This morning I happily turn over the blog to my friend Michelle Turner, who also took the beautiful pictures. (Photographs copyright © 2010 by Michelle Turner. All rights reserved.) —ST
The few books I have from my childhood, along with a couple of my husband’s, occupy a small stack on our fireplace mantel. These volumes weren’t necessarily my childhood favorites. My copies of Eloise and The Poky Little Puppy didn’t survive through adolescence, and The Tall Book of Christmas is too, well, tall to fit nicely in the stack. But two books offering sound advice to my three-year-old-self definitely have their place. Joan Walsh Anglund’s A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You (inscribed “Happy Birthday, Michelle. Three years old - 1962. Mama and Daddy”) taught me that “everyone ... everyone in the whole world has at least one friend.” And Ruth Krauss’ A Hole Is to Dig, with charming illustrations by Maurice Sendak (more than a decade before Where the Wild Things Are), reminds me, among other things, that “[b]uttons are to keep people warm” and “[a] floor is so you don’t fall in the hole your house is in.”
The endpaper of The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit has been ripped out, so I don’t know how old I was when I got it. While my recommendation of this book horrified a friend when her daughter was young, as a girl I loved the “savage”-whiskered bad rabbit’s carrot stealing (“He doesn’t say ‘Please.’ He takes it!”). And I don’t remember being troubled at all by the appearance of the “man with a gun.” Compared to the torments inflicted on bad children in some fairy tales, the bad rabbit got off easy.
Speaking of bad children, at the bottom of my stack of childhood books is the one that remains most vivid–a 1945 version of Andersen’s Fairy Tales, beautifully and terrifyingly illustrated by Polish artist Arthur Szyk. My mother received the book, along with a companion version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a Christmas present in the 1940s. (Someone in my husband’s family must have also, because our set came from his parents.) These tales, and their illustrations, are dark and grisly. A recurring theme in Andersen’s stories is the consequences befalling the vain and ungrateful child. There is hardly one more wicked than little Inger in “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf,” and its powerful message remains with me today. Be a good, kind, considerate girl—or you’ll wind up with snakes in your hair, toads in your dress folds and wingless flies creeping across your face.
Michelle Turner, a practicing attorney and librarian’s daughter, lives with her husband, Steve, two British Shorthair cats, numerous chickens and an impressive assortment of books on about 14 acres of former Kentucky tobacco farm. Michelle and Steve blog, mostly about food, at Gourmandistan.