My favourite childhood book
Isn’t it interesting that many qualities and characteristics we had as children are the same traits we have now as adults? When I was a kid I made crafty things like latch-hook and cross-stitch, read a lot, wrote stories and I liked cooking. As an adult, I’m still reading and writing stories, still enjoy cooking (even though I love a break from everyday family cooking!) and I sew quilts and clothes for my kids and dabble in paints. Some things never change!
Miss Ten reread my favourite childhood book during the holidays, and it made me wonder why I loved it so much. The book is The ordinary princess by M. M. Kaye, for 7-10 year-olds, most likely girls.
It’s about a seventh-born princess who receives some beautiful gifts from her fairy godmothers on her christening day, such as charm, wit, grace and courage. But when the last godmother turns up, cranky and crusty, she grants the princess the gift of ordinariness. So Princess Amethyst becomes Amy, and as she grows up, no one wants to marry her. When Amy finds out her family are planning to lay waste a dragon in order for a prince to come and kill it to win her hand in marriage, she runs away to the forest and lives quite happily until she needs a new dress. She walks to a castle, finds work as a scullery maid, and plans to work there until she has enough money to buy a dress. But she meets a rather nice page, who turns out to be the prince of the castle. I will leave it to your imagination as to how the story ends!
I loved that this story was divided into four sections, based on the lullaby, Lavender’s blue. The structure was so satisfying then, and I still appreciate a beautifully structured novel now. I loved the ‘realness’ of Amy and the contrast of the real characters against a little bit of magic. Amy was so grounded, the palace and forest worlds were well built, and I still like reading children’s fantasy novels. I thought that Amy was a heroine to be admired – she took matters into her own hands, was quite resilient and independent and could work hard. She was obviously a bit of a rebel – but in a very nice way! And even at 8, I loved the romance.
My copy was published in 1980, and it has my maiden name written in roundish writing on the first page. The cover is lavender, with Amy staring dreamily into the distance. She wears a crown with amethysts and a long flowing dress with white cross stitches down the back.
When I reread it this week, the words were so very familiar. Sometimes we try to encourage our kids to read widely and to read as many books as they can. We forget the joys of knowing a favourite book inside and out, of enjoying being with a wonderful character again, and even though we know how the story will end, appreciating different nuances of the story when reading for the second or third time.
I wish I could go back in time and tell my eight-year-old self that reading would take me places and that one day I would write stories for eight-year-olds and adult stories that were based on fairytales. Kate Northrup wrote a blog piece this week called ‘We are who we always are.’ I’m still a little girl, reading and writing, making stuff. It makes me look at my kids with new eyes – what strengths and passions do they have now, and where will that take them?
I’m feeling nostalgic! Let me know what your favourite childhood book was – and have you reread it as an adult or shared it with your kids?