8 Books To Make You All Nostalgic This World Book Day
One of the tragedies of adulthood is that, unless you happen to work in a school or a library, World Book Day tends to go by every March without you noticing. I think this is massive shame; so many of us – or our parents – have photos of the carefully put together costumes we wore to school. We probably have memories of getting that little voucher we could exchange for a small book, and the agony when there were two of them that you wanted.
What I’m saying is World Book Day was great, and something about it this year is making me feel particularly nostalgic. So I’ve put together a list of the books I remember being a big deal at primary school, and you can feel nostalgic with me, just in time for World Book Day this week.
1. Old Bear and Friends (Series) – Jane Hissey
One of my earliest memories is sitting on the carpet at school and listening to my teacher read us Little Bear’s Trousers, from the beloved Old Bear and Friends series. The list of characters in this series is iconic; do you remember Jolly Tall, the giraffe? Duck, Dog or Bramwell Brown?
Hissey’s artwork is so gorgeous, full of soft colours. You’ve never seen furry animals on a page that look as though you could reach out and feel the texture under your fingers until you’ve reminded yourself about these books. Just the sight of these characters makes some part of me feel very warm and safe.
2. The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister
We all had The Rainbow Fish read to us – of that I am almost certain. It’s such a great story for kids; the Rainbow Fish is rich in shiny scales and won’t share them with the other fish. When they don’t want to be friends with him, he learns about selfishness and how by sharing what you have, it can make you much happier. It’s socialism for kids.
I think though the thing we all remember and have such a visceral reaction to are those illustrations, and the Rainbow Fish’s glittery silver scales. There were no other books in the library or the book corner quite like it, was there?
3. Owl Babies – Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson
This is another book I am certain we all had read to us, even before we were old enough to pick it up ourselves. It is the closest to horror that a children’s picture book gets; the three baby owls are left alone when their mother goes hunting, and the babies convince themselves she’s never coming back. With the dark pages and scratchy illustrations, it feels genuinely foreboding.
When Mum does come home, it’s a rush of serotonin for any reader under seven years old. Also, did you remember that the owl babies were called Sarah, Percy and Bill? I definitely didn’t and as an adult, I really enjoy the humour of those rather mundane names.
4. The True Story Of The Three Little Pigs – Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
I have a visceral memory of this book absolutely blowing my mind aged about six or seven. You mean to tell me that there is more to one side of every story? That a narrator could be…unreliable?
The Big Bad Wolf just wants a cup of sugar to make his granny a birthday cake, but through a combination of unfortunate accidents, he ends up blowing down some houses and eating a few little pigs. But then maybe, he isn’t as innocent as he’s making himself out to be. There are a lot of layers in this book, and if they aren’t using this story right now in schools to teach children about Fake News then they are definitely missing a trick.
5. Animal Ark (Series) – Lucy Daniels
Okay, so this one is a bit more personal to me – these were the first books I ever went mad over. I must have owned most of them at one point, and I loved them. But there were also plenty of them in my primary school library, so I think they were pretty popular as well.
Do you remember how Mandy and James seemed to have the perfect life? They went to a school where problems were always solved, and they helped to look after animals that almost always survived whatever had happened to them. I was 25 years old before I found out that Lucy Daniels was a pen name for a whole number of authors contributing to the series but that hasn’t done anything to affect my memory of how wonderful these stories felt to me.
6. Redwall (Series) – Brian Jacques
At some point, it seemed to me like every single boy in my class was reading the Redwall books, or were on the list to read them next. A series of fantasy novels full of anthropomorphic animals who lived in Redwall Abbey, these books were seriously popular; there are 21 of them in total, and they were published all the way up to 2011.
Redwall was a way in to more grown-up fantasy novels, with a reassuring certainty that good would prevail over evil, and everything would be alright in the end. Judging by the reaction from the internet to the news that Netflix has acquired the rights to Redwall for a new film, I’d say that these books provoke a ton of nostalgia.
7. The Story Of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson
In much the same way as Redwall’s Netflix announcement, people of a certain age have been losing their minds with nostalgia over the new CBBC show, ‘My Mum, Tracy Beaker’, which follows Tracy as an adult with her own daughter.
Jacqueline Wilson was the one reliable author on every library shelf at primary school, her books instantly identifiable, and of course the popularity of the Tracy Beaker TV show made it top dog in Wilson’s extensive bibliography. If you get a chance though, pick up an old copy of the book, or look it up online; those Nick Sharratt illustrations will take you right back. I’m absolutely certain that on World Book Day, some of those books you could get were illustrated by Sharratt. He’s almost as iconic as Wilson.
8. Holes – Louis Sacher
When it was published in 1998, Holes was a massive critical and commercial success, and it certainly was a book that did the rounds at my school; do you remember the front cover with the green lizard?
Holes is a very odd book; part fantastical and part mystery, full of humour and also seemingly a comment on child labour, which isn’t something that comes up much in children’s books. There was a film made in 2003 that was sort of successful, but the book seems to be what really invokes a lot of nostalgia. At the time, it felt like reading quite a ‘grown up’ book, and that isn’t something to forget quickly when you’re ten years old.
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