I think with just a glance you can tell this book is old, and was well read by a young child. Yes, it was written in 1949 and published by Frederick Warne (Beatrix Potter’s publisher). I read it all by myself when I was probably five or so, and it still sits on my bookshelf alongside sixty more years’ worth of books.
Inside I’ve written ‘nasuS’ – I’m left-handed, and was still tending to write from the centre outwards, the most natural and comfortable way to write. From the scribbles on the front, I think I must’ve been learning to play dominoes, or using them to count in fives or tens.
But I know I was determined to read it myself, and I clearly remember taking it to my father right at the start, and saying, ‘What’s this name? I can’t read it.’
‘Ah, that’s Michael.’ I looked at it in puzzlement, but took his word for it. You must admit it doesn’t look like the word we say.
Why did I love it so much, and why have I held onto it for so long? Unlike many of my favourite books it isn’t rich with wonderful words, and though it’s fairly well written it doesn’t compare with many others on my list.
I think the answer is that it’s perfectly pitched for its readership, which I guess was young girls aged seven to twelve, or so, and I lapped up the story of young Sasha who, with her little cat follows a silver seagull. Her adventures weren’t totally outrageous, I was prepared to accept dwarves, an old lady who could do a good spell, and so on; but most of the things Sasha did and experienced I could well imagine doing myself; and at the end she found her true family, royal, of course – but not more loving than the adoptive one she had before – no, she had the best of both worlds, because she ended up with two families, and was loved equally by both!
And better than that, an older brother of an age to take care of her. Yes, I had brothers, two of them, but they were only two years older than me, and ‘taking care’ of me never entered their minds! This was a favourite picture of mine for a very long time. The artist – Grace Lodge – I liked her style.
Do I still read it? About every five years or so – for the sake of remembering how it felt to be that age, and know that now I can read anything I want to, and there is a whole world of wonderful books out there, just waiting for me.
(I never read anything else of hers – just the titles put me off – very, mmm, well, . . . . ‘Periwinkle Popcorn’ and ‘Martyn Merryfeather’ – you see what I mean?)