Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

It’s Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times again which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness. I must say that I’m really enjoying this meme, getting a keek at other readers’ bookshelves and at the same time it’s pushing me to read books that I had forgotten I had, mind you the lack of visits to libraries during this Covid lockdown is helping too. Last week I read Merlin Dreams which featured in my ‘Insane’ post.

Songs with Music from a Child's Garden of Verses cover
The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories cover

So this week I’m sticking to the same bookshelf – Songs with Music from a Child’s Garden of Verses by R.L. Stevenson is illustrated by Margaret W. Tarrant. It’s an old book dating from either 1918 or the 1930s depending on who you believe. I think I bought my copy at a specialist book fair, possibly the Christian Aid one in Edinburgh which of course didn’t take place this year. Anyway the illustrations are charming and you can see some of them here.

The Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple is illustrated by Rebecca Guay and is obviously aimed at older children – girls I suppose. It features Coppelia, Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Shim Chung: The Blind Man’s Daughter, The Sleeping Beauty and Daphnis and Chloe. You can see some of the illustrations here.

Mother Goose cover

I love Michael Foreman’s illustrations and his Mother Goose book has a foreword by Iona Opie, the collector of children’s rhymes and folklore. Opie says: ‘The nursery rhyme repertoire stays remarkably constant. What need for new nursery rhymes when there are always new children?’ But this book contains quite a lot of rhymes that I had never heard of. This is quite a thick book with 152 pages jam packed with rhymes and hundreds of illustrations and it even has an index of first lines. You can see some of Foreman’s illustrations here.

Fairy Tales from Hans Andersen Cover

Lastly, Fairy Tales from Hans Andersen is a classic illustrated edition and the illustrations are by multiple artists, including Mabel Lucie Attwell, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, Arthur Rackham, W. Heath Robinson and many more. The back cover features the image below.

Attwell

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

This week in Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness I’m focusing on books for children (of all ages).

Children's Bookshelf

This shelf is in the smallest spare bedroom of our home and when we moved here after Jack retired I grabbed it as a sort of hobby room of my own for my stuff, which includes books and sewing/crafting materials. It is not at all tidy in fact sometimes the whole place resembles a burst cushion, but if you are a crafter you’ll probably understand how that comes about!

Anyway the shelf is home to a lot of classic children’s illustrated books – Winnie the Pooh, The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows, European fairy tales and others.

I love Kate Greenaway’s illustrations although some people complain that her figures aren’t well proportioned. I sort of agree but they are very charming and the copy of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning is lovely. Apparently the book was first published in 1888 with wood block designs engraved by Edward Evans. You can see some of the Kate Greenaway illustrations here.

I also love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. My copy of his version of Rip van Winkle which is written by Washington Irving is a delight, the colours are muted as you would expect of Rackham, but that adds to their attraction to me. You can see some of the images here.

Melisande cover

I had to buy E.Nesbit’s Melisande when I saw that it was illustrated by P.J. Lynch. I wanted it as soon as I saw the cover. I love those medieval European buildings as well as Melisande and her gorgeous flowing locks. You can see some of the illustrations here.

The Nutcracker retold by Anthea Bell has lovely illustrations, although more modern than some of the books on this shelf. The illustrations are by Lisbeth Zwerger, you can see some of her work here.

Lastly – for the moment – Merlin Dreams is a book that I haven’t read yet. It’s written by Peter Dickinson and illustrated by Alan Lee who is apparently a highly regarded fantasy illustrator. This one doesn’t have so many illustrations, it’s obviously meant for older children. Alan Lee’s work is very ethereal looking to me, perfect for this book of Celtic fantasy. You can see some of his work here

Children’s illustrated books

I still find myself eyeing up children’s books even although there are no wee ones in our family now, and sometimes I just have to add a few more to my collection. My most recent purchases have been:

Wenceslas cover

WENCESLAS by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Christian Birmingham. It’s obviously just a re-telling of the traditional Good King Wenceslas fairy tale but the illustrations are lovely and give a real sense of the falling snow. You can see for yourself here and can also see some of the other books he has illustrated, more for me to look out for!

And another book I bought recently is:

Minou cover

Minou – it’s a book about a cat called Minou whose ‘owner’ dies, so Minou ends up on the streets having to learn how to fend for herself. Minou lives in Paris and it was really the beautiful illustrations of Paris that attracted me to the book, but the story is a way of teaching little girls to be independent and confident, to rely on themselves. It was written by Mindy Bingham and illustrated by Itoko Maeno. You can see some illustrations here.

Some people on the internet are trying to sell this book for silly money – such as £88 but I bought a perfect copy (1st edition) for all of £3.

More William by Richmal Crompton

I was having a bit of a difficult time deciding which book to read a couple of weeks ago, nothing seemed to fit my mood. Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t read a ‘Just William’ book for ages. I galumph past my boxed set umpteen times every day as it’s in a bookcase half-way up the stairs – or on the mezzanine level if you’re an estate agent.

Anyway, it turned out that William was just what I needed to give me a guaranteed good laugh. Richmal Crompton (a woman) was born in Lancashire in 1890. The first story about William Brown appeared in 1919 in the Home magazine, 38 William books were written with the last one being published in 1970, after Richmal Crompton’s death. The Sunday Times said that the Just William series was “probably the funniest, toughest children’s books ever written.”

I don’t know what they meant by toughest but the books are a hoot and in this one William is 11 years old but he’s as anarchic as ever and gets up to all sorts of crazy high jinks much to the horror of his poor parents.

I think even modern day kids would love these stories although I’m quite glad that I didn’t give them to my own boys to read when they were wee. Life was chaotic enough without giving them more ideas!

It all reminds me so much of my own childhood with my older brother William who wasn’t much better than William Brown when it came to pea shooters, practical jokes and general mayhem. He always got off with it too! I’m not bitter, honestly!