Rereading childhood favourites with the new Vintage Classics
The new collection of Vintage Children’s Classics from Random House is a perfect excuse to return to a book you once loved.
Last year Patricia Meyer Spacks released, On Rereading, a fascinating exploration of the motivations behind, and the enjoyments and disappointments found in reading books more than once.
Of childhood titles she wrote: ‘The sense of having it both ways, of preserving the joy that is the object of nostalgia while possessing new powers of understanding, makes the rereading of treasures from long ago especially satisfying.’
Like Patricia, I’m a chronic rereader, regularly picking up old favourites, refolding at the same creases I’ve already dog-eared on past visits.
When I revisit a book I’m often caught up in urge to share this experience with someone, and who better than a child the same age I was when I first read them. A friend of mine recently gifted a book that is a personal favourite of his own to a baby cousin, hoping the beloved story of a cut-and-come-again pudding would inevitably become part of the boy’s life.
I heartily endorse such practices!
Here are five great reads from the new Vintage Children’s Classics collection from Random House that are extremely re-readable and ripe for new eyes…
Louisa May Alcott
My sister gave me this book to read and at first I wanted to be Beth, than later Jo, never Meg and only ever Amy at the end when she gets to marry Laurie. When I reread this novel most recently I was completely taken by surprise at how romantic Jo’s ‘Professor’ is. As a child I’d always been far too busy lamenting her refusal to marry my favourite character.
I think my love of fiction began with books like this - the kind that didn’t end the way I wanted but were perhaps more exciting for this very reason.
The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
There’s always something so wonderful about discovering a character like Mary; spoiled, rude, stubborn and with a terrible temper, she’s fantastically real. Not to mention the story is thrilling, opening with a sea voyage from India and ending with a miracle. If you’ve seen the film version you know that even Maggie Smith has to choke back a sob here.
I later discovered Jane Eyre and immediately found myself drawing similarities between the two stories. Both heroines remain favourites of mine.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
I read this book in a double bind-up with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and still find it hard to separate the two in my head. I loved the melodrama and the adventure at play here, and I vividly remember how cool I thought it was that the story had been banned in the past, yet here I was reading it. Sadly, this is probably still the most rebellious thing I’ve ever done.
It wasn’t until I reread this book as an adult that I really appreciated the extent of this book’s influence.
I Capture The Castle
This book has a killer opening line and the story that follows is delightfully eccentric. There’s romance, a decaying castle, a nude stepmother, a father locked in a tower and two very different sisters who are growing together and apart. I spent a great deal of time after finishing this novel wishing I had a moat to swim in myself.
Harriet the Spy was undoubtedly the reason I’d started writing a diary but it was books like these that inspired me to keep writing them through my teen years.
The Jungle Book
This book wasn’t a favourite of mine growing up and I was only inspired to reread it last year when Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife was released as Kipling’s stories play a big role in her novel. I was so glad I did.
The stories are imaginative and thought-provoking - and quite darker than I’d remembered. I was genuinely distressed at moments. In many ways, it was a new discovery as opposed to a rereading and this was just as enjoyable.
Each title in the new Vintage Children’s Classics collection from Random is out now in paperback ($9.95).
Browse the beautiful new covers in our Pinterest album here.
Bronte Coates is the Online & Readings Monthly Assistant. She is a co-founder of literary project, Stilts.