Friday 7 July 2017

First Remembered Read ~ Children's Story

Those of us who read, and who are influenced by books, tend to squirrel away our memories of all the stories we have read over the years. 

And yet, there is always that one special book tucked away in the far corner of your mind which reminds you just why you love reading so much…

During July and August I've invited a few friends to share their First Remembered Reads

My First Remembered ~ Children's Story

I'm thrilled to welcome to Jaffareadstoo

Kathryn Haydon, author of Making the Difference 


My first remembered story is ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ by Alison Uttley. I can see it now - a small, pale blue, hardback edition. The front cover depicted a summery scene. A wide expanse of sky, with birds in the distance (? gulls) and a picture of said Little Grey Rabbit, carrying a wicker basket and wearing a snowy white, billowing apron. The mind can play tricks, but I think she was standing on a grassy hilltop, gazing out to sea. 

This book followed me into adulthood, becoming more battered with each house move, until eventually lost. It was a gift from my Mother and she used to read it to me; I must have been about four years old. I loved the animal illustrations more than the story itself, but even more I loved the sense of closeness with my Mum. Although it was more often my Dad who read to me, I only recall Mum reading ‘Little Grey Rabbit.’ For some reason, this feels significant – as though the book marks something special.

Looking back over my shoulder, I see the long, lazy days of childhood filled with sunshine and warmth. I know there must have been dark and shadow, too - - - but whenever I think of this book I don’t see that. I see only light, summer evenings, heavy with the scent of lilac from the tree beneath my bedroom window. 

Sometime later, much to my delight, the family acquired a kitten; a beautiful Siamese and Burmese cross, with a bit of tabby thrown into the mix. We called him Fuzzipeg, named after one of the characters in the book. Fuzzy, for short. He was a very special cat. In fact, worthy of a story of his own – but that is for another day, not now. 

In truth, there were many books I cherished and, yes, stories I enjoyed more. Yet, when faced with the question, ‘what is my first remembered story?’ the answer was easy. It is always ‘Little Grey Rabbit,’ the story I associate with my Mum – and the acquisition of our first family pet! 

Mezzanotte Publications

Jane Corry, author of Blood Sisters

Photo credit: Justine Stoddart

I still have my very first children’s book. It’s called ‘I ASK A BLESSING’ by Joan Gale Thomas and was first published by A.R. Mowbray in 1955. 

It’s a collection of little prayers with some very sweet illustrations of a little girl with blonde hair and an alice band. I remember wishing that I looked like her. At the beginning, there’s a section which starts ‘God Bless Mummy and Daddy and…’

Then you have to fill in the rest. I wrote ‘…and Doris  to keep me a good girl and all my nice kind friends. Our men.’

Doris was my grandmother who lived with us. We weren’t allowed to call her ‘grannie’ because it made her feel old. As for the ‘our men’ bit, I had clearly meant ‘Amen’!

The book might not be everyone’s cup of tea now but it gave me values. For example, there is a prayer about looking after the elderly and also a blessing on the home.

My life went on to have lots of ups and downs. My parents divorced and later, I did too. But now I’ve remarried and, as well as being a full time novelist, I look after my granddaughter two days a week. She’s just old enough to ‘read’ my battered copy with its brown sticky tape and scrawls. It just goes to show the power of books…. 


Carol Cooper, author of Hampstead Fever

Book Title/ Author

Alice in Wonderland and Though the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I know that the correct title is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but my edition says Alice in Wonderland on the spine.

Sharing your memories, what it means to you?

This wasn’t the first book I ever read. That accolade probably goes to a little book of nursery rhymes. But Alice in Wonderland was the first book I read again and again. Many of the words, like ‘quadrille’, were difficult at the time, but the whole book was magical. I read it to myself, and through it I entered a weird but welcoming world where all things seemed possible, no matter how improbable they were.

Does it remind you of a special time?

I didn’t find those particular years of my childhood (roughly between six and nine) very special. Being an only child at the time, I was often lonely. It was a time when my mother and I moved around a lot, and we seemed to live out of suitcase. Books became my friends, and I felt at home in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with its talking animals, and a principal character who speaks to herself. I especially loved the cats.

Did you love it or hate it?

I loved it. I even made up tunes for Jabberwocky and the other poems in the book.

Do you still have a copy of it?

I do still have that copy, and I’m glad to say I didn’t deface it as I did a few other books from my early childhood. It’s a 1946 hardback published by Grosset & Dunlap, with illustrations by John Tenniel, including coloured endpapers.


Hardwick Press

Huge thanks to Kathryn, Jane and Carol for sharing their memories with me today.

Next week : My First Poem

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