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ETpro's avatar

Can you recall the children's stories that shaped who you are today?

Asked by ETpro (34217 points ) July 22nd, 2012

I remember reading illustrated versions of Sunffy the Tugboat; The Little Engine the Could; Sleeping Beauty; Little Red Riding Hood; Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Two Bad Mice, and Mother Goose. I also had a delightfully illustrated version of fables and allegories which included chapters on “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg”; “The Story of the Sour Grapes”; and “The Tortoise and the Hare”.

As I grew older and graduated to books without copious illustrations, I read Swiss Family Robinson; Robinson Carosoe; Guliver’s Travels; Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; Treasure Island; Black Beauty; Heidi; and Mark Twain’s delightful duo, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and it’s companion, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. These are the ones that I recall from among a rather large library. I’m working from memory here, so if I’ve got one of the titles wrong or misspelled, feel free to correct me.

I’m sure my parents selected my early library entries based on what sort of character they wished to build in my young, pliant mind. And to a large degree, it worked. The idea of never ending, resolute effort that eventually paid off for Snuffy, the Little Engine, and the plodding Tortoise colored how I think about what I can and can not achieve. The evil plots of witches and big, bad wolves helped build my sense of justice and fairness. Dickens showed me how society often falls far short of delivering fairness, and how it can be shamed into improving its ability to do that. By the time I read Ayn Rand’s appeals to greed and self-interest above all else in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, I was largely immune to her message.

Who chose what you would read as a child? What did you read, and how has it influenced who you are today?

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68 Answers

ZEPHYRA's avatar

A combination of all!

Gabby101's avatar

I used to love a book called Corduroy. It reinforced the need to be kind and to look past superficial flaws.

I also used to read a lot of Nancy Drew books, which I felt taught me that girls could be independent and that there were other interests for girls besides hair, makeup and boys. I also read books by Phyllis Whitney for teenagers that were almost always set outside the country and that, I think, sparked my love of travel.

So many good books, so little time!

LadyJustice2012's avatar

I also read the Nancy Drew series of books and they absolutely taught me what it meant to be an independent, career-minded woman. I still treasure that series and recently purchased a set for my nieces who are 10 and 12 years old now.

My favorite book as a child, however, was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I was introduced to this book on Thanksgiving when I was about 7 years old. My family spent the holiday at the home of family friends and it was a tradition for them to read that book aloud every year. I remember being overwhelmed by the lesson in the book – unconditional love and sacrifice for those one deeply loves. I still read the book every Thanksgiving. This book I have given as a gift to every family I know that is blessed with its first baby.

Thank you for such a wonderful question… and the trip down memory lane.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Look Out For Pirates! I LOVED that book. Go Dogs Go. That picture of them having a party in the tree tops was soooo cool.

The Black Stallion series.

My Secret Garden.

Rosalie

The Little House on the Prairie series really made an impact on me too.

augustlan's avatar

The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling were my favorite things to read at bedtime when I was little. I credit them for making me a language lover, and I thought they were the wittiest things ever. Winnie the Pooh was a great comfort to me, and my family nickname was “Lisa Pooh” because I loved the stories so much. When I was a bit older, I read this fantastic book called (I think) Saturday, the Twelfth of October about a tween girl who accidentally goes back in time to cave-man days and has to learn how to survive, both in the past, and when she (much) later comes back to her own time. It was a great coming-of-age story, with a strong yet emotional girl protagonist, and I admired her very much. I’ve never been able to find this book again… it’s like it didn’t exist, dang it. In sixth grade, I read the bible front to back, and it set me on my long road to becoming an atheist. Surely not the hoped for outcome!

I came by my books from many sources… my mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles, the library, schoolteachers, etc. By the time I was 11 or so, I was allowed to read any book in our house. We had a huge floor to ceiling bookcase jam packed with everything you can imagine, including a lot of books I really shouldn’t have been reading. ;)

Dutchess_III's avatar

O. My. Gosh, O Best Beloved @augustlan. How could I have forgotten Just So Stories!

What was your favorite story? “Baby Elephant’s Child” was mine. “Down by the banks of the great gray green greasy limpo po rivA all set about with fever trees.” Mine was color illustrated (I still have it.) “How the Alphabet Was Invented” seemed a little risque to me….the little girl didn’t have on a shirt. Just a grass skirt with a necklace around her throat.

AND don’t forget the ‘stute fish.

And then there was Winnie the Pooh, of course.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hey Auggie…my husband got me a Kindle for Christmas. The first thing I downloaded was Just So Stories. I read “The Baby Elephant’s Child” to my grand daughter….and realized. for the first time, that Kipling spelled “curiosity” as “curtiosity!” :) I loved those stories.

MilkyWay's avatar

Black Beauty will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first book I read by myself, and the lessons I learnt still apply to myself today.
But besides that, there are countless others too. Too many to even begin listing.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

I was independent, and always chose my own books, even when I was very little.

So many books that I read, and so many that I often return to now. Well-written juvenile fiction is pleasurable for all ages, I think. When you look in the mirror, you see the adult there, but inside of you, the child still remains. I sometimes will take out a book I read when I was young, and re-read it. For example, I re-read The Wizard of Oz a few months ago, and I’ve kept a few of my favorites with me, such as The Phantom Tollbooth, the Narnia books, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I know that after reading Dahl’s books, I eventually found his adult fiction. Robert McCloskey’s One Morning in Maine made me want to visit Maine. I’m sure other books influenced me in subtle ways, but overall, they had one wonderful influence: the desire to keep reading. That’s probably the most significant factor in the end.

Earthgirl's avatar

@Dutchess_III uh, I believe you meant The Secret Garden not My Secret Garden
unless you were quite the precocious child, lol.
Or is there another book I don’t know about?
Funny, I just watched this movie last Friday night. I haven’t seen it since I was little and it is one of my all time favorites too.
I don’t know why but I suppose all children love secrets in a way. And the story has such a happy ending. I identify with the little girl and how she wants to grow something beautiful. She is so lonely too! I always liked those tear jerkers when I was a kid!

Earthgirl's avatar

My other favorites were Tough Enough about a little dog and the family he lived with in Appalachia. He got lost in the forestt but he survived and got reunited with the little boy.

@ETpro I loved the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare and I still identify with the tortoise!

I loved The Three Lives of Thomasina. I guess that the lesson was believing in miracles and hoping against hope. Most of the stories I loved had similar themes. You would think that I had some horrendous childhood or something, the way I was drawn to these stories. But I think it’s more about feeling small and weak and needing to believe that you can make it, survive things and keep on going in the face of adversity. Something like The Little Engine That Could.

I liked a lot of the stories that Captain Kangaroo used to read like Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Stone Soup.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Damn @Earthgirl I did it again! Someone else corrected me on that a few weeks ago….you know, a few years back I bought some “Secret Garden” book for my husband’s grand daughter when she was 13…I hope to HELL it was the book I meant to buy!

Earthgirl's avatar

@Dutchess_III OMG! I think you would have heard from them if it wasn’t, lol.

blueiiznh's avatar

A collection of stories by Hans Christian Anderson if I picked one.
I also read the encyclopedia from front to back, so that might really be a better answer to the question for me.

anartist's avatar

Everything from Bullfinch’s Mythology to the Mrs PiggleWiggle books. The Odyssey [but not the Illiad, got bogged down in battles and bored me] The Little Lame Prince. The Castle of Grumpy Grouch. Every single Andrew Lang fairytale book and there were a lot of them, each named after a color. The Red Fairy Book, etc. The Enid Blyton Adventure series. The Nesbitt books [4 children and It, Phoenix and the Carpet, etc]. The Littlest Angel. At the Back of the North Wind. the Narnia books, the Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie.

And I read all the Nancy Drew, Dana Sisters, Judy Bolton, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift etc but they left little impression—childhood potboilers almost all written by the same man with lots of pseudonyms for Grossett & Dunlap. sigh—yes—Carolyn Keene was a man.

I quickly moved on to other things when I discovered Catcher in the Rye.

Pandora's avatar

The Sky is Falling, with Henny Penny.
She impressed upon me at an early age how important it was to have an education. I didn’t want to grow up being looked upon by my friends and neighbors as a liar or an idiot.
Later it was Tom Sawyer.
He taught me that being known as selfish or reckless, besides a liar, can cause you some credibility issues when you may need assistance in the future.

Symbeline's avatar

Outside of Sesame Street illustrated books, no. All I significantly remember are cartoons I saw with tragic loose ends that were never concluded for me, since my parents could never afford cable for too long.

YARNLADY's avatar

I started reading when I was about 4 and I read everything I could get my hands on, including the Grimm Fairy Tales, several years worth of Astounding Science Fiction Magazines, Reader’s Digest, and every child’s book at the local library. I have never been very physically inclined, and I read every moment of every day I possibly could, including under the covers at night with a flashlight. I that gave me a broad base of knowledge.

prasad's avatar

Many times my grandparents used to tell me stories at bed time. I liked them so much that kept me awake instead of falling into sleep. Due to different culture, stories here are quite different than above said.

I heard many stories from Ramayan, Mahabharat or महाभारत. Then there are many stories related to many Gods. I read Aesop’s fables too. I used to like Aladin, Alibaba and forty thieves from Arabian nights. Also, there are stories of wise Birbal, Shivaji maharaj or king. On top of it, there have been myriad of saints in India, and particularly in the state of Maharashtra. So, their stories have been told from generations through generations. Particularly, stories of saints like Ramdas Swami, Tukaram maharaj, Dnyaneshwar maharaj are popular; there are many other saints too, but the list will stretch too long.

Your library seems too big! I heard two stories from that – The story of the sour grapes and the tortoise and the hare. @ETpro This is a great question!

ETpro's avatar

Oh wow am I ever glad I asked this. These answers have reminded me of so many long forgotten tomes that I read, loved, and learned from as a kid. And those of you who are considerably younger than I am have filled in a number of stories that I would now like to read based on your recommendations but would probably never have run into on recommendations on Goodreads.com.

Edits: Sunffy should read Snuffy.

@ZEPHYRA You and Sarah Palin, hey? :-)

@Gabby101 Welcome to Fluther and thanks for your input. I will have to read Corduroy. It sounds like it delivers a wonderful message. Reading your response, I recall that when I began struggling with gender identity, I read a couple of the Nancy Drew series. I really enjoyed them and took the same message from them that @LadyJustice2012 did. Of course, at the time I had no idea that, as @anartist reports, Carolyn Keene was a man. So much the better, perhaps, because the books taught me that common gender prejudices aren’t that valid, and therefore my gender identity didn’t need to rule how my body looked.

@LadyJustice2012 I’ll have to read The Giving Tree. It sounds like a wonderful book, but I came along a bit before its time. I had moved on to things like The Diary of Anaïs Nin and Venus in Furs by 1963.

@Dutchess_III The Black Stallion series, The Secret Garden and Little House on the Prairie were all favorites of mine. Thanks for reminding me. That was in the early 50s. In the 70s, I got around to My Secret Garden and loved it. It made me feel at one with the distaff set.

@augustlan I somehow missed Kipling’s Just So Stories. Reading the synopsis of them in Wikipedia they dound utterly delightful. Like @Gabby101 said, “So many good books, so little time.”

@Dutchess_III Winnie the Pooh is another that didn’t fit my children’s story chronology. But fortunately, the cartoon series did catch my eye and give me a good appreciation of the wiles and ways of the pooh bear.

@MilkyWay Ah yes, Black Beauty. Another loved story I forgot to mention.

@AngryWhiteMale Thanks. I should have mentioned The Wizard of Oz. And you are absolutely right, we are never too old to learn. Great adult books can have a huge impact on how we think and what matters to us.

@Earthgirl The Three Lives of Tomasina came along after that phase of my reading, but it looks like a wonderful, uplifting story I could read just as well today.My inner child is still alive and well.

@blueiiznh You’re a more committed reader than me. I started into the Collier’s Encyclopedia with the intention of reading it all, but never made if all the way through volume C. You have no idea how many truly boring things begin with the letter, “C”. Or perhaps you do, but you are just more resolute than I am.

@anartist I managed the Iliad and the Odyssey, but much later than the time-frame where I was so pliant. Same goes for the Narnia series.

@Pandora Chicken Little was part of that anthology of fables I mentioned. I can’t recall what the book name was.

@Symbeline A different era. But there were some truly inspired cartoons.

@YARNLADY That’s pretty close to my history as well. There are a ton of books I can recall details from, but can’t attach titles and authors too.

@prasad Ah yes. One Thousand and One Nights. I too read that. It was a captivating story.

augustlan's avatar

Ooh, I forgot The Borrowers, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and the Peter Rabbit stories.

ETpro's avatar

@augustlan Worthy additions, all. Thanks.

ucme's avatar

Not really shaped who I am, but I liked Peanuts, Brer Rabbit & Asterix the Gaul.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Earthgirl… Well, she’d have had to tell her Mom. Mom doesn’t read well and wouldn’t be inclined to look into the books she has in her room (unlike me….) I’m pretty sure I previewed it first, and it was the right book. ....

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

This seems like this question is along the line of, “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” All I know is that I read a lot as a child, although not as much as @YARNLADY. Some were fascinating, and a few not so much.

I don’t know if the draw to Nancy Drew books was influential in creating a desire to solve mysteries or whether it already existed. It’s the same for the desire to look at people as individuals and accept them on their own grounds. Maybe this came from reading Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches., or maybe that was the attraction to the story and this desire already existed.

I suspect that the types of stories that we gravitate to only reinforce and enhance what has already developed in our personalities.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

anartist's avatar

like @augustlan I too loved The Borrowers. And Charlotte’s Web, the ONLY spider I ever liked.

ETpro's avatar

@ucme I’m guessing we all liked Peanuts, even those that might be allergic to the actual legumes.

@Pied_Pfeffer I’m pretty sure that our earliest reading material is selected by our parents, or given as gifts by other adults. It’s that early reading I suspect has an impact on who we are and what we choose to read later.

@augustlan Thanks.

@anartist Thanks. I missed The Borrowers and didn’t get caught up in Charlotte’s Web till I read the a theater adaptation of is when my youngest son was part of the cast while he was in middle school.

Symbeline's avatar

@ucme Asterix the Gaul! Fuck yeah! To this day I still read those. (in French) Those comics rock. the last ones kinda suck though

Plus they knew how to party.

anartist's avatar

. S O M E . . P I G . ——Charlotte on Wilbur

btw the best Tom Swift adventure was when he was somehow, by some baddie, substituted for the test monkey in a rocket launch. Anybody know what that one was?

There was a cute one about a guy and his steamshovel, who got put out of work when better technology came around.

I do also remember “the little Engine that Could” I think I can…I think I can .. I think I can etc but was more interested in fairy tales and adventure. I just took another look at the Illiad, same problem I had when I was 10. Each warrior that falls is named and they go through his patriarchal line. I just liked the way it started. with the 3 goddesses and Paris’s choice of Helen of Troy, like a fairytale. After that t was all downhill

anartist's avatar

Oh, and one more—German fairy tale, King of the Golden River, possibly also in the Lang fairy tales alongside Bluebeard and The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf and the 12 Dancing Princesses, but I read it separately along with the so sad tales of Hans Christian Anderson. “King” was a morality thing—give mercy or trod on those downfallen who get in your way to the top and the money.

The Little Match Girl was one of the saddest things I read as a kid. Peter Pan was also sad for me, when he tried to come home ut the window was shut. His mommy had a new baby.

ETpro's avatar

@anartist I can’t help you with the books you mention outside The Iliad. The rest, I have not read. Homer’s work I wouldn’t class as a children’s book, but when I read it as an adult, I shared your youthful reaction.

anartist's avatar

@ETpro to me they were all fairy tales. And all on the same shelves. Perhaps my parents’ way of getting us to educate ourselves?

ETpro's avatar

@anartist It turns out there really was Troy and a war that sacked it. That has now been established by archaeology. So while some of The Iliad is almost certainly fanciful allegory, there is an element of history in the book. That being the case, one has to wonder whether the legend of Atlantis is inspired by history as well.

ucme's avatar

@Symbeline I’ve still got a few from back then & read them mainly for the belly laughs.
Best bits are when Obelix kicks seven types of crap outta the dumb romans, invariably leaving them in a heaving heap of loserville…...brilliant!

Symbeline's avatar

Ha yeah. I loved how in Asterix in Britain, the meet up with some Britains and have a Roman camp destroying contest. So the Britain pack does pretty good in trashing a camp, but the leader, presumably Jealous of Asterix and Obelix trashing the crap out of a camp by their lonesome goes, yeah…not bad. Then another Britain is all like, not bad??! They’re only two guys!! lmao XD

ucme's avatar

Genius stuff, for kids of all ages everywhere.

anartist's avatar

@etPro whoever doubted there was a Troy? And yes, it’s history, probably the reason for all the patronymics, but gad . . . to compare it to the Odyssey sigh

Don’t you start researching Arthurian legend, the knights of the round table, and the Holy Grail, or I shall have to torture/regale you with the related epic poem “The Knight of the King’s Castration”

ETpro's avatar

@anartist Oh thanks for clearing that up. I only heard of the epic poem, and what I got was “The Night of the King’s Castration.” Never could figure out which monarch that referred to.

anartist's avatar

@ETpro must be Arthur as he is quite fed up with Lancelot. will PM you the whole thing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

DON’T forget the ‘stute fish, O best beloved.

Dsg's avatar

I can remember a lot of the books. The Little Engine that could, Black Beauty, all Beatrix Potter’s stories. Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and Dr. Suess books like Hand, Hand, Fingers & Thumb; The Foot book. Bible stories.

ETpro's avatar

@anartist Much appreciated. I’d heard snippets of it, but lacked full context.

@Dutchess_III Stute fish?

@Daisygurl How could I have forgotten Black Beauty? And I left out that icon of allegory, Chicken Little.

Earthgirl's avatar

@ETpro You made me think of another fable. The Fox and the Grapes. Cognitive dissonace explained.

It may not be very PC to say so but in my family we all knew the Uncle Remus story of the Tar Baby Good lesson here about not letting your anger over something minor get the better of you. How true that the more you struggle with the anger and the more infuriated you get, the more “stuck” you are in the situation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Earthgirl In Kiplings Just So Stories….in it he describes how all kinds of things get invented. There was “A ‘Stute fish living under the equator.” (Even when I was young I recognized he was playing with the word “astute” for the fish.:)
This story was how The Whale Got His Throat, and the stute fish played a big part in it, and we can not forget that. In my book there are all these illustrations, color ones too, and if you read them, he says, at least 3 times, in three different ways “Mustn’t forget the stute fish!” .... wait…I just went looking for the story to post here. Maybe it was the SUSPENDERS I wasn’t supposed to forget. But I did. :( I forgot about the suspenders. But I will never forget the ‘Stute fish.

Dsg's avatar

@ETpro: I forgot about Chicken Little. My kids love that movie.

@Earthgirl: the tar baby! that was a good one and a good lesson w/ Uncle Remos.

ETpro's avatar

@Earthgirl and @Daisygurl Yes, the tar baby too. What a powerful way to illustrate the danger of temper tantrums. Thanks for reminding me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Brier Rabbit!!

Dsg's avatar

Yep!! I need to get that story for my youngest son. He needs to learn how to handle his temper better. Maybe this book with its lesson will help. Who knows.

Dsg's avatar

Wow! You just took me back to when I was a little girl, reading Corduroy, Nancy Drew Mysteries, books like Go Dog Go and of course Little House on the Prairie. I loved watching the tv shows too. I think what really shaped me to become an animal lover was reading Black Beauty. It gave me a love for horses. I used to want to be a jockey when I was little. I always wanted to have my own horse to care for. Maybe one day.

ETpro's avatar

@Dutchess_III Oh thank you. I thought about Br’er Rabbit and the Briar Patch. I had all the Uncle Remus stories and loved them. I haven’t a clue how I left them out in the OP.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I left Just So Stories out on my first go ‘round! I must be losing my mind.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I when I was a toddler, my brothers and I were the wild things in Where the Wild Things Are. As a teen and young adult, I was Mr. Fox as in Mr. Fox’s Wild Ride. For years now, I’ve been Ferdinand the Bull, but dreaming of being Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Ela's avatar

I don’t recall having any books when I was growing up, yet I love to read and my kids have always had oodles of them (and still do).

Dsg's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus… You just brought back memories for me! I had forgotten about Ferdinand the Bull and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I had forgotten those books. Thank you for bringing back some happy memories. :)

ETpro's avatar

@Daisygurl Same here. I had forgotten how much I loved Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Thanks, @Espiritus_Corvus

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Daisygurl & @ETpro: My pleasure. And welcome to Fluther, Daisygurl.

Earthgirl's avatar

Oh my God!!! Go, Dog, Go! @Daisygurl that is one of my all time favorite books. As I was walking around Hoboken, NJ last weekend I saw these posters and I said to my husband, I have to see that !!! Do you like my hat? No, I do not like your hat! “Goodbye!” “Goodbye!”

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Pandora Henny Penny made an impression on me, too. Taught me not to get caught up in mass hysteria.

My favourite books were the original Mary Poppins books, before Walt Disney got hold of it. They were so charming, so British, and half the reason I can’t spell correctly. Ha-ha. I remember having a good old argument with my 3rd grade teacher for marking my spelling word, COLOUR, wrong! The nerve of her!

Earthgirl's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I work with someone who is just like Henny Penny. She drives me crazy! Everything is just horrible!! A catastrophe! We will never get it all done! In all fairness, my company is crazy making and very dysfunctional. But she is always the squeaky wheel whining about how she needs more help and all. I am the one there plugging along, just trying to stay calm and get the work done, I almost always make my deadlines with a lot less fuss than she does.

Dsg's avatar

Does anyone remember the name of this book? All i can remember is the book having different endings and you could choose a different one and read the book several times because the endings were all different. I know this isnt describing much. I just loved the book.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Daisygurl So…it was a book that was the same through all of the chapters except the last one?

Dsg's avatar

@Dutchess_III I believe after each chapter, there was a couple ways you could choose to start the way the next chapter went.
@Espiritus_Corvus I’ll take a look at your link and see if that’s the book. The book was definitely in the 80’s. Thanks.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Daisygurl You ave to scroll down quite a way to get to the individual titles of the series.

Dsg's avatar

Thank you @Espiritus_Corvus for researching that for me. I really appreciate it. I hope it wasn’t a lot of work for you. I think that was the books. It sounds like them, anyway. I wanted to remember because I thought they might be fun for my 8 yr old to read. He’s just getting into reading some chapter books and I want to keep him interested in books. Thank you again. :)

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

On second thought, I think the story I was referring to is “Chicken Little.” Is Henny Penny a different story? There was also a story about a hen that was baking bread, and none of the other animals would help her – but when the bread was done, everyone wanted a slice. That was a good one, too. Maybe that one was Henny Penny. I just can’t remember.

ETpro's avatar

Thanks all. So much of this takes me back for a trip down memory lane. Thanks for the credits.

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