Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Family Favourites

One thing I love about books is that they can be so personal, especially if you have known them all your life.

Those books that have been lovingly read to you, night after night, as you and your little wiggly toes grew. Those books that you greeted as old friends at bedtimes, that held a special place in your world, that you weren't even aware of. They were just there, always.

For me, one of these books is 'Susie at Home' by Joan G Robinson. It is a dear old friend.


Despite the fact it is about a little girl with the same name as me, and appealed more to me than my brother, and was read countless times to just me, I have never considered it MY book. It was part of home. It lived on a particular section of a white-painted bookcase at the top of our stairs, always there ready to slide out for story time. It was so much a part of the house I grew up in that I was delightfully and incredibly surprised when my darling Mum handed it to me the other day, and said, almost casually, "Oh, do you want this Susie?" It was like being given an incredibly precious piece of jewellery.

I almost couldn't believe it. But now, this wonderful, slim, little brown book sits upon my bookshelf. And I am so very glad to be able to see it whenever I like.

Susie at Home is a collection of a few short stories, a chapter for each little happening, about a sweet little Susie. She lives with her Mummy and her Daddy in a world that no longer exists, in the 1950s. Our copy is a first edition of 1953. Susie's dearest, most special, doll is named Semolina and she has a lovely collection of teddies and other baby dolls for whom she makes mud pie tea parties and takes them all out in her little hooded pram all at once. I love the fact that the old and worn Semolina steals Susie's heart, even over her posh, impressive doll Margaret, because she is soft and comfy.

It is hard to fully convey the charm that pervades all of these stories. They are full of goodness and every small thing is done just so; very properly, and with good manners, and   with pure delight.  From buying new shoes, to clearing out the attic and making a costume out of an old lampshade and a faded curtain, Susie has such fun and makes everything an adventure. One of my favourite stories is about Daddy being left in charge, which, in this era, is a far bigger deal than nowadays.

While her Mummy is out helping Granny put up new curtains, Susie spends the whole afternoon with her Daddy; painting a gate and picking and arranging flowers in vases. Daddy gives Susie her tea and, as a special surprise for Mummy, Susie has her bath early and gets into her pyjamas before Daddy buttons her clothes back on over the top. When Mummy returns home, tired, ready to put Susie to bed she is pleasantly surprised to find everything done, leaving time for a bit of quality cuddling and a puddingy treat she has brought home with her. 

The word "nice" does crop up very frequently but what's wrong with that, honestly? It's a lovely word!
The book contains some lovely line drawings, which are very similar in style to the current  Belle and Boo illustrations.  I love Susie's dinky little nose and hair-clip and big buckle-shoes. There is no colour but at some moment which I do not recall I seem to have amended this and coloured in several little details in bright red. I think it looks quite stylish.  Also, Susie spells her name the way I consider to be correct, like mine, with an "S-I-E", which as a child, always made me very glad. 

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