Saturday, September 19, 2015

Five on Friday ... Old Children's Books

Do you enjoy browsing through old books? I have a few old children's books that I keep in my bookshelf. Some were given to me by my mother many years ago. She took me into her bedroom, long before she and Dad had ever thought of moving home, and asked me if I would like some of these old children's books of hers. They obviously meant a lot to her for her to keep them for so long, and she wanted to pass them along into the family. Click on any of the photos to see them larger.

This first book was given to her by her school teacher when Mom was five years old. Unfortunately, I don't remember why the teacher gave the gift, but I was still fairly young when Mom gave me these books, and I didn't bother to write down that little detail. I find the stories in these old books are brutal, and just a little scary. Mom used to read these books to us as kids, and they always left me unsettled ... the way you feel after watching a horror movie.

This book has my uncle's name written in the front ... "Billy". I thought that was kind of cute because we always thought of him as Uncle Bill. He was an absent uncle, and I don't ever remember meeting him. He died when he was in his forties. This is another book of creepy stories. The one story I remember well is of the witch luring children into her woodland home and turning them into mushrooms! It sounds silly now, but I really hated these stories, I found them terrifying.

I always enjoyed poetry as a child. Mom gave me this book a long time ago because she knew I would enjoy the rhymes. The illustrations are quite nice, and there are even colour plates. But it's old and brittle and now the pages are all loose. This was given to her by her own Uncle George when she was a child.

This book I found in my Old Aunt Mary's house when my mom and her brother's wife cleaned it out to sell. That house! A treasure trove. A time capsule. I wish we could have kept it all in the same way my Aunt Mary kept it and just spend days visiting and looking through family memorabilia! This was a house that my great-grandfather lived in, and my grandfather. My mother grew up just around the corner, so the house was very prominent in her early life too. Anyway ... the book "Cats" will always remind me of Aunt Mary. She loved cats, and always had a cat or two in her house. I loved visiting Aunt Mary's house, but I got the feeling my parents were not that close to her, so we visited rarely. There was always so much to see there, and paintings and books and magazines where piled high on all the dark, old furniture. She always had to "clear a space" for us kids to sit down. This book is rather unusual in the style it is written. The illustrations are fascinating ... each page has elongated cats in the shape of letters. It's old too, published in 1909, but in really good shape.

Another childhood poetry book Mom passed along to me. I really liked all the poems in this volume by Robert Louis Stevenson, but the poem "The Swing" has always stayed with me the strongest.

The next two books I picked up at an antique market here in town quite a few years ago. "The Little Red Hen" is a story I always enjoyed as a child. When I searched for a good book of this old tale for my own kids, I found that the whole moral of the story was missing completely in the books I found. This very old book has the original moral still in tact, even though my kids were past the age of reading to them, I still picked it up. The illustrations are really nice.


This was a real treasure of a find for me. It's a book illustrated by R. Caldecotte. You are probably aware of the "Caldecotte Award" given to illustrators of children's books ... same fellow (Randolph Caldecotte). There is no publication date in the book, but that page is probably just missing. The book is in really rough shape, and there are more than a few pages missing or ripped. But the illustrations are wonderful! Some in colour, some just line drawings. I found it the same day with the Red Hen book above. We used to have the book "The House that Jack Built", and I loved Mom reading it to us as kids. For some reason I really liked the phrase "this is the cow with the crumpled horn" :) and this book has the same story. Another story in this book is about two children robbed of their inheritance by their evil uncle when their parents died. The end of the story has the two children escaping their wicked uncle and wandering through the woods eating berries. The two children then lay down and die in each others arms! You just don't see this kind of harsh storytelling in today's stories do you?

And that's it. I hope you don't mind my spilling over the five again. Linking up with Amy of Love Made My Home.

Thanks for stopping by!



  1. Ella has new versions of both of the books of verse. I love the pictures in the Cecily Barker book though ours isn't colour. I love old books.

  2. I'll spend more time on this I love old children's books! And I loved poetry at an early age, too. My Grandmother read poems to me when I was little and I loved them from the start. Old books are such treasures and these are beautiful. Some of the stories are funny to read now, aren't they? Some are even pretty scary! Hugs!

  3. Hello, these are awesome vintage childrens books. What a great collection. One of my favorite it the one called Cats, I love the illustrations. The Little Red Hen is a familiar title, I have probably read that one as a child. Thanks for sharing, great post. Have a happy weekend!

  4. How cute! I remember that little red hen book. Seems like such a long time ago...

  5. I love these; the illustrations are so lovely. I have the RLS book of poetry with those beautiful pictures. Loved reading those poems to my children. You have a wonderful collection.

  6. What wonderful, wonderful books, scary or not you're lucky to have them. The illustrations are incredible.

  7. Such treasures, Wendy, and the illustrations are wonderful! I collect old children's books, too, some for their illustrations and some for the stories like 'Lassie Come Home'. It is so special that all of these books were once owned by family members. I guess in those days little children were scared senseless to keep them in line! I think it worked, don't you? he he. Hope you have a great weekend. P.S. - I published a hummingbird recipe under your comment :) xo Karen

  8. Quite the collection of antique books, I really like the one on cats.

  9. A beautiful collection Wendy. Wonderful illustrations. I have a few children's books as well.

  10. Some real treasures! It is amazing how some childrens stories really are quite scary isn't it. Downright terrifying in some cases! I love the illustrations and the history of them though. Thank you for joining Five On Friday. Sorry to be late commenting! I hope that you have had a good weekend! xx

  11. Yes that is such a nice collection of old books!
    I hope you have a nice week.

  12. What a great collection. I agree, some of the old books for children were pretty scary...I think they were meant to teach us lessons. The illustrations in the book about cats are amazing!



  13. Wendy,

    What a delightful collection of vintage children's books. I enjoyed a little glimpse into your girlhood and your thoughts on some of those books that made you feel scary. Do you think those stories in earlier generations were designed to scare children into being 'good'? I wonder. I tended to stay away from stories that made me uncomfortable as a little girl. And I'm not sure if they made me good (haha).

    Oh, I loved the story of the Little Red Hen -- I totally felt the fairness of it.

    Wishing you a beautiful day,

  14. Lovely books, I've still got quite a few of mine from when I was a child & the kids have kept some of theirs too x

  15. What a delightful collection of books. Some beautiful illustrations even if the stories are scary.

  16. I love old children's books they have so much character and the illustration are amazing so much detail. :) xx

  17. I could spend a happy afternoon with these books. They are so lovely.

  18. What a neat collection! The early versions of the Grimms' fairy tales were reportedly too dark for children and later got "sanitized" into the happily ever after versions that we know today. Last month, I hosted a book-themed baby shower for a friend (I shared photos earlier this week) and had fun re-acquainting myself with the classic children's books.

  19. What a beautiful collection Wendy! The pictures are so fun to pour over. There's such a romance to old books like these. And of course, yours are all the more special with the family ties to them.
    Love it! thanks for sharing. xoxo


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