I was reluctant to participate in Spread the Love Book Challenge, not because I didn’t support the idea of gifting a beloved children’s book to a child or organization, but because there were so many books that I loved as a child! It’s very hard to pick one. There wasn’t one book that was a special favorite. So I looked over the lists online to refresh my memory, and it made me laugh to see how many of them I’ve read and loved!
I had a beloved aunt who gave me lots of books. All the classics – Treasure Island, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Gulliver’s Travels, The Swiss Family Robinson, Heidi, Kidnapped, The Wind in the Willows, The Call of the Wild, Bambi. Wow. Loved them all and even more. But that was when I was old enough to read them on my own. My parents were working people. Not particularly educated, so I don’t recall sitting on someone’s lap being read to. As a small child I was sat in front of the television during the day and watched the children’s shows or whatever else was on. But once I learned to read, you couldn’t stop me!
Beside the classic books my aunt brought me, I found The Bobbsey Twins series on my own. They made a HUGE impression on me. The Jungle Book’s story of Mowgli made a huge impression, for some reason. But the book that I recall as having an impact on my development to adulthood was really Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, by Margaret Sidney, published in 1881. I have no idea how I got the book, but I read it (the 1955 version) over and over. It was like a poor man’s Little Women (which I also loved). Here is the Amazon description of the book:
“Times are tough around the little brown house! The widowed Mrs. Pepper has to sew all day long just to earn enough to pay the rent and to feed the five growing Peppers. But she faces poverty and trouble with a stout heart, a smiling face, and the help of her jolly brood: blue-eyed Ben, the eldest and the man of the house at the age of 11; pretty Polly, so eager to cook for the family and make everyone happy and comfortable; and the three littlest Peppers, Joel, Davie, and baby Phronsie.
A favorite of children, parents, and teachers for generations, this heartwarming classic first appeared in 1880. Since then, it has inspired countless young imaginations with its tender tales of the ways in which courage and good cheer can overcome adversity.”
I no longer have a copy of the book, but I recall that part of it involved the little Peppers baking a cake for “Mamsie” which is what they called their Mom. It seemed very exotic to me. I think it was the fact that the children all were very focused on finding ways to help Mamsie appealed to me, because that was the center of my life as well. We were on the edge of poor and my Mom worked hard. I always wanted to find a way to make her smile. Sadly, I didn’t have little brothers and sisters to help me, but I did what I could.
The stove that the little Peppers baked Mamsie’s cake in.
I will be happy to donate a copy of the Five Little Peppers to my local library. I hope another struggling child can find hope in the idea of a family struggling together for survival. And the idea that what’s important is helping others, making the people we love happy, not having lots of toys and clothes. It inspired me to value people above things and the inner need to help those less fortunate than we are. Little Women had a hand in that as well. My choices as an adult were very much based on those values.
Don’t get me started on reminiscing about other books! There are a ton that impressed me as a child. Someone mentioned Nancy Drew. Yes! Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom. They all enriched my childhood. Reading is a wonderful refuge for children whose Real Life is far from perfect. If they can read. Support Literacy programs!
Nice job, Obscura and JazzBaby!