“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”The local farm stand has a table of used books. Earlier this summer, I spied a couple of paperbacks from my childhood and picked up both of them for $1. One was The Call of the Wild, the other, Rascal. I just finished Rascal and don't mind telling you that I cried near the end.
― C.S. Lewis
There's nothing like spotting the cover of a cherished book from childhood in a pile at a yard or book sale. I've spied several favorites over the years, have re-read them and been stunned by the language, imagery, lessons and stories. While slightly intoxicated by the familiar musty smell I realize how much I was formed and influenced by these seemingly innocent works.
One book I did not read as a child is Bambi by Felix Salten. I'm including it in my short list anyway. I found an old hardcover copy of that book while down with the flu in a friend's daughter's room and read it while recovering far from home. Forget Disney.
John Galsworthy wrote the original foreward:
"Bambi is a delicious book. Delicious not only for children but for those who are no longer so fortunate. For delicacy of perception and essential truth I hardly know any story of animals that can stand beside this life study of a forest deer. Felix Salten is a poet. He feels nature deeply, and he loves animals. I do not, as a rule, like the method which places human words in the mouths of dumb creatures, and it is the triumph of this book that, behind the conversation, one feels the real sensations of the creatures who speak. Clear and illuminating, and in places very moving, it is a little masterpiece.I spend a lot of time helping people experience the world pre-verbally. Drawing is more fundamental than reading. But great writing and a good book can transport us like nothing else.
"I read it in galley proof on the way from Paris to Calais, before a channel crossing. As I finished each sheet I handed it to my wife, who read and handed it to my nephew's wife, who read and handed it to my nephew. For three hours the four of us read thus in silent absorption. Those who know what it is to read books in galley proof, and have experienced channel crossings, will realize that few books will stand such a test. Bambi is one of them. I particularly recommend it to sportsmen." —March 16, 1928
A short list of favorite childhood books I have re-read:
A Light in the Forest —Conrad Aiken
The Story of My Life —Helen Keller
By the Waters of Babylon (and all the other short stories by) —Stephen Vincent Benét
Rascal —Sterling North
Bambi —Felix Salten
Winnie-the-Pooh + The House at Pooh Corner —A. A. Milne
Fahrenheit 451 —Ray Bradbury
I should mention, of course, that many of the original versions of many books from childhood have exceptional illustrations by exceptional artists like E.H. Shephard (Pooh), John Schoenherr (Rascal), Kurt Wiese (Bambi), to name a few.
Comment below this post to leave your favorite(s) from childhood reading (especially those you've re-read.) Would love you to share them with each other (and me!).
"The aroma of an old book is familiar to every user of a traditional library. A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents." —Dr. Matija Strlic, University College LondonListen to Aldous Huxley talk about language and read from Helen Keller's autobiography.
"Somewhere it must all be recorded, as insects are captured in amber—that day on the river: transcribed in Brule water, written on the autumn air, safe at least in my memory."
—Sterling North, Rascal
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