the land of far beyond

I began this post as a list of ten books which have stayed with me, but got so caught up in reminiscing about my favourite childhood book that I didn't really want to continue with others.

The Land of Far-Beyond by Enid Blyton was given to me when I was about five or six years old. It was one of those lovely hardback books with a textured cover - mine was yellow, I think - and it was old even when I got it. A first edition, actually, which would be greatly valuable today, if only I hadn't lost it somewhere down the line. It was something that today you find in an antique store, but in my day that kind of book, with its careful construction and its interesting character, was still relatively common - especially as we had a very old summer house which was stocked with books left there by the preceding generations. If you ever wonder why I am an old-fashioned girl, it's because my early childhood was blessed with vintage British novels and magazines, music played on an actual gramophone, antique board games and meccano sets, not to mention old-fashioned seaside summers beautified by old-fashioned flowers like daisies and snapdragon.

But I digress. The Land of Far-Beyond was the first novel I read which proved itself to be a kindred spirit. It may be that my ideals in life were formed by this book. Certainly, it was a major influence on my creativity.

If you visit this page, you will see the gorgeous illustrations by Horace Knowles which graced my own childhood copy.
"It is ourselves who can keep the peace - or spoil it. What is the use of having beauty and peace around us if we have none in our own hearts? It is possible to live anywhere and have peace and happiness." p64
I find it so sad that few children's books these days deal in goodness, nobility, kindness, peace, and other old-fashioned values.

The Land of Far-Beyond, along with the poetry of A.A. Milne ... the Famous Five stories ... Kate Greenaway ... Charles Kingsley ... and other childrens' books illustrated in the old way with pictures of Anglo-Saxons or Ancient Greeks ... these created my sense of home. Knowing this, I was always very careful about what books I gave my own child to read, and I have never, ever agreed with the argument that it doesn't matter what children read, so long as they are reading.

Unfortunately, finding a hard copy of The Land of Far-Beyond is now impossible unless you have a lot of money to spend. I once asked a second hand bookshop owner if she'd had any, and she told me one had been in stock last month but had been sold. Oh, how heart-wrenching that was!

What books give you an enduring sense of home?

7 comments:

  1. Ah, I read my mother's (or grandmother's?) copy of The Enchanted Wood. Lovely. I went through a pile of old British children's books in my childhood. Most had illustrations protected by tissue-thin paper, all of them fascinated me with idioms I didn't recognize and lives lived beyond the "back garden"---I had no idea what that was. Haven't thought of those for years. And yes, books for children don't emphasize virtues much any more.

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    2. It always takes me by surprise when I realise the usual idioms and cultural norms we have here are unknown to Americans. The funniest example is your common boy's name, Randy - which means a sex fiend in British slang!

      When I was a young child, our culture was very Anglocentric. America was perceived through our stiff-upper-lip world view as a cheap, shiny, rather strange place which most adults I knew wanted to keep out of our culture. But it crept in, and within a decade we had all the junk food, tv shows, and attitudes ... the kids coming inside from free play to spend hours watching tv ... the change in educational policies to follow a more American approach (god only knows why) ... oh yeah, and the removal of prayer from school ... all of this may just be my personal experience and it was already happening in other sectors of society, I don't know. But it seemed very vividly clear to me, and I personally can't help but correlate that with our rise in violent crime, our inability to leave our doors locked any more, our growing rates of teen pregnancy and STDs ...

      I'm *not* saying America is a bad place, but the rapid shift from a rather uptight culture - our news presenters all spoke BBC English without NZ accents - really impacted badly on our little country. I guess it's like a child who has been raised quietly and sombrely at home suddenly getting a whole lot of freedom and bright temptation.

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  2. Lovely post! I have yet to read any Enid Blyton, despite having heard how important she was for many of my friends. I keep meaning to do that "books that have stuck with me" meme, I've been tagged repeatedly, and I'm trying not to think out my choices too far in advance.

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    1. I can't imagine someone not reading Enid Blyton! She was the heartstone of my childhood, and when I was about 12 and they removed all her books from the library due to "sexism and racism" it was my first introduction to social politics. I felt it very deeply, especially as the disgusting examples of sexism were actually directed at a character with whom I related strongly.

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  3. Thank you so much for this recommendation I will be looking for a copy for my girls now :)

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    1. You're unlikely to find a hard copy, but you can read it online at the link I provided, or download it and print it off from the same site. The only problem with the copy to which I linked - Mrs Daily is actually Mrs Dally, I guess its such an old word the typist assumed it was a spelling error ;-)

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