Childhood Books, and Who Moved My Cheese?

On Friday, my husband was home from work early – there was an office move going on, and so the work day was cut short. He mentioned that he was thinking of going out to his favourite hamburger place with a work buddy, but decided to come home instead. I was charmed by this and referenced Paul Newman’s famous quote regarding marital fidelity – why go out for a hamburger when you can have steak at home – but my husband was puzzled by this. “So, why would I go out for a hamburger when I can have beans and some weird quinoa thing at home? Maybe some kale? The hamburger sounds better.”


But things did get a little romantic around here on Valentine’s Day, although we don’t exchange gifts or go out for dinner or even buy each other cards.


We spent Saturday morning running errands with the kids, and somehow we ended up at the garden centre, where my husband bought grow lights for my brand new indoor herb garden! And before you get too excited, it’s an actual herb garden, not an “herb” garden; cilantro and basil and even some arugula! I may even start some bedding plants inside! It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of, in a seed-starting sort of way. My husband built a shelf and set up My Little Grow-Op and as someone who is not at all handy, I appreciate all over again how nice it is to be married to someone who is, someone who knows all the different kinds of screwdrivers and wrenches and tool-shed what-have-you.

Speaking of which, a friend posted a “50 Shades of Home Depot” photo on Facebook, and I can’t stop laughing at it. Aisle 15: Lubricants, Rope and Chain, Screws, Tie Downs. Hooray for Aisle 15! I wonder if someone has a crazy sense of humour over at Home Depot, or if that particular arrangement of items is company standard.

There has been much buzz about the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and I have to say, I really don’t care. I have not read the books nor will I, and I am not going to watch it either. I’m not interested in reading poorly written books; if I was, I’d have finished Who Moved My Cheese twelve years ago. I think 50 Shades of Grey sounds a lot like the BDSM equivalent of Who Moved My Cheese, actually; there seems to be a lot of common themes – change, denial, mice thriving in maze environments.

My cousin tagged me months – MONTHS – ago, regarding a meme of “10 Memorable Books You Read As A Child” – the definition of “child” being under age 12 and the definition of “memorable” as being books that stuck with you through the years. Without further ado, here are my 10 Memorable Childhood Books:

1) A Little Princess. I’ve written about this before, but A Little Princess was the book I read when I was seven and my younger brother was born. He was a sick baby, and I spent much time at my aunt’s house. I read this book to get out of playing with my younger cousin, deemed “annoying” by me. Of course, being seven, I didn’t really grasp the nuances of British Colonialism, nor did I understand why someone’s parents would be in India while the children were in school in England, and in fact I remember being confused by the words sahib and ayah. It’s such a wonderful book, though, full of hope in the saddest of circumstances. Riches to rags to riches.

2) Little Women. Oh, how I loved – and still love – this book. I read a biography of L. M. Alcott, and it turns out her life was very hard and sad; her own father was a terrible flake who was constantly leaving the family in dire economic circumstances, and it was her writing that pulled the family out of ruin. This is why, in Little Women, Mr. March is mostly absent – off at war – or portrayed in a very glossed-over light; she wanted to honour the good parts of her father, while also leaving him mainly out of the story. It’s a little bit like how Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the wildly-descriptive food scenes in Farmer Boy – apparently it was her dream to recreate a childhood without hunger.

3) The Long Winter. Speaking of childhood hunger, this most dire of the Little House books was given to me as a birthday gift when I was about eight. If you ever want to feel appreciative of your life, read this book.

4) The Bobbsey Twins. There are two books in this series that I clearly remember – one was about a visit to the farm, and the other was about a visit to Africa. I cannot find any evidence of these books on the internet, or what they may be called. Anyone?

5) Deenie. I read this book when I was in fifth grade or so. I’m in the midst of recapping it over at Throwing It Back, if you too were obsessed with what exactly a Milwaukee brace looked like.

6) Every other Judy Blume book, but especially Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Didn’t we all learn about our periods that way? Didn’t we all wonder what exactly was a belt for a sanitary napkin? There were a few other books that dealt more with male issues, and to this day I remember being absolutely horrified to learn that boys got erections, and sometimes it was during math class. Looking back, my horror level was such that it is evident I was too young to be reading those books.

7) Sweet Valley High. Remember Sweet Valley High? Oh, those Wakefield twins! Always up to something, in their flashy red Fiat Spider, with their perfect blonde hair. I remember reading those in fifth grade and thinking that high school was going to be just like that. HA HA HA.

8) Emily’s Quest. I loved the Emily books but I especially loved Emily’s Quest – it’s quite dark and adult in theme, in some ways. Unrequited love, preparing to settle with the boring old guy, falling down the stairs and facing leg amputation. Good stuff for a dramatic young girl to read, to be sure.

9) Elsie’s Holidays At Roseland. Good lord, have you read any Elsie books? The copy I have was my grandmother’s childhood book, and WOW is that some messed up shit. Literally, you couldn’t make up something weirder for a children’s book. Premise: two teenagers elope, have a baby, the girl dies, the father leaves the baby – Elsie – with his father’s family. Elsie is around 10 when we meet her. The family itself is so complicated you pretty much need a family tree or a graph to figure out who’s who. There’s a grandfather and a step-grandmother, they have teenage children and children Elsie’s age and younger, and they all live together. Elsie’s father comes back from a sojourn in Europe, and makes up for his absence by being completely domineering and pretty much awful, but Elsie loves him, so there you go. Then the father decides she isn’t submissive enough because she is too set in her Christian ways so he essentially estranges himself from her, and forces the family to treat her like a leper, until she can renounce her strict Christian principles and say that her father is the all-knowing being in her universe. He forces her to separate from her nursemaid, who has raised her, essentially, and Elsie has a nervous breakdown. Like, an almost-dying nervous breakdown. They have to cut off all her hair because of fever, and Elsie worries her father will be “vexed” at her new ‘do. It all ends happily, Elsie’s father decides God has saved her, becomes a good Christian, and all is well. He has a friend who has designs on Elsie, and in later books – it’s a series, my god – this friend of her father’s MARRIES ELSIE WTF IS THIS ACTUALLY A CHILDREN’S BOOK.

10) Heidi. On a much less disturbing, but still kind of disturbing note, Heidi is an orphan who is made to go live with her grandpa somewhere in the Swiss Alps because her aunt – who has been her guardian up to this point – has a job and doesn’t want to be hindered by a child anymore. Well then. Later, of course, she forces Heidi to go live in a city in Germany – Frankfurt,  maybe – to be a companion to a crippled little girl. I’m guessing the aunt was making money on this, I’m not sure. Anyway, ignoring those themes which are pretty gross by today’s standard, Heidi is a charming book. Who didn’t want to eat toasted goat cheese and bread, and sleep in a little hay-loft alcove? I sure did!

Play along, if you like! What childhood books stayed with you? Amazon accidentally sent me two copies of Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, and so I have one to give away. To enter, leave a comment about your favourite childhood books. I think I’ll keep the contest to Canadian residents – shipping, you know – but I’d love to hear from all of you. xoxo



  1. Certainly Are you there God, its me Margaret. And although its terribly unoriginal, Anne of Green Gables. And Charlotte’s Web.

  2. I think I’ll have to write a blog post to do the books justice. The ones I can think of offhand are The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe; Anne of Green Gables; Are You There, God…

    I don’t know which Little House book made the biggest impression on me, but certainly those books are on the list.

  3. I was just going to comment here, but then my comment ballooned to 1000 words, so I guess I will blog it, if I ever get a free second around here, GAH. In the meantime, I will mention that I fake-read A Little Princess in Grade 5 – I tried to get The Secret Garden out from the school library, but they didn’t have it, so the librarian gave me A Little Princess instead. But I wasn’t really interested in reading it, and when they did get a copy of The Secret Garden in a week or so later, I returned Princess unread. But the librarian LOVED A Little Princess, so she was all, “Didn’t you just LOVE IT?” and I was all, “uh, I guess,” and then she was all, “Did you cry at the end? I totally CRIED” and I was all, “um, I guess?” and thus I continue to carry around A Little Princess associated guilt to this day.

    Dear LORD, the things women can find to feel guilty about.

    • I can’t wait to read your post. I read somewhere that people are either “A Little Princess” people or “A Secret Garden” people. You cannot be both. I think this must be true because I’ve never been able to get past the first few chapters of A Secret Garden. Everyone raves about it but I cannot do it! So don’t feel guilty! It’s unchangeable 🙂

      • I am clearly a unicorn – I love both! And all the rest of FHB’s books. Even though they are, at their heart, all the same story.

  4. I have a very strong memory of my mother reading me The Hobbit the summer I was nine. We’d read on our patio, which was enclosed with cedar trees and I would stare up at the treetops and the sky and pretend I was in a forest, traveling along with Bilbo and the dwarves. As a result, I read it to Noah the summer he was nine (mostly outside) and I will do the same when June is nine next summer. Also the Chronicles of Narnia, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (sp?), Charlotte’s Web, James and The Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows (thought it’s hard to find the right age for this one. By the time kids are old enough for the language, they feel like they’re too old for talking animal stories). The Great Brain series (though when I read it to Noah I was less enchanted with it– so much violence. Those kids are getting in fights with other kids in practically every chapter. As a result I haven’t offered to read it to June.) The others all stand up to adult reading. There’s another one that’s right on the tip of my tongue but I think I will need to post this comment in order for it to come to me.

  5. I was right about that. Alice and Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass.

  6. That Elsie book, WTAF? Social experiment? Exponential ick. I loved the Great Brain series too, and I haven’t reread it lately so it’s still hazed in a golden light for me. I loved the Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew (until my cousin ruined them for me), and this British series of books about children who solved mysteries – E. Nesbit, maybe? Four on an Island etc? Must research. They were so cool! They drank beer! (Ginger beer). I’ve never read A Little Princess – I might have never read anything by Burnett, sacrilege.

    • How did your cousin ruin the Nancy Drews? I’m curious! Hey, remember Trixie Belden? I liked her mystery-solving too. The Elsie book – it’s a whole series, an entire series of books like that.

  7. So I blogged about this here:

    We have a lot of books in common.

  8. Of course Little House and Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. I read every LM Alcott book in the library one year. Jack and Jill was one of my favorites of hers. I”ll have to track that down for my girls.
    I’d add the Ramona books, as well as every other Beverly Cleary book, to this list. I loved her books set in high school–not as emotionally scarring as Judy Blume! Charlotte’s Web was the first book I remember reading and being sad it was over.And I went through a stage of horse books: Black Stallion, Windy Foot, Black Beauty.

    I’ll stop now.

  9. We spent our childhoods reading EXACTLY the same books. Except Elsie – I didn’t read that one. I think we read the same LMA biography too, with the seriously crazy bipolar father who wanted to give all the children to the Shakers until the mother finally stepped in and put her foot down. The Bobbsey Twins are still out there – I think they’re being marketed as Christian mystery-solvers now (a kind of Christianized Nancy Drew), but that seems strange to me because I don’t really remember them being any more Christian than anyone else, and I don’t THINK they were solving mysteries in the versions I read as a child.

  10. I find this one hard, I think that the 12-16 year old books are more memorable for me.

    Anne and more Anne, all of them! We visited the Island every summer from age 4-19 for me. Narnia! Many Dahl books.
    Wrinkle in time, Anne Frank, to kill a mockingbird.

    Charlotte’s web
    Secret garden, little house on the praire, little women were must-reads but I don’t remember being enamoured.
    Remember that Blume was not on my mother’s happy list: reading them and just finding them foreign to me but that they could be foreign but interesting was fascinating!

  11. I have no blog so much fill your comment section! I read a lot as a kid, tons of books I loved but have no doubt forgotten but some favorite books I can remember reading and loving are: The Little Princess; Tuck Everlasting; Island of the Blue Dolphins (read this and Tuck for school and fell in love with both);The Hobbit and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (my dad read them to me when I was probably 7 or 8); A Cricket in Times Square and Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy (sort of companion books); tons of Nancy Drew books; A Wrinkle in Time; a whole series of books of mythology from other places like Greek Myths, Roman Myths, Norse Myths, etc.

  12. Don’t we all have memories of asking our mother about the period belt thing that Margaret has? I certainly did

  13. I love this post so much. I read so much when I was a kid that I am having trouble remembering the ones that stuck with me. There are many! I read everything! I would grab and go. My library approach was get something I know and then get something totally new to me. I am glad I was that kind of a reader. I’ve read a lot of good stuff and that habit has stuck with me. When everyone was reading all the Oprah books I would avoid them like the plague.. and find something completely different. 🙂 Such a geeky way to rebel, and yet.. there you have it.

    Great post! 😀


  1. […] over at the Boyhouse posted about 10 Childhood Books that Stuck, as in books that she read before age 12 that were especially memorable for some reason. I think […]

  2. […] was reading Lynn’s blog, and she posted about something Nicole had done, so I read Nicole’s post and both got me thinking about all the books I read when I was a kid and all the books I rushed […]

  3. […] following in the footsteps of Nicole and Lynn by writing a post on the top 10 books (or series of books) I read as a child under 12 that […]

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