer. I can’t wait to acquaint my brood with this one. As for rediscovering faves ~ I’ve got the boys hooked on the Adventure Series by Enid Blyton (over and above the Famous Five) and I’m planning to order a truck load of TKKG when they’re a bit older.

    Not necessarily a kiddies’ film, but do you remember Die Feuerzangenbowle? I’d love to watch that one again. Alas, apart from me, no one would appreciate it in these parts. Can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t done a remake of this classic yet!

    1. I never really got into TKKG – must have been more of a German than an Austrian thing. But Pippi Langstrumpf (remember the TV series?) was my dream gal. I would certainly put her forward as a role model if I had girls instead of boys.

  2. Marina Sofia – Oh, I know exactly what you mean about ‘childhood friends.’ Sometimes re-discovering them is such a lovely experience. And there’s nothing like children of your own to help you do that. And books like that are absolutely perfect for travel.

    1. You are so right: sometimes rediscovering them is lovely… and sometimes you wonder ‘what on earth did I see in them back then?’ Still, comforting like an old blanket…

  3. All the Blyton books at one stage or another, Narnia, and the Anne books for me. I also loved all the boarding school stories and had to chuckle at your reason – my reason was as the youngest of 4 it seemed like an ideal way to get away from my siblings!

    1. How could I forget Narnia – adored them, and my children were pretty keen too (we read them all out loud together – bliss!) Ha, I love your reason for escaping to boarding school – clearly we both saw it as an ideal-state situation! A friend of mine did end up going to boarding school at age 11-12 and confided in horrified whispers during the holidays: ‘It’s nothing LIKE Blyton!’

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