I Love Little Books May 13, 2013Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
Everyone knows the old adage about not judging a book by it’s cover. But what about judging one by it’s size?
I have always had a bias towards small things. From toys (dollhouses) to pets (mice), I was fascinated by all things miniature as a kid. This eventually had a rather profound effect on my bookshelf, which was often difficult to tell apart from my doll’s bookshelf. In no particular order, here are some of the little books that I loved as a kid, most of which are still in print and just as fascinating to kids today.
The venerable author-illustrator of Peter Rabbit created all her books in a size appropriate for children’s small hands, making her detailed watercolors that much more delightful for the reader. One of my favorites as a child was The Tailor of Gloucester, with it’s tiny embroidery and china patterns, to say nothing of the delicate mice characters. The other was The Pie and the Patty Pan, which includes lots of food and descriptions of milk and butter, various pies and pie dishes, as well as odd unfamiliar rooms such as the larder. Even now, I am still curious as to what a patty pan looks like, as I don’t think I have ever seen a real one!
This series was possibly the first time I wrote my name in my books (can’t say it was the first time I wrote in books, as a copy of Angelina Ballerina proves otherwise) and the seven titles show my handwriting getting steadily more legible from age 4 to about 13. Jill Barklem’s community of mice who live in the hedgerows of England has remained a favorite world even as I moved on to Middle-Earth and Tortall. Named for the seasons, the original four books are Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story and Winter Story. Subsequent titles focus on journeys to the ocean (Sea Story) and the mountains (The High Hills) or take place during special celebrations (The Secret Staircase, Poppy’s Babies). But all the titles feature the self-sufficient mice each fulfilling their individual role in the community, alongside such innovations as flour and dairy mills rendered in precise detail. The botanical details were amazing to a city kid and any time I was even remotely near the country, I would scan large oak trees and thickets of brambles, hoping for a glimpse of a mouse gathering seeds. Later, I would imagine houses and cities of my own and inspired by Barklem’s artwork, try to illustrate my ideas of cutaway views inside trees and mountains.
Another nature driven, even more fantastical world than Brambly Hedge, were the gardens of the fairies in the various Flower Fairies titles by Cicely Mary Barker. I vividly remember being introduced to these books by my friend Emma when I was six or seven; I insisted on playing fairies immediately and Emma later gave me one of the books to keep. Similar to Brambly Hedge, there is a title for each season, along with Flower Fairies of the Wayside and A Flower Fairy Alphabet. First published in the 1920’s, they have grown in popularity and there are many collections and additional titles and paraphernalia that you can buy for little girls who love magic wands and fairy dust. However, it was the gorgeous watercolors, with fairies of all shapes and colors, that drew me in (the poems that went with the drawings I could take or leave. I usually only read the ones with pictures that I REALLY loved). It was also a much more interesting way to learn about different kinds of flowers, especially slightly obscure British ones (tansy, cowslip) that would later be referenced in other books I read. This series connected my love of fairies to the world around me and the flowers I could find in the garden.