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gertrude

December 2018

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reading

When I Was Seven



What is it that makes seven such a magical age for reading? I’ve been wondering about this because my current bedtime read (as a break from the daytime books I have on the go) is What Katy Did. I’m pretty sure I was seven when I first read it and looking at it now I’m surprised. The language is old fashioned. It’s full of references I couldn’t possibly have got. Yet it’s so entertaining that I read it over and over again and still enjoy it today.



One day my mother came back from shopping in Croydon with a surprise for me: a Puffin copy of The Secret Garden; the very one shown above. It became my favourite childhood book.

I may have mentioned this before and if so, sorry to bore you. From the age of six until I was twelve I had to have an annual check up with X-rays at one of the big London hospitals. It was always winter. There were bus changes with long, cold waits for the bus. Then long, dull waits in bleak corridors at the hospital. In order to sweeten this pill for me, my mother bought me every year for that day a shiny, new, hardback book, which she could ill afford. Why she picked Jennings’ Diary for the year I was seven I don’t know (perhaps I’d heard the stories on Children’s Hour?) but it started a life-long love affair. I now have a complete collection of Jennings books but the first I read remains my favourite. Even now, I just have to think, ‘Mr Wilkins missing link’ to laugh out loud.



I could add Heidi and An Old-Fashioned Girl to the short list but that will do for now. Can you remember your reading from that far back? Are there books read at seven that have stayed with you all your life? I’d be really interested to know.

Comments

Oh I love the Jennings books! My mum read them to me when I was little and then I read and re-read them over again. I hope they're not too ancient for my own kids to enjoy.
I bet they'll love them. It was because huskyteer liked the books so much that I started collecting.
I think I also read What Katy Did around then. Definitely also the first Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read an awful lot, so I can't remember everything anymore, and I suppose it's just the classics that stick in my brain.
I read an awful lot, so I can't remember everything anymore

That must be true of me as well. It's just that I've kept those particular books. Your reading sounds seven-ish to me :-)

(Anonymous)

I

I loved Enid Blyton's Hollow Tree House. I loved the thought of having a secret home in a tree trunk! She tends to be maligned today, but must have brought thousands of children to the pleasures of reading.

Re: I

Although I read a lot of Blyton (what child didn't?) she was never a favourite of mine, apart from the Malory Towers books, which I read later.
My sister and I had Sunny Stories magazine when we were very young.

I'm all for books which get children reading.
The only thing that I definitely read when I was 7 was all the issues of Reader's Digest we had in the house. I can still faintly remember that fascination with *everything*, and the way I took everything equally seriously.

Not that I didn't read plenty of books that year, but I don't know which!
I totally believe that, as I would also read anything found in our house, even books on baby care!
I think the most mind-expanding period of reading for me was around the age of 11, but that might just be part of the personal mythos I've built around what a great year that was.

Certainly Narnia featured when I was sevenish, as well as Jennings, and of course The Hundred and One Dalmatians. I don't think it was much later than that that I tackled The Hobbit, either...
Most of those seem to have lasted for you!
All my favourites :-)

I re-read What Katy Did a few weeks back. I don't remember the language seeming old-fashioned when I was 7, either, but I think that we are very open to new language at that age.

I am going to re-read Jennings soon; I have a few (new) copies on the shelf and I will make a start on them. Jennings' Little Hut was my favourite :-)

I can't remember exactly what I was reading at 7, but I read the Narnia books at 5, and also The Secret Garden (Rosie was 5, too - I was reading it to her, and she was reading it to herself as soon as I walked out of the room because she wanted to know what happened next). At 7 I think I would have been reading Ballet Shoes and Enid Blyton, and probably Little Women. Dad was reading The Wind on the Moon, The Pirates of the Deep Green Sea and The Hobbit to us around that time. I was 10 or 11 when I read Oliver Twist and Wuthering Heights (I remember the class I was in at school).

I have never claimed to be very bright or academic, but I was a fairly precocious reader, having been taught to read very young, and with a constant stream of good books flowing into the house, Dad being a school librarian at the time. It also helped that we didn't have a television, I had a very early bed time (6.30) and I often didn't go to sleep until the early hours! That gave me a lot of time for reading :-)


Edited at 2015-11-13 04:34 pm (UTC)
Reading is the best education!

Interesting how the same authors keep cropping up in these comments. LJ-ers have good taste :-)
when I read a Jennings book at primary school someone said " they are boys books" which put me right off. I think now,50 years later,I shall find some and catch up on what I missed
How mean! And the very reason J K Rowling used only her initials as author of the HP books.

As you see, Jennings has more than one fan here so give the books a go and you may be converted. The early ones are the best, IMO.
Hmm, I can't be sure what I read at seven, and it's confused because I was reading in Welsh before English, but What Katy Did may have been one, Heidi too. I have a distinct memory of being told that I couldn't read Good Wives because I was too young (!?!?) which miffed me having enjoyed Little Women. It may or may not have happened during this period.

As another commentator has said, you're open to language as a young reader, and as for references you don't fully get, well, you understand them at your own level, which can sometimes be very wrong, but sometimes close enough. I would imagine that as a child you're so used to imperfectly understanding things about life that you accept it readily.
Yes, I think it's true that children read at their own level and take what they want from the story. It's possible to enjoy language without fully understanding it.

Intrigued that Welsh was your first language.
Intrigued that Welsh was your first language.

Well, it still is :) I keep meaning to address this somehow on my journal, but the right opportunity (or book) hasn't come up.
I certainly read What Katy Did when I was seven, as I have a diary from that summer to prove it; I don't know whether it was for the first time though. I was reading E. Nesbit around that time too - not the full length fantasies, which I only came to later, but the fairy stories, The Railway Children and the Bastable stories. I was in hospital in the autumn, and I think that may have been when my copy of The Secret Garden appeared; I don't remember actually reading anything while I was in though! It was probably also around that year that my father read me the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit.
I'm loving that there's so much childhood reading in common here!

The first Nesbit I read was The Story of the Treasure Seekers and I felt pleased that I'd guessed who the narrator was.
Yes, me too - I remember wondering why the narrator had said no one would guess, as it was so obvious!
I was an avid Enid Blyton fan from a very early age (5ish) but The Secret Garden was also a big favourite. I remember getting a lovely volume of Hans Christian Andersen stories one Christmas which I loved, and Grimm's Fairy Tales were a favourite later on. I still love fairy tales and horror to this day :)
Snap! I was also given a Hans Anddersen, probably at about that time. I loved it but it didn't lead to a love of horror in later life :-)
I was 8 when I read my first Jennings book and was hooked - even then I was a sucker for a series. At 7 I remember reading Malory Towers, the Faraway Tree and Famous Five books. My mother brought home some hand me down books from a colleague's daughter which included What Katy Did and What Katy Did At School - it was years before I realised there were more in the series. As a child who read voraciously there were often things in books I found a bit baffling but I don't think it bothered me much. I remember liking the Bobby Brewster books when I was 7 and Mrs Pepperpot.
I was a sucker for a series

I'm sure I would have been but I read so many books from the library without realising that they were part of a series. For instance, I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (and crept into my parents' wardrobe, hoping), but didn't realise there were any more books.

There seems to be a common theme here that for keen readers, not understanding everything you read doesn't matter much.

(Anonymous)

Children's books

I never read What Katy Did, but I loved Heidi, and I heard Jennings on Children's Hour (who can remember The Lost Planet, the drama serial? And Return to the Lost Planet - the planet's name being Hesikos, I think!)
Best of all I loved Enid Blyton's two books, Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm and Six Cousins Again, which I now have (again) on my bookshelves. I loved the Famous Five books, too. But I think the most treasured of my childhood memories was reading Lorna Hill' ballet books, starting with A Dream of Sadler's Wells. I have managed to collect them all again, with their very pretty dust jackets.
Oh, and I loved the Angela Brazil school stories which had been written at least a generation before my own, but again, as with others reading the Katy books, I didn't think they were in any way old fashioned at the time of reading.
Margaret P

Re: Children's books

Oh, Children's Hour. Wasn't it good?

I also liked The Sadlers Wells books but when I was older. Like you I've now collected the lot and all Angela Brazil's books! I think you're right about children not realising that books are old fashioned; they somehow fit the stories into their own world.