Tag Archives: Shirley Hughes

Dixie O’Day: In the Fast Lane

Dixie O'Day: In The Fast Lane: Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy (Bodley Head, 2013)

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been written over and over in blogs and newspapers already? I can’t write an unbiased opinion of Dixie O’Day because I love Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy so much. As Polly at Little Wooden Horse says, the names on the front cover should have had you rushing out to buy this book as soon as it was released!

For anyone who has found this page by accident, and doesn’t already know, Dixie O’Day is a gentleman dog who, with his best friend Percy, drives an excellent motor car that he takes great care of. The car was not new but it was a very clean machine. Dixie and Percy get into some exciting scrapes, and this tale involves an all-day race between two towns. They have a worst enemy, Lou-Ella from next door, and lots of helpful friends.

Dixie O’Day is adoringly ‘retro’ in style. You’d be more likely to find Dixie and Percy listening to the radio than playing on iPads. Children are immensely adaptable. They may not have the cultural reference for the era (1960’s) that the book represents, but they accept it in the same way that talking dogs driving cars is completely normal.

The Dixie O’Day series has been designed with seven chapters so it can be read one for every day of the week. The chapters may have exciting cliff-hangers, encouraging anticipation for the next night’s story. It’s also possible to read in one go if you read lots to children but separating it into chapters allows busy parents a natural break point, and is just right for building early reading stamina.

I have been thinking, and writing, a lot about gender recently and it would be lax of me not to mention gender in relation to this book. The main characters are male, and the lack of female animal characters in picture books is something Carmen at Rhino Reads writes about compellingly. However, this book comes from the pens of two author / illustrators who are exemplary in their inclusion major female characters throughout their work. This particular story does happen to have more male characters. But let’s look at the two main female characters from In The Fast Lane in detail:

Lou-Ella is the neighbour from hell. She is a character you love to hate, somewhere between Cruella de Vil and Penelope Pitstop. She’s self-centred, mean and thoroughly unlikable. I’m not really selling this character to you? But she’s also an independent woman who can afford to buy a brand new car every year. There’s no husband behind the scenes or any implication that she’s a ‘kept woman’; she’s earning well and is motivated to get what she wants. There’s a lot of unknown back-story here, and much potential.

Auntie Dot
Auntie Dot may only appear on one page, but she is absolutely pivotal to the plot. Without her input, Dixie and Percy wouldn’t get the outcome they achieve. In a similar manner to Dave’s big sister Bella saving the day in Dogger, Auntie Dot is essential. You can’t get more positive than that. She’s also adorable and I hope we see more of her in future stories.

Dixie O’Day: In The Fast Lane is packed full of extras to hold the interest of today’s iPad generation. There’s the map of the route, interviews, quizzes, and so many things to see on every page that you could easily fill at least a month of activities riffing off different interests. There’s even a sneak peek at the second book in the series: The Great Diamond Robbery. MG and DG are huge fans of Dixie in his own right already, and this is a book we re-read regularly. I get to both read and be read to by MG, which is a lovely role reversal!

Future books will have different colour covers for instant identification, but the duotone interior will remain the same (how could we lose Dixie’s gorgeous red car?!) Dixie O’Day: In The Fast Lane is not only an important entry in the world of children’s literature on account of its creators, it’s an excellent start to an exciting series that children will love.

Related posts:
Interview at The Book Sniffer
Interview at Library Mice
Interview at Playing by the Book
Review from Little Wooden Horse
Review from Read It, Daddy
Review from Kate Louise (includes book trailer)

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Dixie O’Day: In The Fast Lane by Random House Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Shirley Hughes, Clara Vulliamy, and Childhood

Shirley Hughes’ illustrations were so all-pervasive in my childhood that I only noticed they were hers as an adult. As a child, the books just were. And they were wonderful. My favourite picture book forever is Dogger, which is very obviously Shirley Hughes, but it’s all the other favourites that I didn’t notice that probably had a deeper effect.

As part of the Oxford Children’s Book Group I got to visit a children’s book collector’s house earlier this year. Entire rooms filled floor to ceiling with books from the last hundred years. I could happily have spent weeks browsing the shelves, but we had only a couple of hours and in that time I caught sight of a few books from my childhood that I’d previously forgotten. One was a hardback with a very distinctive orange colour:
Flutes and Cymbals

A collection of poetry called Flutes and Cymbals. I loved the snippets of words, but the illustrations were the main attraction. “Illustrated by SHIRLEY HUGHES” the cover proclaims, in capitals no less. It’s now on my wish list of second-hand books to collect.

A series of books that I remembered from my childhood and re-bought were the “Stories for [X] Year Olds” collected by Sara & Stephen Corran. Again, it wasn’t until I looked for the books that I saw the illustrator: Shirley Hughes. I devoured these books when I was young. I think the ages on the covers appealed to me because I was reading “Stories for Nine-Year-Olds” aged six, having gone through the series from five-year-olds in sequence!

Stories for [..] Year Olds

Fast forward to adulthood and having my own children and I’m embarrassed to say that Shirley Hughes wasn’t on the top of my list of authors to buy. It’s only since browsing and re-remembering childhood favourites that I’ve realised how she was always there for me, in my comfort reads. I only discovered Alfie as an adult, and “Annie Rose Is My Little Sister” brought me to tears. Sniffles. She’s now always there for my daughters, and they are smitten.

Almost two years ago, I discovered a new-to-me author / illustrator via the wonder of Twitter. She was such a friendly lady, chatty and full of joy. Her blog was full of gorgeous illustrations, so I bought The Bear With Sticky Paws… And found not only a wonderful talent but books that my daughters asked to be read again, and again, and again. Books that I loved to read, stories that held interest and were a joy. I also found a truly lovely person.

And because I’m somewhat slow (and because it didn’t make a jot of difference to talent and lovliness), it was a little while before I realised that Clara Vulliamy also happened to have an extremely well-known mother! Mother and daughter’s books are now entwined for me as the perfect accompaniment to any childhood. Each new Clara Vulliamy book gets gasps of delight in this household, and my daughters may be unique in referring to Shirley Hughes’ books as “Clara’s mummy’s books” 🙂

This year, something wonderful happened in the world of children’s literature. Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy collaborated on a book. Not just one book, but the start of a series. Neither a picture book or a chapter book, but a wonderful highly-illustrated hybrid perfect for early readers to tackle as well as perfect for reading aloud. Enter Dixie O’Day, and the exciting childhood…

Dixie O'Day: In The Fast Lane: Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy (Bodley Head, 2013)

Keeping It In The Family: Shirley Hughes with Ed, Tom and Clara Vulliamy

In September I was fortunate to see Shirley Hughes in conversation with two of her children at the Soho Literary Festival. I started writing about it but got sidetracked by a dozen other things and Clara wrote such a wonderful post that it didn’t seem necessary to add my meagre efforts! Today I got to see them in conversation again, this time with the addition of the third Vulliamy sibling and in a larger venue.

In the morning of the Oxford event, MG had a minor meltdown which resulted in me phoning the festival and luckily managing to get the very last ticket for the event for her! I knew it was more for ‘grown ups’ but she was so patient at the Red House Children’s Book Award Ceremony I thought she would manage the day. She was fidgetty and bored for some of it, and totally fed up in the queue for signing afterwards, but cheered up immensely when seeing Clara Vulliamy and Shirley Hughes to sign our books. To MG, Shirley Hughes is important because she is “Clara’s mummy”, and Clara Vulliamy is important because she is Clara 🙂

Fortunately a festival person queue-jumped us (and other children) as the queue was so very long and MG so fed up, so kudos to the festival for prioritising the children over the adults! This did mean I didn’t get to chat to two lovely Twitter-friends who I’d met for the first time at the event for as long as I would have liked, but we still chatted and it was brilliant as both a me day, and a me-and-MG day.

The host of both the Soho and Oxford events was Mark Ellen who had known the family for over 30 years and was excellent at holding a very engaging and interesting talk with all family members. The first thing I learnt in September was that I’ve been pronouncing Vulliamy completely wrong: it’s more like vol-you-may than the voo-lee-army that I’ve been saying. Ooops!

Keeping It In The Family: Shirley Hughes with Clara and Ed Vulliamy at Soho Literary Festival 2012

At both events there was a talk through some slides of family pictures and paintings, some of which can be found in the book A Life Drawing, and on Clara Vulliamy’s website. There were a lot of similarities between the content of the Soho and Oxford events for obvious reasons, but I’m glad I went to both as they were still very different and hugely enjoyable. Today’s event was a lot busier, and I suspect the Hughes-Vulliamy family must be completely worn out!

Ed Vulliamy is known as a war journalist, but he vehemently despises war. You could see the journalist in him at the Soho event, as he took notes during the conversations on the back of an old envelope. A very engaging speaker, he talked of his work and childhood. In Oxford, possibly because there were children in the audience, he appeared more muted, but still added my favourite line of how a psychiatrist once said she didn’t envy him getting over a happy childhood!

Middle brother, Tom Vulliamy, a reasearch scientist, wasn’t in Soho (but referred to often in that event) so it was lovely to have his viewpoint included in person in Oxford. He commented how Shirley Hughes’ first picture book included a boy called Tom which he liked! He talked about his research and added to the anecdotes of childhood that the whole family shared.

As a daughter myself, and a mother of daughters, the most interesting people for me to watch and listen to were Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy. Shirley Hughes commented at the start that there is no perfect time to have a childhood and that she is described as having an idyllic childhood, but growing up on the Wirral in the Liverpool Blitz wasn’t that idyllic! Later in the event, the family talked about how television was not allowed much when they were children. Clara added an anecdote of how she wanted a plastic doll which played a tune, rather than the hand sewn toys her mother made her, but she was not even allowed to go into the toyshop where it was sold! “The darker side of our childhood” she joked, continuing “which made me the bitter adult I am today”!

Keeping It In The Family: Shirley Hughes with Ed, Tom and Clara Vulliamy at Oxford Literary Festival 2013

Shirley Hughes said she could tell at a young age what her children were drawn to. Ed was interviewing people on election day with a skipping rope handle aged ten; Tom was racing to school on Saturday mornings to see how his aphids were doing; and Clara had a sense for visual narrative that meant illustration was in her future. But she didn’t push them into anything. Mark Ellen quipped that parents not encouraging children meant they were more likely to do something!

All the Vulliamy children said they didn’t realise that they had a famous mother until they were adults. She was just their mother. Tom told his teachers that his mother was a landlady because they shared their house with a succession of lodgers. Shirley Hughes still lives in the same house her children grew up in. The house used to be in a deprived area with communal gardens where the children played together and she sketched and sketched observations of the children who amalgamated into the children in her books. Bernard from the Alfie books was probably one of those children, she recalled, but now the area is affluent and she is surrounded by merchant bankers who don’t send their children out to play in communal areas.

Being outside, experiencing the world and looking are very important to the family. Tom, Ed and Clara all work in very different fields but they all observe the world meticulously to produce their work. Shirley Hughes said she thinks a lot of that came from her late husband’s family and how they all learnt that really looking at the world is so very important an ability to cultivate in childhood.

It’s hard to do the talk justice in my rambling, but it was a wonderful experience (both times!) Today I took some notes during the event so I will end with some wisdom gleaned from Shirley Hughes:

How to encourage a child with an interest in art: give them decent art materials, leave a sketchbook near them always. In times of boredom they might just start sketching in it. All children go through a phase at about 7 or 8 where the freedom in art that they had previously experienced turns into “I can’t draw”. Some persevere, they just have to get through it on their own but encourage them to persevere. If something doesn’t look how they want, they can do it again. Don’t be discouraged.

On creating a picture book: use minimum words, choosing them carefully. Someone is going to have to read this again and again and again and you don’t want them getting bored. Add something of interest into the pictures to keep adults entertained too, lots of details in pictures for children and adults.

There will be another novel.

Keep calm and carry on!

Recent Reads

As part of the book challenges I joined, I wanted to write reviews of every book I’d read. I’ve not had the time to recently and the longer I leave it after reading, the less detail I can remember to write about. So here are some brief summaries of books I’ve read so far this year that I haven’t yet reviewed.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)

This is still my favourite fairy tale after almost thirty years, and I loved it on re-reading as an adult. It deserves its own post and I have no problem with reading it over and over again in order to give it the attention it deserves. The story follows Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, the seventh daughter born to the King and Queen of Phantasmorania, who at her Christening is given the gift of being ordinary by a crotchety fairy. So she grows up with freckles, mousey hair and everyone calls her Amy. In true fairy tale fashion there is danger and romance, but with a twist and a lot of humour.

The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)

I backed this book on Kickstarter after falling in love with Jake Parker’s art for The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. It was worth the eight month wait. I’m more of a wannabe comics fan, which I suppose doesn’t make sense as I am a fan but I’m not in the slightest bit knowledgeable and comics are an expensive habit so I never am going to be knowledgeable. Being such a visual medium, and being a bear of little brain, I also find comics impossible to read aloud to children. It’s like audio description for television: very clever and not something I can do! The ten short stories in this volume are wonderful, and completely moreish. I want more of every world Jake Parker has created. I’m very glad I backed this and will read it many times, and when MG and DG are a bit older I might even let them borrow it too!

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)

I put off reading this novel for ages because it’s not a genre I’m particularly interested in and I didn’t want to dislike something from Shirley Hughes! It took a few chapters to suck me in but the story was compelling and the characters beautifully drawn – in words, not pictures. I hope Shirley Hughes writes more novels and I won’t care what genre they’re in because the writing shines through and makes this novel irresistible. I’m glad I got over my mini-phobia and read this book.

Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)

I got this second-hand and started reading it one evening, only to find I’d finished it in one sitting! For some reason the mystical element at the end, with the gypsy curse appearing to be real didn’t sit right with me despite the entire book being fantastical with juvenile detention camp inmates digging a hole 5ft deep and 5ft in diameter every day. But somehow it all seems to make perfect sense as you read it, and Stanley Yelnets and Zero make good believable characters. It’s a weird and wonderful narrative that pulls you in from the start. Oddly enjoyable.

Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2009)Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2009)

I bought this at the Oxford Children’s Book Group event and started reading it because  Katherine Langrish was  a great speaker and the descriptions of her work sounded just my kind of genre. I’ve just realised what this reminded me of: Redwall by Brian Jacques, although it’s been years since I read any of that series and Dark Angels isn’t about mice! The 12th Century Welsh setting with monasteries and castles is a backdrop to a very human tale. There may be elves, angels, devils and ghosts but they often seem dream-like so this works as historical and fantasy fiction. I loved the world envisioned in this book and the ending holds hope for a sequel. Wolf and Nest call Elfgift their little sister but she seems like their daughter too and I really want to find out more about their relationship. More, please!

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)

This novel has garnered high praise from many quarters and I ended up reading it in one day, in between child-wrangling. It’s not a book to read if you’re after a happy tale, because this is very depressing. It is also compelling and very readable. It’s set in an alternate 1950’s and the places are described as the motherland, the homeland, zones… It’s a miserable existence for Standish and his grandfather but they’re surviving. There are some horrible events in the book so it’s definitely not for younger children but it’s a chilling glimpse into a world that could have been and well worth a read.

Picture books about school

Playing by the Book’s monthly carnival of children’s books has the theme (Starting) School this month, perfect for this time of year! I have submitted Lucky Wish Mouse Starting School as my main entry for this month, but here are a few more…

Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester-Clark (Harper Collins Children's Books, 2012)Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester-Clark. Lily and Blue Kangaroo are well loved characters and in this latest adventure, Lily is about to go to a new school. It’s not said whether this is her first school or if she is changing school but the book works for either so would also be good for families that have moved and had to change schools. Lily is scared but her fears are shown via Blue Kangaroo – she asks his questions and is reassured by all the friendly adults in her life. Wonderfully reassuring and of course beautifully illustrated, this is a lovely book to share with small children.

Foxy by Emma Dodd (Harper Collins Children's Books, 2012)Foxy by Emma Dodd. Rather than showing the first day at school, Foxy is a funny book to take away worries from the silly things that Foxy does. Emily is worried about her first day but Foxy’s magic tail produces all the things she’ll need for her first day – eventually. Foxy’s mistakes – a penguin instead of a pencil; an elephant instead of an eraser; and so forth – bring smiles and fun. Most importantly, no magic at all is needed for Emily to make friends. Hugely fun illustrations and humour make this a lovely addition to any bookshelf.

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart School by Clara Vulliamy (Harper Collins Children's Books, 2012)Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart School by Clara Vulliamy – reviewed previously here.




The Bear with Sticky Paws Goes to School by Clara VulliamyThe Bear with Sticky Paws Goes to School by Clara Vulliamy. A third school book from Clara, and I wholeheartedly recommend any of them (and all of them!) The Bear with Sticky Paws is one of DG’s favourites, and in this story Pearl is dragging her feet because she doesn’t want to go to school. It’s not just starting school books that are useful, after a few weeks when the novelty has worn off those feet begin to drag and the complaints get more imaginative… The Bear takes Pearl to his school where you can do anything but messy, noisy and not sharing isn’t really fun and soon Pearl wants to go to the comfort of her own school and friends.

Lucy and Tom go to School by Shirley HughesLucy and Tom go to School by Shirley Hughes. Keeping it in the family, here is a lovely little book I found in a charity shop. Lucy is almost five and about to start school but her little brother Tom is too young. This tale full of nostalgia takes us through Lucy’s first day and how sometimes she loves school and sometimes she doesn’t. Tom really wants to go to, and he gets to go to playgroup. This is so like my two – MG likes school but some days she’s not keen but DG has wanted to go as soon as MG started, she tried on her (not compulsory) uniform as soon as I bought some second hand and on the first day she was allowed to start at three she ran in ahead of her sister! A little piece of nostalgia for the era I grew up in (first published two years before I was born) and more beautiful observations of family life.

How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark TeagueHow Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. I love the How Do Dinosaurs… series. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? was MG’s bedtime book from a few months old for over a year and I don’t think I’ll ever bore of it. DG was always too fidgetty to do a bedtime story with at that age (we read several stories every night of course, this was just the final one every night for a very long time!) The series is lovely, brilliant rhyming text with huge pictures of dinosaur toddlers with human parents. It starts with things we shouldn’t do: Does he drag his long tail? Is he late for the bus? Does he stomp all four feet? Does he make a big fuss? and after a list of these there’s a No followed by what we should do: A dinosaur carefully raises his hand. He helps out his classmates with projects they’ve planned. A wonderfully subtle introduction to manners, the whole series is a must-have in my opinion!

Harry and the Dinosaurs go to School by Ian Whybrow and Adrian ReynoldsHarry and the Dinosaurs go to School by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds. I have a huge soft spot for Harry and the Dinosaurs too, maybe I just love dinosaurs. Did I say I? I meant my daughters of course… Seriously though, they do love Harry, he is a very loveable character. I love that proper dinosaur names are used, because I hate talking down to small people, and again the series covers ‘issues’ like the dentist (one I will definitely be using again this week as we’re all due a check-up) and of course school. In this story, Harry is starting a new school and notices a very quiet boy who he helps gain confidence playing with the dinosaurs. Lovely stuff, gorgeous pictures. If you haven’t any Harry books, go and grab one now. Preferably an armful…

Splat the Cat by Rob ScottonSplat the Cat by Rob Scotton. Splat comes out with lots of different reasons why he shouldn’t go to school: “Maybe I should go to school tomorrow instead?” At school, he questions everything the teacher says (I love this, independent thinking!) and then we find out why: he has a pet mouse! Seymour the mouse shows the cats that mice are friends after all and Splat can’t wait to go to school again. There are lots of very funny imagery for small children to giggle at, this is a book for any time of year.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo and Foxy by HarperCollins Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Friday Pick{ture Book} #4: Dogger

Dogger: Shirley Hughes
(Random House Children’s Books, 1977)

It’s my birthday in a few days so this week’s choice is a book close to my heart. I’ve already briefly reviewed it in my Six Books post but it deserves its own entry. This is quite simply a perfect picture book and one I treasured when I was a child, reading and re-reading to myself often.

Once there was a soft brown toy called Dogger. One of his ears pointed upwards and the other flopped over. His fur was worn in places because he was quite old. He belonged to Dave.

I’m sure I don’t need to write anything about how wonderful Shirley Hughes’ work is, but actually I’m only really appreciating her as an adult reading the books to my children. Yes, I loved many of her books as a child (and so many paperbacks with her illustrations that I never realised were Shirley Hughes at the time) but it was all taken for granted. Now the moments of family life captured so perfectly are much more poignant and I spend longer looking at the pictures as I read the books again and again…

Dogger is a book that should be on every bookcase in my opinion. It’s a story of a lost toy and sibling love wrapped up in ordinary life.

I like to think I am still young, regardless of being three years (and a few days!) off forty, but I do remember times like these and with older siblings I was brought up on a diet of books from the 60’s and 70’s (despite being born after decimalisation I get nostalgic about pounds, shillings and pence too…) which further cements this era in my memory. Plus we live in a village (separated from the nearest town by a field, but a village nonetheless!) which has similar fetes and flower shows 🙂

Dogger is not only a beautiful book but a moment of real family life captured perfectly. And how can you not like a book which has a child dressed as a dalek in it?

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Six Books

Six picture books from my childhood that I bought for my children

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle (1969)
This was the first book I bought for my then unborn first child. It’s just an essential book for every child. I remember as a child loving the different sized pages and the holes where the caterpillar has munched through. The art is gorgeous and iconic. Not only that, but it also teaches the lifecycle of a butterfly, counting, days of the week… It is an absolutely perfect book. So much so, I think I may upgrade the board book version we have to a paperback version so it can be enjoyed in our house for many more years to come.

2. Meg and Mog – Helen Nicol & Jan Pienkowski (1972)
I still love Jan Pienkovski’s art and our house is packed with examples of his work from Meg and Mog to pop-up Haunted House; from 1001 First Words to The One Thousand Nights and One Night… But this is where is all began for me, with the story of Meg the witch, her cat Mog, Owl and the spells that never work out. There’s nothing not to love about the Meg and Mog books but the first one is my special favourite, it’s probably one of the first books I read independently. The fantastic easy to read lettering and the bright contrasting colours means it catches the attention of even very young babies. I never tire of reading it.

3. My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes – Eve Sutton & Lynley Dodd (1974)
I always wonder what happened to Eve Sutton, I don’t think she wrote any other children’s books. Lynley Dodd of course went on to create the fantastic Hairy Maclary series plus many more. But this is still my favourite of her books. The Cat from France may well like to sing and dance but MY cat likes to hide in boxes, and that’s just fine with me.

4. Mog the Forgetful Cat – Judith Kerr (1970)
It seems to me that most people think The Tiger Who Came To Tea when they think of Judith Kerr, but it was always the Mog books for me. I love cats, we had a tabby cat, and I love how poor Mog accidentally saves the day in this story. Mog is such a lovable character in all her stories that I can’t bring myself to read Goodbye Mog (2002) as I know I’ll just sob the whole way through. Fortunately there are many more Mog books that I also haven’t read that I will get to share with my girls at some point, but this is the one I read and re-read as a child.

5. Big Sister and Little Sister – Charlotte Zolotow & Martha Alexander (1966)
I am a little sister with a big sister, which is probaby why I loved this book. I remember reading it when i was about 8, it was borrowed from the library and I tried to copy all the words before it was returned but never finished. It’s one of those random old memories: sitting at the bottom of the stairs reading this book. At 36 I no longer think of myself as being the ‘little sister’ but by virtue of birth order Destructo-Girl is and I think she will relate to this story too. Most importantly, I hope my girls do learn from each other so that they too ‘both know how’.

6. Dogger – Shirley Hughes (1977)
Dogger, the well-loved toy who gets lost. With one ear in the air and one folded over, Dogger was quite like a pet dog we had at the time. I loved this story of losing a favourite thing and regaining it, the kind big sister and the wonderful pictures that take me back to being very young. I still love the story and am happy to read it again and again to my girls.

All these books are still in print (except for possibly Big Sister and Little Sister) and will probably be on the shelves of your local independent bookshop, although Big Sister and Little Sister can still be found new online. I recommend them all for books to be treasured and to not get boring as you read them again, and again, and again…

What books from your childhood did you keep or buy again for your own children? Please comment and share your favourites!