12 Favourite Books From My Childhood

I saw this meme at Golden Books Girl and the original author is The Broke and and the Bookish. It challenges one to name 10 favourite books from one’s childhood (I listed 12 because why not). Although my childhood was spent in Russia, I read a lot of books from foreign-language authors (translated to Russian, of course). I did not read Harry Potter as a child since when I finally got my hands on a translated-to-Russian edition of the first book (probably in the very early 2000s) I was already in the “middle adolescence” age group. My childhood and YA books were generally fairy-tales and adapted-to-a-young-reader stories of Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist), Jack London (The Sea-Wolf), Robert Louis Stevenson (The Black Arrow), Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and Mayne Reid (Osceola the Seminole). I also read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was in middle school. So, in no particular order:

I. The Wind in the Willows [1908] by Kenneth Graham

I had a very colourfully-illustrated version of this book, and though I don’t remember much of the plot now, I do recall its vivid characters: Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad & Mr. Badger, as well as a sense of adventure. The book has some moral messages (such as on the importance of friendship), and fosters a sense of wonder at nature (the setting is a riverbank).

II. Fairy Tales [1837] by Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Pushkin (1799 – 1837) is Russia’s most famous poet and most beloved author. From all the books of my childhood I think it was Pushkin’s fairy-tales that had the biggest impact on me because this was my very first “proper” book (as opposed to nursery rhymes’ books), and I greatly enjoyed the introduction to all the mythical and the fantastical it had to offer – and in verse too! The Tale of The Dead Princess & Seven Bogatyrs (similar to Snow White) was my favourite, and others are The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish; and The Tale of Tsar Saltan. Thanks to this book, I later also loved Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tales, the fairy-tales from Brothers Grimm and tales from the Arabian Nights.

III. A Magician Walked the Streets (“Шёл по городу волшебник”) [1963] by Yuriy Tomin

This was something akin to Harry Potter and magic in my childhood. In this story, a boy steals a box of matches from another boy who has hundreds of them and finds out that each time he breaks one match, his wish comes true. Filled with humour, this book teaches that with every power bestowed also comes responsibility, and it may be a good thing that not all our wishes are coming true on a daily basis. The book cemented my love for the magical and the fantastical.

IV. Robinson Crusoe [1719] by Daniel Defoe

This was my late grandmother’s favourite book and, naturally, I have very fond memories connected with it. It is considered the first English novel, and I think it is now criminally under-read. I recall I was impressed by how well it explored the theme of survival on an uninhabited island, including the description of the fauna and the skills required.

V. The Little Prince [1943] by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” This surreal tale about one stranded aviator who encounters a prince living on another planet is both fantastical and emotional with important, simple “truths” inside. The story teaches to explore any book with a open heart and mind since even the smallest and simplest of stories may have the ability to affect someone deeply, to change one’s views or even turn one’s life around. It teaches kindness and consideration to others, making points about the human nature, loss and loneliness. The way it fuses simplicity with significance is a work of art.

VI. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea [1870] by Jules Verne

This classic French book instilled in me a sense of wonder about the outside world, its secrets and the unknown. Jules Verne’s books take you around the world (Around the World in Eighty Days), to the Earth’s core (Journey to the Centre of the Earth); or plunges you to the depths of oceans (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), while the author imagines possible future scientific advances (such as how to land on the Moon in From the Earth to the Moon), emphasising the humanity’s drive to explore and confront the unknown.

VII. Treasure Island [1883] by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is probably the most influential pirate story, and, at a young age, it opened to me the world of sea adventure and mystery. We follow one young protagonist here, and the story is about a quest to find hidden treasure.

VIII. Timur and His Squad (“Тимур и его команда”) [1940] by Arkady Gaidar

This is a nostalgic young adult book about a team of children led by boy Timur who sneak around doing good deeds secretly, such as protecting minors, helping elders and supporting however they can families of those who serve in the Red Army. This Soviet classic was probably meant to promote feelings of solidarity, bravery and the unwavering spirit in the face of growing fears, hardship and trauma connected to the WWII.

IX. The Blue Arrow (“La freccia azzurra”) [1964] by Gianni Rodari 

This book by an Italian author made my New Year’s Eves so much more magical. In this tale, a boy passes his days near to the New Year looking at all the shiny toys in a shop window, toys that he cannot afford. He is particularly transfixed by one perfect toy – an electric blue train (The Blue Arrow). Little does he know that the toys inside the shop come up with a plan to join the boy – Francesco, making their escape from the shop. The book has a heart-warming message towards the end. Rodari is also a creator of the stories about Cipollino (The Little Onion), another popular children’s book about mass oppression.

X. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer [1876] by Mark Twain

This was one of my favourite books growing up. We follow here a mischievous boy Tom who lives with his aunt. His street quests and romance with a girl Becky are very memorable. Author Mayne Reid (Osceola the Seminole, The Quadroon) and much later also Donna Tartt (The Little Friend) further made me realise how I love literature set in the Mississippi region.

XI. Pippi Longstocking (“Pippi Långstrump“) [1945] by Astrid Lindgren

This lovely Swedish children’s novel tells of Pippi Longstocking, an orphaned girl with a wide range of eccentricities and superhuman abilities, who befriends ordinary children Tommy and Annika. The book is filled with fun and humour, and its messages are designed to boost children’s confidence as they learn to accept and even cherish differences found in others. I also remember Lindgren’s Karlsson-on-the-Roof [1955].

XII. Goosebumps [1992 – 1997] by R.L. Stine

This American series was my literary introduction to horror (aside from scary fairy-tales), and I remember being thrilled by these books as a child. They were translated from English to Russian, and my favourite books from the series were Be Careful What You Wish For...[1993], The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight [1994], A Night in Terror Tower [1995] and The Headless Ghost [1995].

Previously on my blog I also talked about two other books which were my favourite as a child: Scarlet Sails  (“Алые паруса“) [1923] by Alexander Grin, which is a story of love and hope, focusing on Assol, a girl in a small fishing-village, who believes in a prophecy; and Valentina Oseeva’s Dinka (“Динка”) [1959], a classic children’s book about the joys of childhood that portrays a touching friendship between tomboy girl Dinka, aged eight, and an orphaned cabin-boy Lenka, in revolutionary Russia.

What books did you love as a child? How do you think your early reading experience contributed to shaping you as an adult reader today?

65 thoughts on “12 Favourite Books From My Childhood

  1. This is a sweet post! As a kid I loved anything by L.M. Montgomery but especially her Emily series, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Jim Kjelgaard’s dog books. The Wind in the Willows was definitely a favourite too; I’m actually reading it aloud to my daughters right now and enjoying it so much again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I feel like Montgomery is one author I missed out on growing up since I hear everyone speaking fondly of her books. Anne of Green Gables is a book I hear about most, but I am sure Emily is great too. I also liked The Hobbit and Lewis’s works, and, yes, The Wind in the Willows is a lovely book. I want to re-read it one of these days too. I am sure it still retains its charm!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful post! When I was a kid I read a series of biographies about famous people when they were a kid my age. My school library had at least thirty of them, and I read them all as a fourth grader. As a tiny child, I remember a British book called Nicholas Thomas about a mischievous cat who was always getting into trouble. My mother read it to me until I could read it myself. How I wish I’d kept it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you loved it! Interesting. It must have been very inspiring to read stories of famous people when they were kids, and I am sure every country has at least one prominent children’s book about a mischievous cat! As for keeping old children’s books – that is one of regrets of my lifetime, though I could not help doing anything about it at a time. Like my most cherished soft and white teddy bear, my parents at one point must have donated nearly all of my children’s books and I so wished they kept at least a few of them. I still remember all my favourite books’ covers and pictures inside.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “The Wind in the Willows” is such a beautiful and gently humorous book — a huge favourite from my childhood too! I also loved the works of Rudyard Kipling (especially “Just So Stories”) and “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad to know you also loved “The Wind in the Willows! “Just so Stories” sound vaguely familiar, and I must have read at least some of them in translation, such as “How the Camel Got His Hump”. My childhood’s Kipling was also re-retellings of The Jungle Book.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Some great books! Misty of Chincoteague looks interesting. I recall I loved stories about horses as a child, maybe until I read one re-telling of Black Beauty and it traumatised me a bit.

      Like

        1. Oh, yes. There was a Scholastic book club from which kids could order paperbacks through the school. That’s where I got my copy of Misty. There was a follow-on book about a horse from Assateague, but I don’t remember the name.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. I am glad to know you were also into Goosebumps! I remember being impressed by the series’ various “twists”, such as main characters making friends with other children only to find out later that these children are in fact ghosts.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Neither would I, but they were still fun and thrilling, and certainly made an impression on that age group. I remember so many chapters in the books ending with a cliffhanger. They were very fast-reads. The family turn inside out in that story? That’s so crazy!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, it’s so interesting to read about some of the Russian and other European classics that for English readers were not available or too obscure for me to encounter growing up. My own favorites were the Oz books, the Narnia books, Madeleine L’Engle, George MacDonald, Joan Aiken, E. Nesbit … all the classic fantasies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your favourites! Very interesting. I wish I read L’Engle’s books as either a child or a teenager. The Oz books are the most familiar to me from your list. The curious fact is that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was actually re-written in Russia as The Wizard of the Emerald City and issued under a different name – by Alexander Volkov, with some minor changes here and there, including changes in names, but it is essentially the same story. So, Soviet and then Russian children talked of Ellie instead of Dorothy and of Goodwin instead of the Wizard, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m also a big fan of The Wind in the Willows. My mother introduced me to it when I was little, and I was thrilled when I was able to read it on my own. The same held true for Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. I love Winnie the Pooh to this day, such a gentle, bumbling soul. I loved my early edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with the gory bits left in. And Pippi Longstocking (I wanted to BE Pippi Longstocking!). I loved the original Mary Poppins books. (She had a bit of an edge to her.) I could go on, but I won’t!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Winnie the Pooh is lovely! I also adore it and I wish I had been exposed to it more as a child. My early memories of it are connected to various cartoons and animations (including Soviet versions of the story), rather than books. Mary Poppins and Grimm’s Fairy Tales are fantastic too! I have re-read some of these fairy-tales recently and I was surprised how much gore and even implied violence was inside – I guess I may have some earlier version too.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It certainly is, Diana. “Winnie the Pooh” and “The House on Pooh Corner” were my favorites. Read to me by mother at bedtime. Quoting and reminiscing from memory (indelible memories): it’s time for a little something (Pooh’s honey jar), “knock if an answer is required, ring if an answer in not required” (Owl’s doorbell, which may have been Eyore’s tail), “Tiddly pom … how cold my toes are growing” … “Why does a bird? I don’t know why. / Coddleston, Coddleston, Coddleston pie.”

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful post, Diana! Loved reading about your favourite books as a child! I loved the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island when I was a child. They are two of my alltime favourite books. I also loved the Jules Verne adventures. I have the English translation of the Pushkin fairytales that you have mentioned. The artwork in it is so beautiful. I read The Little Prince and Pippi Longstocking as a grown-up and loved them both. I also loved Astrid Lindgren’s ‘Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter’. Have you read that? Scarlet Sails and Dinka and The Blue Arrow and Timur and his Squad are all new to me. I would love to read them. I have never read the Goosebumps series somehow. I didn’t read much horror as a child, I think. Thanks for sharing your favourites 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am glad you also loved The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and stories of Jules Verne! I don’t think I read “Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter” (of if I did as a child, I don’t think I remember!). I’ve heard that the 2014 animation series of it is also good, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Re “Treasure Island,” it is probably an obvious statement, but I am pretty sure I read it young, and also, all or part, “Tom Sawyer.” Anyway, I read “Treasure Island” a couple of times as an adult, and it is both a unique work, one of a kind, and a complete masterpiece in every respect. A boy’s book written for Lloyd Osbourne, the son of Fanny, Stevenson’s future wife; and a book for readers of all ages. Long John Silver is pure evil, a psychopath’s psychopath; Pew with his cane is scary; Dr. Livesey with his weaknesses of character is perfectly drawn; the conversations (such as among the plotting shipmates (whom Jim overhears in the apple barrel) and the incidents are perfectly rendered. A slender book, a gem.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I love the episode where Jim overhears the conversation in the apple barrel! I remember as a child I had this gorgeous book illustration of him sitting there. You really made me want to re-read Treasure Island and hopefully I will do so soon. I also had no idea it was written for Lloyd Osbourne, so interesting.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great variety of books! I must read The Wind in the Willows, I’m going to put together a list of children’s classics to read because I do feel I’ve missed out on a lot. I remember loving David Copperfield and Jane Eyre and of course, Anne of Green Gables!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great that you loved David Copperfield too! I hoped someone would mention it because I remember it so well from my childhood. I believe it is my childhood exposure to Dickens which makes me now love classics and literary fiction so much – because, really, with Dickens, one is pretty much introduced to the best that literature in English has to offer, isn’t it? I think I first read Jane Eyre in my late teens, so Bronte, as well as Austen, were relatively late introductions for me! I read Gone with the Wind when I just turned 15 though! If I can brag about something here lol 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This wonderful post fills me with nostalgia, not that I was exposed to children’s classics in my own childhood, but because I read them to my own children. I’m still catching up with so many…recently read the Chronicles of Narnia series. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie books were wonderful to read with my daughter back in the 70s. L’ Engle’s books were read together as well. I agree totally with your love of Dickens! I’ve yet to read The Wind in the Willows. Better late than never 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you agree on Dickens and I hope you love The Wind in the Willows. I am really not sure what impression this book will make on an adult today, but I remember it as a very fun read when I was young! I have never actually read Little House on the Prairie, but, you are right, it is never too late! There are often such heart-warming, simple and kind messages inside children’s books (often old classics) that even adults can discover something special and worth remembering within the pages!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I also loved the Wind in the Willows. Others that quickly come to mind are The Secret Garden; The Hobbit; Nobody’s Boy, Remi; The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and others by Joan Aiken; The Phantom Tollbooth; The Wheel on the School and others by Meindert DeJong; Rifles for Watie; My Side of the Mountain.

    While all of the stories are fiction, they are mainly realistic or historical fiction. Many cover serious topics like war, survival, adventure, and hardship. I now gravitate to non-fiction and historical fiction.

    Thanks for this fun exercise. I re-read many of these books to my own kids and enjoyed them just as much the second time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Carol. History and historical fiction make very good reading for children (based on my experience). I lived reading about American heroes.

      A few if not more of the young adult books of fiction I read were in part hortatory in nature, offering” lessons” about courage, virtue, and being faithful to values. These simple lessons seemed inspiring to me and not treacly.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thank you for sharing your childhood books! I never actually read The Secret Garden, but have heard about it. It is on my TBR. I also had a well-illustrated book The Hobbit. It definitely has a feel of a bedtime story (Tolkien wrote it as such for his own children). The others I am less familiar with, but Meindert DeJong’s creations are very curious and I will be checking them out, thanks! Like you, I read many adventure stories too and agree with Roger above too that they are great in sending out certain messages and imbedding certain values, as well as introducing history. Jack London and Mayne Reid introduced me to the American West and now I love historical fiction with memorable protagonists and a good adventure inside.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I highly recommend The Wheel on the School. It’s such a delightful story. I’m glad you plan to read The Secret Garden but would also like to encourage you to read The Phantom Tollbooth. It’s a child’s adventure fantasy but it is packed with word play that will please most adults. Great for any age.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I forgot to mention (and left out of my own blog post about childhood books) the poem “Wynken Blynken, and Nod” by Eugene Field, a nineteenth century popular American writer who wrote feature articles for the Chicago Daily News and other papers. My mother read this brief children’s poem (essentially a nursery rhyme) to me over and over again. It will never seem old fashioned or out of style to me. One can easily find it on the internet.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I wasn’t a big reader growing up. I loved my fair share of ‘choose your own adventure books’ as a teenager. I also read the occasional James Bond novel (my mum thought Diamonds Are Forever was a sleazy romance novel) But what I most remember is a book called Harry and Hortense at Hormone High. I don’t know why that was such a highlight. It’s been forever seared in my mind for decades.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! Haven’t heard of Harry and Hortense at Hormone High, but on my way to checking it out! I agree, some books have this amazing ability to be imprinted in our minds and I think it most likely to happen in childhood and teenage years. Perhaps that is when we are truly open to all kinds of knowledge and in later years see everything though a prism of something already imbedded, an interesting thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I have read a lot of these same books as a child too Diana especially Wind in the Willows this brings back a lot of great memories for me too. I think even as an adult some of these books can be enjoyable still. I reread Black Beauty recently, it’s a classic. I really want to read Pushkin’s fairytales now, thank you for this amazing review Diana 💜 hope you are well

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad you agree Roger, yes it’s an amazing work of Fiction Black Beauty it’s from the horse’s perspective and it’s like you are living in the mind and body of a horse for a while. As a lover of animals this is amazing. I heard somewhere that Black Beauty when it came out changed the treatment of work horses and carriage horses for the better. Fiction like that can change people to become kinder to animals. Same possibly as Charlotte’s Web with pigs too.

        Like

      2. Thank you very mucy.

        In a blog post of mine, “My Early Reading”

        https://rogersgleanings.com/2015/11/05/roger-w-smith-essay-on-early-reading/

        I wrote:

        At a fairly early age, I read the classic Black Beauty (originally published in 1877) by Anna Sewell. This book made a very strong impression me. It is very well written.

        The story is told in the first person by the horse, Black Beauty, who is the narrator. The novel recounts the story of Black Beauty’s life as it is experienced under a succession of different owners, or “masters.” Some of the owners are cruel.

        All I recall from reading the book as a child, the impression the book made on me then was that Black Beauty’s life was one of unremitting misery: an unending progression from one cruel master to another, with the course of the horse’s life leading to an inevitable decline. This characterization is true of a lot of the plot, but not all of it, as it turns out. When I first read the book, though I was greatly impressed by it, it seemed to me unbearably sad and gloomy. That it undeniably is, in places, in the sections where the horse is overworked and mistreated. But why did this impression predominate with me? I think because that view of Black Beauty’s life jibed with my view of own life as a sad one in which I was often mistreated. The scenes in the book of this nature were the ones that stuck in my mind.

        Much to my surprise, I discovered, when I listened to the audiobook later, as an adult, that the novel actually ends happily, with Black Beauty in good circumstances, and that in other sections of the book, Black Beauty does have good masters (in contrast to many sections of the book in which the horse is cruelly mistreated).

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to re-read Black Beauty too (I don’t remember much about it) and I really recommend Pushkin’s fairy-tales. They may not be as great as in the original, but they are still very good, wondrous with lots of wisdom, nuance and vivid characters! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s