Top Ten Tuesday: Special books from my childhood

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl, asks for our top ten childhood favourites.

There were many, many books that I loved as a child, so this is by no means a definitive top ten and if I did this again next week it could be a different list entirely. For now, though, here are ten books – in no particular order – that bring back special memories.

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1. Watership Down by Richard Adams

I was about ten years old when I first read this book and it immediately became a favourite. I have re-read it many times since – the last time was in 2010 and I still loved it as much as ever. It’s beautifully written and certainly doesn’t deserve to be dismissed as just ‘a book about talking rabbits’; it’s about so much more than that and has a lot to offer an adult reader as well as a child.

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2. Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams

I think I was probably about seven years old when I fell in love with Gobbolino, a little cat who is rejected by his mistress, a witch, because he has blue eyes and a white paw. Dreaming of being an ordinary kitchen cat, Gobbolino sets out in search of a new owner, but finds that nobody wants to give a home to a witch’s cat. This book was published in 1942, a few years after Williams’ more famous children’s book The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse. I loved the little wooden horse too, but his adventures never resonated with me as much as Gobbolino’s!

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3. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I loved this book as a child, despite it being so sad and despite the themes of animal cruelty and suffering making me cry every time I used to read it. I had (and still have, somewhere) a gorgeous hardback edition with colour illustrations and it’s the book itself that I remember as much as the story. The image above doesn’t really do it justice!

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4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I had a lovely hardback edition of The Secret Garden too, although I’m not sure what happened to it (it was not the one pictured above). It’s been a very long time since I last read this book but I still remember the excitement when Mary discovers the door to the locked garden at Misselthwaite Manor. I’ll have to put it on my list for a re-read in the near future, if I can find my copy.

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5. Ballet for Drina by Jean Estoril

I loved books about ballet as a child, and nearly included Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes on this list, but I think I preferred the Drina series by Jean Estoril (a pseudonym of Mabel Esther Allan). The series was published in the 1950s and 60s and consisted of eleven books following the dancing career of Drina Adams. Some of the later books were stronger and more interesting, but the first, Ballet for Drina, is the one I remember most clearly.

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6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I can’t remember how old I was when I first read Little Women, but my first copy of it was an abridged version for younger children with the cover shown above. It was part of a series of classics and I also had a few of the others including Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels and Kidnapped. I didn’t like any of them as much as Little Women! My grandmother later gave me her own old copy which contained both Little Women and Good Wives and I still have that book on my shelf.

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7. A Visit to Folly Castle by Nina Beachcroft

A more obscure one next. I read this several times as a child and loved it, but had forgotten both the title and the author’s name so spent hours a few months ago googling everything I could remember about the plot to try to identify it! It was a fantasy novel about a girl called Emma who finds a message in a bottle that leads her to the home of Cassandra, a lonely girl who is desperate for a friend. As Emma begins to get to know Cassandra, she discovers that there is something not quite human about her new friend’s family. Does anyone else remember this one?

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8. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

It seems that a lot of my childhood favourites involved animals! I loved this classic novel about the friendship between Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider and a little girl called Fern. I used to like the film too (the animated one from 1973, not the more recent live-action one).

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9. The Valley of Adventure by Enid Blyton

I could have included almost any Enid Blyton book here, as I read and loved so many of them. Her Malory Towers and St Clare’s school stories and The Five Find-Outers mystery series were particular favourites, but if I had to pick just one of her books it would be The Valley of Adventure. In this book, a group of children find themselves stranded in a lonely Austrian valley surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, trying to hide from a gang of criminals who are searching for hidden treasure.

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10. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I was torn between several books for the final place on my list, but I finally decided on L.M. Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables. I did read some of the other titles in the Anne series as well, but was less interested in the later ones. The first book was my favourite because I loved watching the development of Anne’s relationships with Matthew and Marilla.

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Have you read any of these? Which books would be on your list?

67 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Special books from my childhood

    • Helen says:

      Anne of Green Gables is great! It’s the sort of children’s book you can still enjoy as an adult, so I hope you do have a chance to read it. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      It’s so difficult to narrow down the choices, isn’t it? There are a lot of other books I loved as a child that I either forgot about until after I posted my list, or that I just didn’t have room for.

  1. volatilemuse says:

    I had completely forgotten about ‘Ballet for Drina’ until I saw this post. I couldn’t give you any details about it now, but I know I read it and every ballet book going. Thank you for a happy memory.

    • Helen says:

      I used to love ballet books, though I’m not sure why as I never took ballet classes myself or had any particular interest in ballet outside of fiction! The Drina books were my favourites, but I also remember enjoying another of Jean Estoril’s books, The Ballet Twins, as well as Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes and Ballet Shoes for Anna.

  2. RS says:

    Hats off to your Black Beauty choice. One of the first of eventually hundreds of horse books I gulped down.

    I don’t know the Beachcroft book, but it sounds interesting. Do you happen to know which edition this cover is? Goodreads doesn’t have this image, and it’d be nice to add.

    • Helen says:

      I do have fond memories of the Nina Beachcroft book, though I wonder whether I would still like it if I read it today. I don’t have a copy anymore and couldn’t remember what the cover was like, so I took an image from LibraryThing – I’m not sure which edition it is.

  3. Nish says:

    I still remember all the horses’ names and their fates from Black Beauty. And the Valley of Adventure (it was a series) was one of my favorites from Enid Blyton. I tried to introduce these books to my daughter but sadly they didn’t catch on. Reading tastes have changes so much!

    • Helen says:

      I can’t remember all of the horses, but poor Ginger’s story has stuck in my mind. And I’m sorry Enid Blyton wasn’t a success with your daughter! I think I read most of the books in the Adventure series. The Castle of Adventure was another one I remember loving.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I think abridged versions can be a good way for children to discover classic novels. I loved The Secret Garden but I’m not sure if I ever read A Little Princess!

  4. Kelsey @ There's Something About KM says:

    Such a delightful list – I love learning about the books other readers enjoyed in childhood. I also loved The Secret Garden and Charlotte’s Web as a child (and still love), and I used to watch the Black Beauty film when I was younger. My first watched-the-movie-before-reading-the-book blunder. 😆

    • Helen says:

      I wasn’t a fan of the Black Beauty film, but maybe that’s because I read the book first. I’m glad you loved The Secret Garden and Charlotte’s Web too!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, The Further Adventures of Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse. I never read that one, but I’m sure I would have loved it too!

  5. Jane @ Beyond Eden Rock says:

    That is a lovely list of books. The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables would be on my list too, and I would have to add The Dolls House by Rumer Godden, the Carbonel books and something by Rosemary Sutcliff.

    • Helen says:

      I’m pleased we share some childhood favourites, Jane. I don’t think I read the Carbonel books but I’m sure I would have loved them.

    • Pam Thomas says:

      Carbonel! That was going to be at the top of my own top ten list. I adored that book, and its sequel The Kingdom of Carbonel, when I was about 7 or 8 – and when we got a black kitten, of course he had to be Carbonel. I hoped so desperately that he would talk, but of course he never did.
      Best of all was when I read the books to my son, forty years later, and he loved them so much he read them again for himself.

  6. Judy Krueger says:

    I have read five from your list, some of them multiple times. Watership Down is one I plan to reread someday.

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you like Black Beauty too, even though it’s such a sad book! I always think that if a book makes me cry the author must have done something right, as it shows I was emotionally invested in the story.

  7. Cleo @ Classical Carousel says:

    Oh, I’d forgotten about Black Beauty! I LOVED Black Beauty! Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and A Visit to Folly Castle have certainly caught my eye. I’m going to put them on my list! We don’t have any in common on our lists but I certainly love many of the ones you’ve listed!

    • Helen says:

      Gobbolino is a lovely book and a true children’s classic! A Visit to Folly Castle seems to have been out of print for a long time, but I am tempted to look for a second-hand copy so I can see if it’s as good as I remember.

  8. Sandra says:

    What a good thing I’m not preparing this list. It would be great fun but how could I choose? I loved Waterwhip Down, although when I tried to read it gain I found that I couldn’t. Some books are just like that, don’t you find? I read Black Beauty and The Secret Garden as an adult. Loved the latter but the former left me cold. I love all the Anne books but the first is definitely my favourite. I think I would have to include Winnie-the-Pooh. Also A Little Princess and The Silver Sword. And so many more!

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad to hear you loved The Secret Garden as an adult, Sandra. Maybe Black Beauty is one of those books that really needs to be read as a child. I have thought about rereading it now and then, but it might be best not to risk spoiling my childhood memories of it. I don’t think I ever read A Little Princess and definitely not The Silver Sword, but I’m sure I would have enjoyed both of them.

  9. whatmeread says:

    The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables are definitely from my own childhood list, too. I actually don’t think of Watership Down as a book for children, but I read it when I was 20. Little Women was also a book I loved as a child, but I reread it recently and it didn’t hold up as well as the other two.

    • Helen says:

      Enid Blyton’s books were such an important part of my childhood! I could easily have filled a whole top ten list just with her books. I’m glad you liked Anne of Green Gables too. 🙂

  10. Michelle says:

    American rider here 👋
    My favorites were The Little House on the Prairie books. I still think of those books a lot and I plant blue morning glory vines every year in honor of Laura and her family. Love this post!

    • Helen says:

      Hi, Michelle! I’m glad you liked my list. I loved The Little House on the Prairie books too, particularly the earlier books in the series.

  11. Ruthiella says:

    This has got to be the best top ten Tuesday! I love seeing all those titles, some familiar, some not. Charlotte’s Web! I totally forgot about that book. I also read Stuart Little by E.B. White as a child and loved it.

    • Helen says:

      It’s a great Top Ten Tuesday topic this week, isn’t it? I read Stuart Little as a child too, though I can’t remember much about it now.

  12. FictionFan says:

    Anne would be top of my list too, and Enid Blyton – like you, a hard choice, but I think I’d go with The Ship of Adventure. I think that was my first introduction to the idea of a ship in a bottle which seemed so exciting! Especially one with a treasure map hidden in it…

    • Helen says:

      I’m sure I must have read most of the books in the Adventure series, but there are only a few of them – the Valley, the Castle and the Circus – that have stuck in my mind, because they were the ones I actually owned while the others would have been library books. I can’t remember The Ship of Adventure at all, but it sounds like a good one!

  13. Café Society says:

    My goodness, I’d forgotten all about the Drina books. I don’t know why they appealed to me because I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in dancing but I read them avidly. I didn’t know about the Mabel Esther Allen link. Charlotte’s Web, on the other hand, is a book that I could never forget and is as valid as an adult read, I think, as it is for children.

    • Helen says:

      I had no interest in dancing either, yet I loved books about ballet for some reason – although, of course, the Drina books were as much about the characters and their relationships as they were about dancing. I haven’t read Charlotte’s Web since I was a child, so I’m pleased to hear you think it’s a good adult read too.

  14. Pam Thomas says:

    My own top ten would be – Carbonel, by Barbara Sleigh, National Velvet by Enid Bagnold, 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith, The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, The Midnight Folk by John Masefield, Shadow the Sheepdog by Enid Blyton (the first book I ever read by myself), any book in the Romney Marsh series by Monica Edwards, Friday’s Tunnel by John Verney, My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, and any of the Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell. Yes, I liked horses, cats, dogs and history!

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for sharing your top ten, Pam. I loved 101 Dalmatians and My Friend Flicka. I’m not sure whether I ever read Shadow the Sheepdog – I did read a lot of Enid Blyton but that one doesn’t sound familiar.

  15. Pam Thomas says:

    And there are also those books intended for children, which I didn’t read until later either because they weren’t published until I was adult, or because I couldn’t get into them until I was older. The Hobbit, The Sword in the Stone and Mistress Masham’s Repose both by T H White, Elidor by Alan Garner, Watership Down, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson.

    • Helen says:

      The Hobbit, The Sword in the Stone and Elidor all nearly appeared on my list, but missed out in the end as I couldn’t include everything!

      • Pam Thomas says:

        Mistress Masham’s Repose is a lovely book which deserves to be better known. Maria is an orphaned heiress who lives with her horrible guardians in a vast house called Malplaquet, which is obviously based on Blenheim Palace. One day, exploring in the grounds, she discovers some tiny people who live on an island in the middle of a lake – they’re genuine Lilliputians. At first she’s entranced, but then things start to go wrong … Can’t recommend it highly enough.

  16. Laura C says:

    The Boxcar Children was my absolute favorite (I had no idea that it was a series), the Little House books, Nancy Drew’s, and at around 11 or 12, Agatha Christie’s.

    • Helen says:

      I never read the Boxcar Children, but I loved the Little House series and I read a lot of Nancy Drew books too. I didn’t start reading Agatha Christie until I was an adult but I’m sure I would have enjoyed them when I was younger.

  17. Davida Chazan says:

    I didn’t participate in this one (because I was abroad on vacation) but reading these I realize I hardly read any abridged children’s versions of adult books OR many typical children’s books. Sure, I read one from each of the famous series (Nancy Drew, the Borrowers) but I never got hooked on any of them. In fact, most of the children’s books I’ve read was to my own children when they were young!

    • Helen says:

      I read a lot of classic children’s books as a child, but reading the comments on my post I’ve discovered that there were still a lot I missed out on! I don’t think I ever read The Borrowers, but I did enjoy some of the Nancy Drew books.

  18. jessicabookworm says:

    Helen, I didn’t read any of these as a child, but even as an adult I loved The Secret Garden and Little Women. Books on my list would be The Hobbit, Just So Stories, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Tom’s Midnight Garden and Mr Magyka. 🙂

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