Friday, May 14, 2010

The Joy of Once Upon A Time...

by Jennifer AlLee

By the time I was three years old, I was already reading. At least, I thought I was. One of my favorite books was Cinderella. Not the Disney version, but a big, hard cover picture book with very ornate, French illustrations. For months, my mother read it to me every night. But one night I told her that I would read it to her. And I did.

At least, I thought I did. In actuality, I'd memorized the book. I knew exactly what words went with which pictures. And while that impressed my mom, she had to let me know that I hadn't quite mastered the ability to read.

So maybe I wasn't reading at three, but by then, I had learned the magic of books. I knew that "Once upon a time" was quite often preferable to my reality. When I did start reading, well, there was no stopping me! And it was a good thing. By the time I was in fourth grade and diagnosed with a chronic illness, I knew I could rely on books to take me away from the bed I often couldn't get out of and far away from the hospital after surgery.

Books have always been my friends. So, as our week of Once upon a time...  winds down, I thought it would be fun to share some of my childhood favorites with you.

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
I was drawn to stories of underdogs and animals. I found both in this story of an Arabian stallion who went from pulling carts in the back alleys of London to earning the title The Godolphin Arabian and becoming one of three Thoroughbred foundation sires. I read it so many times the cover almost fell off.

101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Another one that was falling apart! This is the book the Disney movie is based on, but there are some big differences. For one thing, there are three adult Dalmatians involved: Pongo, Mrs. Pongo, and Perdita (whose own puppies were stolen and then the humans brought her in as a kind of wet nurse to help Mrs. Pongo and... it's a long story). There's also a lot more of the Pongos and their journey to save the puppies. And Cruella deVil is even more awful than she is in the movie. It's a fantastic romp with a very happy ending... for everyone but Cruella.

The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene
This is the first Nancy Drew book I ever owned. Yes, I know it's number five... but it has a horse on the cover! Naturally, that sold me. And really, you could read the Nancy Drew books in any order. I went on to own the entire set and read many of them multiple times. Nancy, Bess and George honed my sleuthing skills and gave me a love of mysteries and puzzle solving (something which has come in surprisingly handy in my roles of wife and mom).

I could go on... and on... and on... but I'll stop here and give you a turn. Were any of these books on your childhood shelf? What was the dearest book of your childhood? OR, what book did you think you'd like but couldn't stand?

Photo credits -
Cinderella - K.Y. Craft/Chronicle Books (this isn't the one I had as a child, but you get the idea.
King of the Wind - Marguerite Henry/Scholastic books
The Secret of Shadow Ranch - Simon & Schuster


  1. Jen, I probably had some version of Cinderella, but not this fancy one. Very pretty.

    I was trying all week to remember the name of a series we had. I think it was called Sweet Pickles. They had one animal for every letter of the alphabet and each had their own book.

    What the heck is a Xerus, anyway?

  2. I have a fat book with all kinds of fairy tales in it. My favorite (I think because I liked the name) was Snow White and Rose Red. I'd go on but I must run and parent

  3. Oh, Jen, what beautiful book covers. All great books! It made me remember how much I loved Misty of Chincoteague. A love that evolved into an obsession with the barrier islands and visiting those wild horses.

    Such a nice segue into tomorrow's post on Black Beauty. (Shameless Plug)
    I had these little tiny cardboard books that were probably about 3 inches tall--I should say I still have them. I hid them away from my children (we 'only' child types tend to protect our stuff, eh?)

    I have a really pretty book that I can't recall the name or author of right now, but you've made me think of it. Thanks for the reminders. I'll be looking over my secret stacks tonight!

    This theme has been a lot of fun!

  4. I also loved the American Girl books. I know that there's a whole industry that has sprung up around those stories now, but when I was a kid there were only Kirsten, Samantha and Molly stories. The dolls came pretty quickly. Not that I ever owned one, they were too pricey for our family. But I still pored over the magazines, dreaming and imagining and admiring.

    I especially liked the real history sections in the back of each story. Anyway I haven't seen those mentioned here, but I do have some of them for my daughter when she's old enough to read them.

  5. As you know from my post a couple days ago, my fav book was the Poky Little Puppy.

    But when I went back to live with my mom, she had the fat book of Favoured Fairy Tales and I devoured those. She also had a set of Reader's Digest Junior stories which I read and in fact I still have those as well as the fairy tale book.

    Good post, Jen.

  6. Jen,
    Great post. Loved the book covers. I loved The Secret of Shadow Ranch too because I grew up on horses, but I also remembering being glued to the pages of The Ghost of Blackwood Hall. Maybe this was the beginning of my love for gothics because of the spooky, creepy feel. :)

  7. I had a big hardback version of Cinderella with gorgeous illustrations, too! I stared at those pages so long they seem to be burned into my brain. I've even scanned them into my computer and use them for wallpaper sometimes.

  8. Deb, YES, "Misty" was another great one, although I prefered "Stormy: Misty's Foal" (because of the storm and all... very exciting!)

  9. Jill, I had "The Ghost of Blackwood Hall" and almost put it in this post. That was another favorite. I think you and I must have read a lot of the same books :+}

  10. Another book I devoured was a big hardcover my grandma ordered from Reader's Digest - "Animals You Will Never Forget." It was full of short stories about amazing animals. The one that burned into my mind was about a Canadian goose that saved a child from a rabid dog. A true story that was tragic and heroic.

  11. That Cinderella version has a gorgeous cover. I'd have loved it too! I had an old book of my Grandma's on Pocahontas that I loved. I used to look at the ornate illustrations at naptime. Makes me feel cozy and secure just thinking about it.

    Secret of Shadow Ranch remains the #1 bestselling Nancy Drew to this day! It's a great one, and still appeals. My daughter did a fun 3D book report on it last year.

    Deb mentioned Misty of Chincoteague (oh I cannot spell that!). Wonderful. And I mentioned Jacob Have I loved the other day, which is one of my favorites still.

    I love this theme. Thanks, Jen!


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