Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Colour Collaborative: May - Childhood

Some colours from my childhood: pink suede pixie boots; yellow buttercups and the "do you like butter?" trick; pale blue school shirts; the cream and brown stripes on our boat, Kittiwake; pink cloud-patterned wallpaper on our bedroom wall; yellow for "Winchester", my school house; an orange Garfield lunch box; green grass cuttings that set off my hayfever; pale red tomatoes in my Grandpa's greenhouse; the dark brown dress I wore as part of my Brownie's uniform.

But the colours that stand out most, that I remember most clearly, come from books. 


I have always loved books and was what you'd call a bookworm as a child and teenager. I was often accused of having my head in a book, especially on long car journeys, and read paperback fiction voraciously; Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome, then moving on to Agatha Christie, Virginia Andrews. But since having my own children it's the picture books that call the loudest, that move me the most. The pile pictured above are special. These are the ones I saved from when I was small, took with me when I left home and can never part with. They are none of them classics, I wouldn't expect anyone to have heard of them, but they hold huge sentimental value to me. They take me back in time, back to my childhood.

Primary brights with a seventies tone for camping trips on the beach, for adventure, campfires, swimming in the sea, barbecuing your own sausages, throwing your own handmade party and making decorations, for flares and freedom.


Beautiful cool, muddy colours for a tale of three children who go for a walk one winter's afternoon and find an unloved toy bear, stuck in a tree, who rescue it and take it home with them. A spare, icy palate illustrates knitted hats and scarves, snowy fields, bares trees and a cosy house. I think the illustrations in this book (The Winter Bear) by Erik Blegvad, are individual works of art.



Rosy carnival hues for this story of a rabbit who was never ready, who missed out on the family trips to the cinema, funfair and football because he could never find his mittens; earthy-toned brights for his triumphant trip to the circus, his reward for learning to be organised. (I love the moral - tidy your stuff, kids, or you'll miss out on the fun!)


These are the real colours of my childhood, I think. I was born in 1978 and would say that - in terms of music, fashion and cultural references - I'm really more a child of the eighties. But all of these books were published in the seventies and there is a definite, defiant, glorious retro tone to these colours. No wishy washy pastels, no pink for girls and blue for boys, no glitter or fairies. Just big, fat, gorgeous blocks of colour and tales of children and animals having adventures. These are the colours that stay with you.


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There are other childhood books I loved - which are still available - and which I've bought for Bella and Angus over the years, like The Tiger Who Came To TeaWhere The Wild Things Are, the Brambly Hedge stories and Dogger or anything by the wonderful Shirley Hughes. And I've loved reading with them and sharing those stories and colour-filled illustrations, layering new memories on top of my own original ones. I'd love to hear of your favourite childhood picture books, what titles or authors you especially loved and why you loved them.


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If you'd like to read posts by the other Colour Collaborative bloggers, please follow the links below:

Annie at Knitsofacto
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River
Sarah at Mitenska

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.



28 comments:

  1. Beautiful colours from books you loved ... I really enjoyed this post.

    As a very small child I had a book with a picture of a balloon seller at a fair holding the hugest bunch of balloons in colours quite unlike the red, pink, blue and yellow one's that featured at parties I'd been to. Plum, purple, orange, black, turquoise ... I can still remember the colour of every one of those balloons and how much I wished they were real. Thank you for the memory :)

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  2. Yes, I completely agree with your assessment of the colors in our books. Some of mine were even older, like the Golden Books, some of which were published in the 1950's or earlier, but were still popular when we were young. I loved books so much and I considered them decorative. Still do, really.

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  3. Its a lovely post, Shirley Hughes was my eldest sons favourite. The books he had were passed down to his younger brother. I love that you saved some of your own childhood books to pass on to your own children, I did the same thing & remember many happy memories from reading them together.

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  4. Hi Gillian - colours are so vividly evocative. I love the books you mention - Shirley Hughes and Brambly Hedge for the wonderful illustrations, and so many more for the fabulous stories. Brill!

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  5. Books are about memories of colour and for me of being read to, the library, a wee book shelf we had when I was a child. My favourites are a distant memory apart from one, A book about me which I still have and can remember being read to as a child or can I, is the memory jogged by the book itself?

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  6. I loved Arthur Ransome as well, such wonderful adventures. I have a little pile of books that the boys have loved that I shall save somewhere for them. I hope they will have happy memories of childhood favourites as well. CJ xx

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  7. I loved Topsy and Tim books and have warm memories of a large Richard Scarry picture book. I also loved my Brownie handbook and remember the recipe for chocolate crispies!

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  8. Not really a picture book, more a book with pictures but I adored the Milly Molly Mandy books, that pink and white striped dress! x

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  9. It was books that defined my childhood too. Fun, entertainment, interest, education, escape were all contained within the books of my childhood. Lovely post setting me off thinking about all my old favourites.

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  10. I am older than you, but I remember the colours of books in the 1970's. Do you read the Alfie books with Angus and Bella, they would really enjoy them I am sure and they are so reminiscent of the 1970's to me, although the first ones were published in the 1960's. Of course the Very Hungry Caterpillar is a real psychedelic treat from that time period as well. It is lovely to look back at these things isn't it. xx

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  11. Such gorgeous books, I adore that middle one. I just turned 40 and my mum has all my books all still in my bookshelf in my room. My kids love going through them. I think my favourites were my golden books and Enid Baytown collection which now sit in my daughters bookshelf, the only ones we have brought here. My son especially loves my brothers train books, circa 1965.

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  12. Oh my, Gillian, your post has brought forth sweet memories of my favorite children's books: the warm tans in Make Way for Ducklings, the bold primary colors of The Little Engine that Could, and the muted colors of the Little Golden Book, Jingle Bell Jack. Thanks for posting! xx

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  13. I was born in 1958 so the first books I can remember having were Rupert the bear and noddy.
    I read the famous five, swallows and the amazons, Alice in wonderland and black beauty. However I think my favorite book has to be Heidi, my original copy is still on my bookshelf and I just loved it!
    Your post has certainly evoked some happy memories, thank you!

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  14. Fab post! I especially like those illustrations from The Winter Bear...
    One of the things I'm looking forward to most about moving house is digging all my old books out from the loft, especially the picture books.
    I was a big fan of Enid Blyton and have quite the collection of hardbacks. The illustrations are black and white (but are 'enhanced' by some rather enthusiastic crayoning on my part)... But the covers are a riot of late '70s colour. I particularly remember The Folk of the Faraway Tree :)
    Sarah x

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  15. This post takes me right back!
    I had a book which i absolutely adored, i have no idea what it was called but it was about a mummy bear and her cub, i still think of that book now, it was beautiful and I remember wanting to dive into it. I LOVED Brambly hedge too.
    love Jooles x x x

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  16. A gorgeous post Gillian! The colours of your childhood books are wonderful, fun and intense - much like childhood! I like that there aren't the wishy-washy pastels - much as I love them now, my childhood memories are more like yours, with the books full of rich colours! I smiled at your pile of lesser-known books, for I have two in particular that I've kept, similarly obscure, but filled with beautiful illustrations and colours. I remember copying a drawing of a water sprite in the brightest blues and greens...oh thank you for this post and bringing back memories! Chrissie xxx

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  17. What a lovely post thank you for sharing I too was an avid reader as a child and I wish I'd kept my hardback Enid blyton books the magic faraway tree was my favourite. Yes Virginia Andrews too I think flowers in the attic was my first grown up book I think I've read it three times lol xxx

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  18. Well I agree totally with this post of course, there are so many books that have stayed with me too, so clearly. You're right there was so much colour then, instead of the constant pink and purple 'for girls' that we only have today.

    S x

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  19. Just popping back to say that I have just spent a delightful hour looking up other works by Gyo Fujikawa ... I'd thought the name was familiar when I saw it in the picture and so did a spot of Googling. We owned a bunch of her books.

    Erik Blegvad I knew about. Did you know he died back in February, aged 90?

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  20. I was also a bookworm, but grew up in the fifties and love Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton too, but also Anne of Green Gables books, Pollyanna, The Secret Garden and The Railway Children, amongst lot of others. Quite a difference to your reading list, but I think mine are all still available. Oh and I forgot White Boots (about ice skating). Take care.

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  21. My eldest son was born in 1978 and I remember reading him all those books, amongst the Enid Blytons.
    Jacqui x

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  22. A lovely post! I also grew up in the 50s and Susan Smith, I read most of those and do you remember Mallory Towers I think it was called. :)

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  23. When I was a child my mother belonged to a book club called Parent's Magazine Press. Books were delivered every month and I was always so excited to get them! The books themselves were kind of cheaply made (many done in a two tone color scheme, or one color page, one not color page). I just loved getting those books and I've bought a few of them as an adult when I've seen them in thrift stores. We also had some books that were two stories in one book. If you turned the book over and upside down, there was another story starting on the "back" cover. My favorite had Peter Pan on one side, and Alice in Wonderland on the other. For me, these were super wordy, so I couldn't really read them at the time, but I found the pictures so enchanting.

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  24. I loved the illustrations in those bear books. Had forgotten all about them, thats taken me right back!

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  25. The little grey rabbit books by Alison uttley, I remember being enchanted by the football they made of cowslips. My favourite illustration was winken, Blinken and nod by Margaret w tarrant. Then I moved on to lashings go ginger beer with Enid Blyton and Arthur ransome, my favourite 2 books were the Little White Horse and Ballet Shoes. I used to cuddle books on bed I loved them so much! Xxx

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  26. Hermoso Blog, muy linda propuesta creativa colectiva! los cuentos de la infancia nunca se olvidan, que bueno es compartirlos!!

    Saludos desde Argentina
    Ariadna

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  27. Lovely illustrations and so nice to see children's books that are not gender specific. I loved reading as a child, still do, and was always getting told off for not sleeping and reading in bed with a torch. Some favourites as a small child were Charlie the Church Cat, Brambly Hedge and all Enid Blyton books!

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  28. Beautiful illustrations and lovely post. I had a book of nursery rhymes illustrated by Richard Scarry which used a very similar colour palette. This got passed to my brother and now is with my girls who love it as much as I did (although it's nearing the end of its life the number of times the pages have been taped back in!).

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