Read a book from your childhood. This self-care suggestion caught my eye because I’ve never seen this idea on any list before. So during my recent convalescence from Covid (yes, that dreaded virus finally caught up with me after three years), I reached for the “Barney Mysteries”—five books all starting with the letter R—by Enid Blyton.
My love for mysteries started with Carolyn Keene, namely Nancy Drew, and Blyton’s Roger and Diana Lynton, their cousin Snubby, his dog Loony, and their friend Barney with his pet monkey Miranda.
As a child I purchased a hardbound set (with color pictures) of the five books with birthday and Christmas money. However, when I left the place of my birth I could not take all of my possession with me so I sold or gave away my precious collection of Blyton books (which also included the “Secret Seven” series, another favorite).
I have since regretted that decision, but the distress has been lessened by the fact that my books were just as deeply loved by their new owners. And over the years, I found cheap paperback copies in tourist bookshops (in Indonesia of all places) which I bought without hesitation to remind me of my childhood.
For my American audience, Enid Blyton (1897–1968) was one of Britain’s most prolific and beloved children’s authors. In her lifetime, she wrote over 600 books (some sources cite even more) which have been translated into 90 languages. Since I grew up in a British commonwealth nation, I grew up with Blyton.
For children like me, Blyton created hours of entertainment through adventures in idyllic places like the seaside, old English mansions with secret passages, rambling hills and woods, and the circus. Her mysteries are suspenseful with some danger but no bloodshed, and filled with the ingenuity and curiosity of well-mannered children. So lying on my bed with no energy for anything else, I returned to the world of innocence. And the children’s escapades helped me ignore my aching limbs and throbbing head. It truly was a new form of self-care when I needed it most.
But I also read the books with the eyes of a grown up. I quickly identified old-fashioned values. Whenever there is a snack to be gotten or a bed to be made, Diana is sent to do the task. And the boys protect her as well as chop firewood and carry heavy things. Their father is a grumpy, detached man, who is always annoyed with his children and sends them off to boarding school or to spend the holidays with a governess in far away places. And Snubby, an orphan, is constantly criticized and punished for his typical boyhood antics and loud behavior.
Since I had time on my hands and a new curiosity, I also did a little research into this author whose stories I loved so much. I discovered that Blyton was a workaholic escaping into the fantasy world of her own making, some days writing a whopping 10,000 words. The image she portrayed publicly as a devoted wife and mother did not match the testimony of those closest to her. In recent years, Blyton has also been criticized for her elitist, racist, and sexist themes. But learning the facts of her life helped me to understand her shortcomings. As with many artists, she produced her work out of the pain of her own childhood.
Perhaps the discovery of an author’s humanity negates the positive effects of self-care, but there comes a time when we all must evaluate our childhood fantasies with adult discernment and strive to walk the difficult balance of neither demonizing nor idealizing the authors of our favorite stories.
Despite the faults of the author, the antics and mysteries solved by the four children amused me and helped pass the time until my body healed. Are you in need of a new self-care routine? Read a book from your childhood.
Is the book as good as you remembered?
With the eyes and experience of an adult, how might you perceive the author’s message differently than you did as a child?
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6 thoughts on “Read a Book from Your Childhood”
Hi Eva. This title caught my eye right away. Yes, I too, loved to read and often return to the books of my youth. Many of them are in our basement as I did hoard a bit too many/collected along the way. My kids and I read lots together and they often talk about that time. I grew up in Europe so also the Commonwealth influence…. Ladybird brand hardback books, and mystery Hardy Boys or Beverly Cleary. Then, a host of other books in later life. True self care and good FUN too! Thank you for your ministry. Blessings and love my friend.
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I really resonate with this, Eva. During lockdown, I found myself going back and reading all my old favourites, including the Narnia series, Cheaper By the Dozen, and The Secret Garden. I didn’t realise it was “self-care” but it sure made me feel better! I listened to audio books of The Railway Children and Tolkein while doing jigsaw puzzles. To Kill A Mockingbird draws me back over and over again. I never thought to get out the Enid Blyton ones. For me it was the Famous Five, Fabulous Four and even the Secret Seven. Recently I picked up a set of those, as I, too, had to leave all my favourites behind in PNG! I intend to share this post with my girls! I might just go settle in a comfortable spot with a Nancy Drew now 🙂
You have some great books in your list. Remind me who you are (I can’t tell from your name). I do wish we had been encouraged to bring more things with us from PNG.
Eva–that is a great suggestion–and I loved Enid Blyton’s books as a young reader. There was a set with four children that I can’t remember, but read them all in my elementary years!
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I’m happy to hear that someone who grew up in the US read her books!
Such a beautiful idea!
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