Robert Southey once replied in a letter to Charlotte Bronte “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life and ought not to be”
Well Mr Southey – here’s a list of some of my favourite prove-you-wrong women in children’s literature…
- Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess
- Enid Blyton – too many books to mention! I loved her as a child
- Beatrix Potter – I think she needs no explanation
- Kate Greenaway – an incredible illustrator, growing up I had the book Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games and seem to remember lending it out when one of my friends at nursery had a Victorian themed party. Seriously if you’re kids are bored it has some great suggestions for games. It’s quite old fashioned (being Victorian and all) but some of the games children would still love today.
- J.K Rowling – So I’m not a die hard Harry Potter fan with capes and wands lurking around the house or a bolt of lightening tattooed across my forehead. I really enjoyed reading them though and I find the story of how her ideas came to her on a 4 hour delayed train truly inspirational.
- Judith Kerr – My boys still love her stories particularly of course The Tiger Who Came to Tea. When they’re older I’ll encourage them to read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. An incredible semi-autobiographical book about a Jewish family fleeing Nazi Germany.
- Kate Pankhurst – I couldn’t get away with writing a list of women in children’s literature without including Kate Pankhurst and her series of books. I think it’s fantastic for children (boys and girls!) to read about great women in history. She’s a distant-ish descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst but what a positive way to continue the family name! Fantastically Great Women Who Made History
- Johanna Spyri – I’ve only known her for writing Heidi but she is yet another inspirational woman. She wrote for adult and children’s books. Her first story “A Note on Vrony’s Grave” was about a woman’s life of domestic violence.
- E. Nesbit – Author of Five Children and It and The Railway Children. What a complicated life she had! She met Hubert Bland a political activist, got pregnant, got engaged but lived in a separate homes, Then she found out he was having an affair with his mother’s paid companion (Maggie Doran) who he fathered a child with. Nesbit then moved in with her husband, his mother and became friends with Doran. She then became more involved with political activism. Then her close friend got pregnant with Bland’s child… Nesbit’s life story sounds like a novel in itself. She is often perceived to be “the first modern writer for children”. This is a great article explaining how The Railway Children came to be How Did E Nesbit come to write the Railway Children? – The Guardian and it recommends this biography by Julia Briggs which I will certainly be reading A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit 1858-1924 – Julia Briggs
- Julia Donaldson – I could not write a list of inspirational authors without including this fabulous lady! It’s impossible to walk into a book shop or look for children’s books online without her name popping up. My boys love her and we read many of her books over and over again. Particularly “Toddle Waddle” – now when my 15month old wants us to read it…he makes quacking noises! I never realised the Gruffalo was based on a Chinese story about a girl and a tiger similar to this story . Personally, I always find it fascinating to find out where people get their inspirations from. It’s incredible to think that even a fleeting moment can change someone’s life or their perspective on things.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog and don’t think I’ll ever pick up another story or book without wondering about the person’s background and where their stories came from. I’d like to believe that if Mr Southey were alive today, he’d be eating his words and if he had children in today’s times, I would hope that he would be reading them some of these wonderful books written by wonderful women without a second thought…
One of my favourite parts about writing this blog, (my other favourite is that I’ve started writing stories and poems again) is that I get to read kids’ books and have a legitimate excuse for it! I enjoy reading adult literature too but there is something comforting about reading things I remember from childhood. Seriously, if you’ve had a tough day pick up a children’s book and get lost in it. Try it – it really works! I love re-reading Spike Milligan’s children’s poems, Roald Dahl books, Enid Blyton, Roger Mcgough’s “An Imaginary Menagerie” and another childhood favourite (which is at my mum’s but I’ve put it on my kindle) Michael Rosen’s “Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here”. Some of my best-loved all time classic books are “The Secret Garden”, “The Little Princess” and “Tom’s Midnight Garden”. The blog in some ways has helped me re-visit fond memories and I also love reading more modern authors and seeing what children are currently reading. Pseudonymous Bosch, Julia Donaldson, David Williams, J.K Rowling (ok showing my age as lots of adults have her books as a childhood memory! New-ish for me though :-))…the list could go on – If you have any suggestions of books you or your children have read I’d love to hear about them!
Anyhow, thought I’d do a review on the latest I’ve read:
My Brother’s Famous Bottom– By Jeremy Strong
This book is a great one for 7-9 year olds. I only realised after that it’s part of a series. It’s set in a slightly mad household. They’re struggling for cash as they have 3 children (the twins being the latest addition) and they audition the twins for a disposable nappy advert…it results in chaos! I loved the characters: There’s a boy called Nicholas, a set of twins, an angry neighbour and his wife, a motorbiking step-grandad, an outspoken grandma, a patient mum, a very funny dry humoured wind up-merchant dad and a goat. I found myself chuckling throughout. Short but sweet and I definitely want to read the next book in the series. Will be encouraging my boys (a baby and a toddler) to read it when they’re older. Very funny!
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
It’s so true. They say that necessity is the mother of invention but I believe imagination plays a big part in there too. If we looked at only what we know without curiosity and “what ifs” then we would surely never develop further than our own surroundings? For children imagination is so important for development, learning and of course fun!
It’s interesting to see how a child’s mind works. To give you an example, when we went to a fish and chip restaurant my eldest very excitedly started making loud chicken clucking noises. I kept asking him where the chickens were as I just couldn’t see it no matter how much he pointed. Throughout the meal he sporadically made the clucking noises followed by “look at the chickens Mummy!” He does have a random imagination sometimes but even so by the end of the meal curiosity got the better of me. I picked him up and took him to where he was vaguely pointing. It was a clock. Of some sailing boats “Look Mummy! Chickens!!!” Took me a few seconds but then I saw it….there are 2 “chickens” 😂
, that he will always have this imagination and that real life doesn't end up getting too much in the way.<<<<<<<<
d a lovely article on why imagination is so important and also a piece on how to encourage a healthy imagination in children. After all without imagination we may never have heard of amazing people such as Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, J.K Rowling, A.A. Milne, Julia Donaldson and many many more! What an emptier world that would be!
1. The Magic of Imagination and It’s importance for Kids<<< a href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/finance/family-matters/11393118/ways-encourage-child-imagination.html”>Five ways to encourage your child’s imagination
Well I ummed and ahed about which book to review today……Far too many childhood books to choose from. In the end I went with one (or in fact a series) that I used to read in bed, in the car (travel sickness allowing), at breakfast, at lunch and dinner (parents allowing!) It’s a great series of books and one I’d forgotten about until thinking of childhood books this week.
The Brer Rabbit Collection – By Enid Blyton
So this collection is by one of my favourite childhood authors. It’s based around the stories from African-American and Native-American folklore. The main character is a cunning rabbit (Brer Rabbit) who gets himself into (and out of) lots of situations and plays tricks on others using his cunning and wiley ways. Other characters include Brer Fox and Brer Bear. Would probably say children the age range is 6-8 but they may enjoy having the stories read to them from about 5. I really loved this series!
As we’re covering childhood this week thought I’d add my own short verse of how I remember some of mine and hopefully how my boys will remember some of theirs. (This was pre-phone/tablets/computers so we’ll see!!! 😂) Hope you enjoy x
By Kirsten Allen
Riding bikes as quickly as we can
Running after the ice cream van
In the park
Playing out until dark
Jumping in puddles