I grew up reading. When I was a small child I read about dinosaurs. When I was a little older I read about astronomy. During our summer vacations, my mother would not allow my sisters and me to be completely idle. She required us to read some every day. By the time I was in tenth grade my reading level was rated at 12th+ grade. I continue to read to this day.
If you grew up reading, think back to your childhood favorites. Did you have favorite books that you read over and over? Or did you have a favorite genre and read everything you could in that genre? I enjoyed interactive fiction books such as Choose Your Own Adventure (I might discuss those in a later post). Three books, however, stand out as childhood favorites. I read each one over and over, and I still have my copies. In each review I will include a photo of my personal copy.
Clyde Robert Bulla,The Ghost of Windy Hill, illustrated by Don Bolognese (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1969). [Amazon]
I first received this book sometime in the early 1980s in a monthly mail order book club. I remember it came with another book entitled Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor. As I grew older my attention turned toward other books. I then did not see my copy for many years, but sometime, I believe, in 2015, I was walking through downtown Hartwell, GA and saw a display made by the local library showing various children’s books. One of them was The Ghost of Windy Hill. It was turned over with only the back showing, but I immediately recognized the picture. I picked it up and looked through it. It brought back many memories. I posted a picture of it on Facebook and commented on how much I liked that story as a child. One of my sisters said she had recently seen it in our parents’ house. The next time she was there she grabbed it and later gave it to me. It is worn. The binding is weak, and one of the pages is loose, but everything is still there, including my handwritten name inside the front cover.
The Ghost of Windy Hill begins in Boston in the summer of 1851 as two children, Jamie and Lorna Carver, sit outside a candle shop. Their father is an art professor, and the family lives above the shop. Mr. Giddings explains that he recently bought a farm property called Windy Hill near where he was raised. After living there for a brief period Giddings’ wife said the house was haunted. Carver does not believe in ghosts, and so Giddings asks him to live there for a month to prove that there is no ghost. Carver agrees, and after he finds someone to cover his classes at school he brings his family with him to Windy Hill.
During their stay they befriend a young crippled beggar named Bruno. Bruno lives with his adoptive father Tench in the woods next to Windy Hill. Every day he rides a cart pulled by a goat and then sits by the road. People who pass him usually toss him some money.
They also meet Miss Miggie, a shy woman who wears strange hats. She watches what people are doing and then tells others about it. She gives Lorna a bag of cloth fragments which Lorna decides to sew into a quilt. One night when she is working on the quilt in bed she hears some knocking on her window but does not find anyone outside. The next night she works on her quilt some more, and the following morning she discovers it is missing. Jamie finds it in the room at the end of the hall, but no one knows how it got there.
Lorna concludes she may have walked in her sleep, and so they place some sleigh bells outside her bedroom to alert anyone if she sleep walks again. That night they hear the bells, but Lorna is in bed. Jamie chases someone up the tower stairs, and both fall. They then discover the other person is Bruno, who in fact is not crippled, but his arm was injured by the fall.
Bruno explains that when he was very young he was injured by a coal wagon, and then his aunt with whom he lived was too ill to care for him. Tench adopted him and assigned him to beg in New York City. They later moved area near Windy Hill because Tench was in trouble with the New York police. When Bruno regained the use of his legs Tench beat him and forced him to continue begging. Bruno enjoyed his time with Jamie and Lorna and did not want them to return to Boston at the end of the summer, and so he did suspicious deeds at the house at night to make it appear that there may be a ghost.
Professor Carver decides to adopt Bruno, at least until they can locate his relatives. Tench quickly flees his house. Giddings then returns to Windy Hill very happy that there is no ghost. Giddings’ wife then explains she invented the story because she could not bear to live there away from her family and friends. Giddings asks Carver to stay there a while longer while he decides what to do.
I enjoyed ghost stories when I was young, probably like most young boys. This story does not have a ghost, but it does present itself as a ghost story. It also has some interesting and unexpected plot twists. It has a diverse set of characters which are nicely woven together for a brief story. The ending is a bit to abrupt, but it is still a good story. It is light reading and an entertaining story which should interest any child who enjoys a mystery. It is out of print, but cheap used copies are available online.
Peter Cross, illus. Trouble for Trumpets. Story by Peter Dallas-Smith (New York: Random House, 1984) [Amazon]
My grandmother gave me this book for Christmas in 1984. Inside the front cover she wrote, “For Henry who loves the unusual. This is a story of a civilization.” This book tells the story of creatures called Trumpets who must defend their homeland against the Grumpets. My copy is still in surprisingly good condition considering its age.
The story begins by introducing Pod, a Trumpet. They live in a warm land with plenty of sun, and during the winter they go underground to the Deep Down and sleep until spring. Their only threat comes from the Grumpets who look very much like Trumpets but live in a dark and cold land in the north. They are always grumpy, and they have always wanted to seize the Land of Trumpets. Pod’s job is to monitor Grumpet activity.
Trumpet goes on a holiday with his friend Livingstone, who is a skilled musician on the lute. Together they go boating down the river, camping, and playing with the animals. During their trip, Pod thinks he sees a periscope in the water. He wonders if Grumpets are nearby. He later confirms that Grumpets are in the area. They follow the submarine to the border where Pod sees a Grumpet ship commanded by Gloat.
When the Winter Alarm rings, the Trumpets take trains to their dormitories, but Pod stays behind to watch the Grumpets. He finds the Grumpets again, but when he tries to send a warning his radio transmission is cut. He is then captured and placed in a dungeon. He escapes and flies away on an owl. From above he catches a brief glimpse at a secret Grumpet weapon which looks like a giant cone shaped drill bit.
He meets with Rimeny, the commander of their military, and informs him of the Grumpet forces and their weapon. After he and Rimeny part ways Pod sees the Grumpets using their weapon to drill a hole into the Deep Down. Trumpets rush out and fight the Grumpets.
The Grumpets flee, but Pod notices Rimeny marching the other way. Pod then discovers that the weapon was a diversion to distract the Trumpets while the Grumpets attacked from behind. Rimeny, however, is able to prevent the surprise attack.
As the battle continues, Pod notices the Grumpet submarine aiming its torpedoes at the Trumpet flagship, the Rainbow. He leaps onto Livingstone’s boat. He grabs the first thing he can and hits the periscope, saving the Rainbow. He then realizes that he had grabbed Livingstone’s lute which was ruined when he hit the periscope. Rimeny then emerges with his Sun Helmet blazing. The Grumpets flee back to their cold homeland.
The Trumpets have won the battle, but Pod feels bad for destroying Livingstone’s lute. Livingstone tells him not to worry about it. After all, they did save the Rainbow. During the celebrations, Livingstone still feels lost with his lute. When they arrive at the summer house he sees a Grumpet lute on the steps with an invitation from Gloat to visit Grumpet land where they have even better lutes that that one. Pod says Gloat is trying to lure them into Grumpet country, but Livingstone is not listening because he is busy playing the lute. Pod is exhausted and settles down for a nap.
The front cover of this book lists the illustrator before the author, and no doubt that is intentional. The plot is entertaining, but the illustrations are what make this book special. They include an incredible level of detail that is rarely seen in children’s books. They show how Trumpets live, the tools they use, the items they keep in their homes, how they work, how they defend themselves, and how they interact with animals. Some of the illustrations are full page drawings with nature guide style legends identifying different items. A child can read this book over and over and find new details in the pictures each time.
It is unfortunate that this book is out of print. Used copies are available on Amazon, but they are very expensive. If your library has a copy then I highly recommend borrowing it for your children.
Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaires, Book of Greek Myths (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1962) [Amazon]
I became very interested in Greek mythology in elementary school. I think it is easy to understand. The stories include heroes, monsters, magic, and adventures. These are things many boys like. I began by reading a book from my school library. One day when I came home from school my mother showed me D’Aulaires’ book, which she had bought for me. I loved it. I often brought it to school, and so my copy is in bad condition today. The front cover shows great wear and has been taped in several places, and the binding has split. This book was well-loved. I eventually bought a new or like new copy on Amazon in 2015.
A plot summary of this book is not possible. This book is a large collection of a wide range stories. Many are the commonly known Greek myths familiar even to people who never read Greek mythology, such as the tasks of Hercules, Jason and the Golden Fleece, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Perseus and Medusa. It also includes the origins of the gods and such stories as Bellerophon and the chimera, Meleager and the Calydonian boar, and Oedipus.
Every story is written in a style that is engaging and easy to read for a child. This book also has many well drawn pictures to illustrate the stories. Any child who enjoys adventure stories will enjoy this book. It still in print (now from Delacorte Press) and would make a good gift.