Jo, Bessie and Fanny move from the city to the country and discover The Enchanted Wood, a magical world just beyond their backyard. People don't go into the Wood because they think it's full of magic, so of course the children run off to explore it the first chance they get. In the middle of the Wood is the ancient and enormous Faraway Tree, which is home to the magic folk - fairies, pixies, gnomes, elves, brownies and talking animals. Its topmost branches reach into distant lands, which come and go by magic. Some of these lands are horrid but some are simply fabulous. The three children - and eventually their parents - become fast friends with the Tree folk, and go on all sorts of adventures in the various lands on top of the Tree.
My girls fell in love with the magic creatures, particularly Silky, the kind and pretty fairy who bakes magical, interactive confections, and The Saucepan Man, whose body is hung about with various kitchen items, the resulting noise of which renders him prone to mishearing the people around him, to hilarious effect. We love anything by Enid Blyton but especially this trilogy, for its delightful characters and the lands that remain secretly-coveted To Visit places in our dreams. In fact, we love it so much that a couple of years ago, I built a cardboard model of The Faraway Tree for my girls. I'm not sure who has more fun playing with it - me or them!
My children's favorite books: Based on the frequency at which they check it out of the library, this would have to be Nothing by Jon Agee. They love the way the single word "nothing" gives the plot a hilarious twist. This is a story about an antique dealer who, immediately after selling out his entire stock, is patronized by the richest lady in town. He tells her he has "nothing" and she offers to buy it. Flabbergasted, he agrees, and inadvertently starts a ridiculous trend that takes over the entire community. It's a satire on consumerism and excess but my kids love it for its humor and silliness.
Illustrators I adore: First is Don Wood, who co-wrote with his wife Audrey Wood, such stunning books as Piggies, King Bidgood's in the Bathtub and The Napping House. His artwork is simply breathtaking. We have spent hours poring over the pages of The Napping House, for instance, just examining the page-to-page variations in the scene as darkness falls on the house of sleeping creatures. I love that while these are children's books, there exist illustrators who respect these young readers for the connoisseurs of art that they are. Bravo!
The second is Pauline Baynes, who illustrated the Chronicles of Narnia series. Quite different in style from Don Wood's luxurious paintings, her drawings in black-and-white (and, in a later commemorative volume in color) brought the Narnia stories to life for me as a child. To this day, I cannot think of the Narnia stories without seeing those pictures of Eustace-the-dragon howling in the valley, or Puddleglum sprawled before the Giants, or the very handsome Prince Rillian strapped to the Silver Chair.
If my life were turned into a children's book the title would be: The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman because there are some days when I feel like all I do is cook multiple meals for finicky eaters!
More Lorraine: Lorraine/LiEr was once a high school teacher and she never quite shook the desire to share and teach. She does so now on her blog Ikatbag which is filled with her amazing projects and crafts and, often, tutorials and tips for doing them yourself. After you add her blog to your bookmarks, get to know her a bit better by reading our Big Blog Family interview with her.
(Images: Lorraine Teigland)