Childhood books

May 22, 2009 | My Jottings

With a passel of grandchildren in my life, children’s books are never far away. Right now there are several piles in the den, some in the living room, at least ten on our bedroom shelf, two on the dresser, one on the floor beside the bed, and one on the kitchen counter. I love sharing books with my grandchildren that I enjoyed as a child.

The books that I loved when I was little were:

Carol Ryrie Brink’s The Pink Motel.




I haven’t read this to my grandchildren yet but think I might this summer.  Actually, anything by Carol Ryrie Brink is wonderful. She is most famous for Caddie Woodlawn, but her The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein was also a favorite with my children years ago.




And Beverly Cleary books were great reads, especially for little girls. My granddaughter Clara is devouring Cleary’s books as fast as she can get her hands on them. This is her favorite out of all she’s read so far:





About three weeks ago I took two of my grandchildren to see a wonderful play at the Minneapolis Children’s Theater called Ramona Quimby.  Based on her other grandma’s recommendation, Clara is now reading Cleary’s Ellen Tebbits.




I also was addicted to Nancy Drew books. I didn’t like when they were revised and modernized even back then. I preferred the word “roadster” to “car,” and “pumps” to “shoes,” and I thought Nancy’s hair was much more attractive when it was called “titian” rather than “blond.”  One of the best Nancy Drew books was this one:





If I remember correctly, this story was set in Canada, and an evil crook (in the red coat, one inch away from an unsuspecting Nancy on this old book jacket) almost thwarts her ingenious sleuthing work that not even entire police departments and experienced attorneys could outdo.







 I have no remembrance of why I liked this book so much, but I owned it and read it several times. I recall staring at the cover a lot. I’d be surprised to learn that any of you read this one – did any of you read this one?










And what childhood would be complete without the adventure and imagining this Newbery award book brings? Some of the concepts in L’Engle’s books aren’t easy to explain, but even youngsters are fascinated by the thought of “tessering.”






I first learned about Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books in second grade when my teacher, Mrs. Lokken, read them out loud to us after lunch recess every day. It was hot where I grew up, and the lights would be turned out to keep the room cooler, and we would put our sweaty heads down on the desks and listen to these wonderful stories. I read them to my children and now my grandchildren enjoy them:


Clara recently told me that her favorite Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story is “The Radish Cure.”


There are so many of course, but my final favorite today is this book, one of many written by Marguerite Henry:





This heartwarming book won the Newbery medal in 1949, and now sixty years later I just finished reading this true story to some grandchildren. It’s the kind of book that made them say at each chapter’s end: “Grandma, will you read one more chapter, please???”

I just love it when they say that.  🙂





Now it’s your turn. What is one (or some) of your favorite books from your childhood?


  1. Carolyn says:

    Well, since you read many of those stories to your children, some of the ones you mentioned above are my favorites as well. I read every single Beverly Cleary book, and I have vivid memories of reading “Dear Mr. Henshaw” aloud to Grandma Sooter. Other than that, I loved, loved, loved- “Among the Dolls” by William Sleator and “Behind the Attic Walls” by Sylvia Cassidy, both of which are kind of chilling for youth fiction.

  2. Deb says:

    I loved to read as a child, still do, but sadly have no memory of ever having been read to. I remember a day when I rode my bicycle to the library (it was about 1 mile from home), checked out my limit of books (5), hurried home to read them and then pedaled back to get more. The librarian wouldn’t let me check out any more books as I had already checked out my limit for that day. 🙁 I was one sad (and mad) little girl!
    The books I dearly loved were “Black Beauty”, “Anne of Green Gables”, “Heidi” and everything Nancy Drew!

  3. Pat says:

    I loved Trixie Belden books so much I practically knew them by heart. I wanted to BE Trixie Belden. I also loved a lot of the books that came from the Scholastic weekly reader that we could order from at school. A few that come to mind are “A Horse of Her Own”, “Mystery on Shadow Pond” and “Mystery on Nine Mile Marsh”.

  4. janet bishop- magina says:


    i just came across your blog while googling “Pink Motel”. For years I have tried to remember more about a book that my 4th grade teacher read to us. It was about a family traveling to Florida and all I really remember is that there were pink cinder block motels ( I was horrified of the idea of motels being made of foundation material and painted pink…so gauche) and the family got in a “precarious situation” on a drawbridge. Since you have the book maybe you can confirm that I am on the right track. I also adored the old Nancys and Trixie Belden..almost any mystery. I can’t wait to have grandchildren so that I can read to them. Reading is one of the great joys of my life.

  5. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for your comment, Janet – welcome! I loved The Pink Motel as a child and have read it to my grandchildren. I don’t remember a drawbridge, however! The family does go to Florida because they inherit a pink motel from their Uncle Hiram. The two children, Kirby and Bitsy, meet several interesting people who come yearly to stay at the motel, and they solve a mystery in the process. If this isn’t the book you’re looking for (still can’t place the drawbridge), I’d recommend it anyway! And yes, grandchildren are one of life’s greatest joys. Blessings!

  6. Debbie says:

    Just googled mrs piggle wiggle hoping to find her books somewhere to save for my “someday” grandchildren and came across your blog. How delightful! We liked the same books. I still have nancy drew number one secret in the old clock that was my favorite. I also like the Harriet the Spy series. Thank you for the memories.

  7. Just Julie says:

    Hello Debbie! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I did the same as you — planned what books I’d have before my grandchildren were born. It’s like a wonderful dream reading the books to them that meant so much to me. God bless you and happy reading Debbie! xo

  8. Leah says:

    Oh, I did not like the modernized versions of Nancy Drew very much either. I loved it when Nancy wore 1930’s length skirts and pumps. I studied the drawings in those books endlessly and drew my own scenes.

    And, although I appreciate Anne of Green Gables now, I was turned off in my youth by the copies we had in our local library. They were “modernized” with a picture of a sour-looking Sissy Spacek type Anne on the cover. Straight out of the movie “Carrie”. Just yuck.

  9. Just Julie says:

    I loved the Russell Tandy (I hope that’s right) drawings too, Leah. She looked like an Ava Gardner or someone from that era. 🙂 I like to watch the Anne of Green Gables movie at least once every year. What a yearning it produces! xoxo

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