Books I enjoyed reading when I was young

Nothing beats the books we read when we were young. I find it rather hard to find interesting books for my kids to read nowadays. They always display the same few books at the main bookstores, and if your kids, like mine, don’t enjoy reading fantasy themed books, you are in for a pretty hard time finding them a good book to read. Both my kids don’t fancy fantasy books. Geromino Stilton is as “fantasy” as Little D gets and Pokemon, for Big D.

I am not going to spend time telling you about books you can easily find in the bookshelves today such as the Louis Sachar, Horrid Henry, Danger Dan or the Sherlock Sam series. Instead, let me tell you about a few book series which you may have heard of if you are in my age group, and which I enjoyed tremendously when I was a child. I hope you will try out a couple of them to see if you and your kids will enjoy them.

The Great Brain

I mentioned this series once in an earlier blog. The Great Brain revolves around a very intelligent kid who lived in a small town in Utah in the late 1890s. He was a mischievous boy and got often got into trouble for his money-making schemes. The endearing aspect of this series is how the author shows his great humanity and generosity beneath that naughty persona. The plots and story lines in this series of books are very realistic, and you learn a thing or two on the life of an American in the 1890s, in a conservative Mormon town. There are actually some nail-biting scenes in some of his more dangerous adventures. The books were written around 1960s and so the language is a little archaic. However, it’s much easier to read than Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and after the first chapter, your kid should get used to it. I like this series because it’s not just about a mischievous boy, but it’s about doing good and helping others. It’s a little bit rather like To Kill a Mockingbird, but much milder and thus, suitable for primary school kids. Think of a male version of Little House on a Prairie.

It’s not easy to get hold of books from this series. NLB has very few copies of them so you will need to reserve them if you want to get hold of them. I was sure that Big D would read them over and over again, and so I went ahead to buy them from No regrets.

James Herriot

Oh, how can anyone not like reading his books? Big D first read them more than two years ago when he was in primary five. Just last week, he found them in a corner of his bookshelf and started reading them again. He told me that after reading the first book in the series for the second time that he found James Herriot’s books just as, if not more, endearing and funny than the first time he read them. The series is based on the author’s life working as a vet. The setting of the story takes place in Yorkshire sometime in the 1940s. It’s educational, funny and touching at the same time. I bought the last copy of some of the books in the series at Kinokuniya some years back, and bought the rest online.

Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings series

Ladies, do you remember reading Enid Blyton’s series on Naughtiest Girl in School, St Claires, and Malory Towers? Did you think the plots were quite bitchy? The girls were always having misunderstandings and some were bullied and ostracised for most of a term. Based on a good friend of mine who went to boarding school in England to pursue her A levels, I think Blyton’s account of school is actually quite accurate… Anyway, can you imagine what an account of a boy’s boarding school would have been like? Plots would include boys getting into trouble with the teachers, getting into mischief and thinking up really cool games to play and inventing cool stuff. Well, the Jennings series is all about this. By chance, my sister and I found almost the entire series at the second-hand bookstore at Holland Village back in the early 80s. We used to save up our allowance to buy the books until we bought all the Jennings books we could lay our hands on. This series is not available at the NLB, nor at any of the major bookstores in Singapore, so again, is your best bet. The book is funny enough to elicit giggles from your boy.

Just William

I had never heard of the Just William series until a few years ago when I asked, on FB, what books my friends could recommend for Big D. Someone suggested Just William and that was how we got started reading this series. Whereas in reading The Great Brain series, you get a flavour of life in a small Mormon town in America in the late 1890s, in Just William, you get a taste of the life of a boy in a typical English setting around the early to mid 1900s. I found the books entertaining enough for one read, but not interesting enough to invest in buying the series as I knew it was unlikely that my boy would read it again. You can get these quite easily from the NLB.

I have some final observations about reading and kids and I’ll save that for my final blog on the topic of reading, which I hope to write soon.