Thursday, August 1, 2013

My First Book.

RHYS BOWEN: My grandkids have been visiting this week. Like their mother before them they are all bookworms. One has to pry books away from them at the dinner table. Last night we started talking about what I had read as a child and one of the questions was "What is the very first book you remember?"

Well, in my case it was a little book called Bobby Bushtail. I still remember the beginning:  Bobby Bushtail was a squirrel, and a naughty rascal too...
It was all in rhyme and a good story about naughty Bobby who won't come home when his sister tells him to and then gets trapped in the snow until his daddy finds him.

Other books that were important in my childhood were Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and then later The Famous Five. The Wind in the Willows. A little Princess and The Secret Garden. The Chronicles of Narnia. And later still The Lord of the Rings. In my teens I also loved school stories about girls who went to exotic boarding schools in the Swiss Alps. (and I confess to sneaking a few of my mom's adult books up under the covers)

So what was your first book? Were you always a reader as a child?

LUCY BURDETTE: Absolutely, yes, always a reader! I still have my first book--it's called THE SCARY THING by Laura Bannon (1956). It's in sad shape, my nickname colored inside (spelled wrong:), and crayon marks all through. Plus it looks like someone chewed on a corner. But a wonderful story--the first of many! I still give books to family and friends for any new babies...

HALLIE EPHRON: I remember my mother reading chapters of The Wizard of Oz to me... but surely that can't have been the first book. Vicariously, I remember Pat the Bunny being read to my sister Amy when she was little. I still give it as a baby gift. Loved to stick my finger through the ring hole and play peekaboo with the little girl. But the current editions aren't made nearly as well as the old ones.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: My FIRST book? Hmm. The first book I really remember is...Pooh, I guess. In fact, in a burst of amazingly unlikely organization,  I think I know where it is! Here--and you can see how battered it's a 1956 edition. Can you see the pencil marks all over it? I was also big on A HOLE IS TO DIG.

I remember my father reading MANY MOONS to me, by James Thurber. I loved it, still do, and I bet I could recite the whole thing. We also had it on a 78 rpm record, and I would listen and listen.

Princess Lenore had fallen ill from a surfeit of raspberry tarts, and said she would not be well until she got the moon.  The Royal Wizard told the King: "I know where you are when you are at sixes and sevens, I know how much "is" you have to have to make an "are." But the moon? The moon is a million miles away, and made of green cheese. No one can get the moon for Princess Lenore."

RHYS: Oh, of course Pooh. How could I forget him. And all the poems. They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace.... still love them today.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: The first books I can remember choosing for myself were - I can't believe I remember these titles - Danny and the Dinosaur. Henry and Ribsy. Beezus and Ramona. Apparently I was drawn to books with two names in the title. something about a bull. Ferdinand? When I was a little older the horse and dog books kicked in...Walter Farley's Black Stallion series and Jim kjelgaard's Red series.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, the treasures I found cleaning out the bookshelves a couple of weeks ago! I have all three of the Milne books, Hank, and those are the first books I remember clearly, along with Robert Louise Stevenson's poems ("How would you like to go up in a swing, up in a swing so high...) I found Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, King of the Wind, Misty of Chincoteague, Treasure Island, The Jungle Book, and many more. And this 1947 copy of The Silver Robin, spine broken, pages yellowed and tattered. It's about a little robin named Bobby, and I loved it. Maybe that's why I wanted to be an ornithologist!

PS Rhys, I didn't read Enid Blyton--I don't think you could get them here--but my daughter read almost all of them. Whenever we went to England when she was little, I came home with a suitcase full Famous Fives, etc. I still have all of them.

ROSEMARY: I was a big Marguerite Henry fan too. I recently bought a copy of King of the Wind at a tag sale and I was surprised at the tone regarding other cultures. It was warm. They were exotic. Not the enemy.

RHYS: So what is the first book you remember? And other favorites of your childhood?
And Lisa Alber, please email me at so that I can give your contact info to Susan Elia MacNeal, as you have won the copy of His Majesty's Hope.


  1. The first book? I’m afraid that title is lost forever. I cannot say that I remember my mother reading to me, although I know that she did . . . what I do remember is always having a book in my hand and it reading myself: Pooh and “The Secret Garden;” The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew . . . and all the science fiction in the school library.
    I have a better memory of reading books that I loved to my children when they were little: “Goodnight Moon” and Pooh and anything Doctor Seuss, Maurice Sendak, or Shel Silverstein. They all read early, though, and went through stages of what they loved best; I remember the youngest loving Roald Dahl; “Matilda” is still her all-time favorite.

  2. I also can't remember my first book, but I know we read Blueberries for Sal (kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk), The Little Engine that Could, Little Toot (I was always the shortest kid my age, so I liked these little heroes!). Stuart Little, too! We also had non-Disney versions of fairy tales like Snow White and Hansel and Gretel with amazing and slightly scary illustrations

  3. I don't remember what my first book might have been, but my mother loves to tell a story about how protective and possessive I was with my books - beginning with those little Golden Books. Apparently, I had a corner where they HAD to be kept and stacked nicely, thank you very much.

    I remember loving Pooh, Nancy Drew and Eloise. I have some of those Nancy Drew books, but have since bought newer copies of the Pooh books and the Eloise books 'cause I still love to sit down and read them from time to time.

  4. The first book I remember is Cat in the Hat, followed closely by Raggedy Ann Stories. I still have both books, though Cat in the Hat is in sad shape, with crayon marks in it. Raggedy Ann was given to me by my great grandmother, with the inscription "For a little girl who likes to read, Christmas 1974." I was 6. Even then I took very good care of my books, and it's in excellent shape. I loved reading from our set of Collier's Junior Classics, and my grandparents had another set from a different encyclopedia company. My maternal grandparents' kept a collection of books for the grandkids: Harry the Dirty Dog, Mike and His Steam Shovel, and of course, The Little Engine That Could. I remember the day I graduated to the one "big girls" book - When Sara Smiled - left over from my mom and aunts' teen years. Although I missed the Famous Five books, I read the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. I also loved Trixie Belden. I spent the summer I was 7 with my cousin's family, and she wouldn't let me check out any Trixie Belden books from the library until I'd read all of HER favorite books, so I plowed through (and enjoyed) all 17 Black Stallion books. She got me hooked on horses, and Misty of Chincoteague and Stormy, Misty's Foal were favorites as well.

  5. I'm sure I had earlier favorites, but Virginia Lee Burton's "The Little House" is the first book I ever checked out of the library. And then I wanted to keep checking it out every time!

  6. I'm languishing at home with a post-travel cold, and I'm sorry I missed adding to the front page on this!

    My favorite as a tiny girl was A FLY WENT BY by, of course, Dr. Seuss. It was the first book I could read myself, although looking back, I suspect I had memorized it from my mother's many recitations.

    As a slightly older girl, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder books, The Mysterious Mushroom Planet (which we've discussed before!) and Andrew Lang's "Coloured" fairytales - The Blue Fairy Book, the Red Fairy Book, etc. Just looked them up to discover they were already some 80 years old when I read them. It amazes me how timeless children's books can be. How many adult novels from 1880 - 1930 do we read simply for the pleasure of it?

  7. Ooooh, these are taking me back. We saved all the favorites with our babies and can't wait to get started all over again with our grandbaby Miss Franny Lou. We're waiting until she can at least sit up.

  8. I can't remember my first book but I remember being indignant that a great aunt gave me a copy of Now We Are Six for my seventh birthday.

  9. Wow, Marguerite Henry! She was one of my favorites--I was such a horse girl. Haven't thought of her books in ages. I even had the Misty of Chincoteague horse statue.

    My earliest memory--the vaguest of glimmers--is a book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes.

    Later, I loved loved loved "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein.

    Interesting...never thought about this before, but my first forays into creative writing consisted of poetry...

    The first chapter books I actively sought out were the Nancy Drews. (And now I write mystery! :-))

  10. PlumGaga, I have my copy of Now We Are Six:-)

    I loved, of course, Cat in the Hat, and The Little Engine That Could.

    I still have many of my own books, AND my daughter's books. Looking forward to perhaps having a grandchild who will love Shirley Hughes. My daughter's books, but my favorite children's books ever.

  11. I can't remember my first book, but I do remember loving Winnie the Pooh, Pippi Longstocking and Alice in Wonderland. Does anyone remember Paddington Bear or Dr. Doolittle?

  12. I was a horse girl, too! Golden Sovereign, and Silver Birch--anyone?

    Plumgaga, that's hilarious..

    And I got my grandson hooked on Edward Eager, I'm so proud to say!

    And it's funny (?) how our first books tell our ages...

  13. First books I remember are The Bobbsey Twins-I read all of them I think. Then there was the summer I read every single "horse" book in the library. The Black Stallion series was a huge favorite.

  14. The two I remember most vividly and loved are Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little Engine That Could. I read them so often in my early years that I wore the books out.

  15. I'm not sure if it was the first, but Randolph, the Bear Who Said No by Faith Nelson was an early favorite. It's an old book first published in 1940 by Random House, then it was published by Wonder Books in 1946 (my copy). I wasn't born until 1954, so it was one my mother had originally bought for my older siblings. Randolph gives his mother a hard time, saying "no" to everything she asks. He runs away from home and is touched by a fairy's wand, which prevents him from saying anything but "no." Of course, he learns his lesson and is reunited with his mother in the end. It's my favorite book inherited from my parents' house.

    Early books I received as gifts included The Little Colonel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Five Little Peppers, and Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. I soon found Nancy Drew, too, which led me to my love of mystery.

  16. Sandee BarrowcloughAugust 1, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    There were plenty of books before that were read to me, or that we read together, but my very first read-it-all-by-myself book was "Mary Poppins," a gift from my Aunt Carol. I wonder if that contributed to my being such an anglophile.

  17. I don't remember my first book, but we moved frequently (about 43 schools 1st thru 12th grades) and the first thing we would do was go to the local library. I remember checking out a stack of Nancy Drew books and others every week. "His Eyes on the Sparrow" made a big impact on my. AL

  18. The first book I remember reading multiple times was "Miss Twiggley's Tree." I did read Blyton, but it was her 'Adventure' series, not the Famous Five. The first adult book I read for myself was "Down the Long Hills" by Louis L'Amour. My mom was reading it to us and I just couldn't wait to hear the rest of it so I started reading it for myself. It was above my reading level but I struggled through and have read it several times since. The most recent time was when we came full circle and I read it to my mother while she was dying of cancer.

  19. The Happy Twins. I have a twin brother and I can vividly hear my dad reading us this book. I am still able to pretty much recite it word for word except, for the life of me, I have no idea what the twins' real names were because my dad always substituted mine and my brothers. I still have it, binding scotch taped several times over, sitting on my book shelf.
    The first book I loved that I read on my own was Little House in the Big Woods. I received the Little House Box set for my 7th birthday/Christmas and since then have reread them 100s of times throughout the years and the stories never grow old.

  20. The first book I remember from when my mom used to read to me every night was Trixie Beldon. I was a mystery hound from WAY back. I got to tell Michael Connelly the story of his books being the first adult fiction I chose for myself at the book store (I was about 13) So many warm memories hopeful for just one more chapter.

  21. "Wait Till the Moon is Full" by Margaret Wise Brown. As an adult, I had to find it again because I loved it so much.