Tales from the book mountain: Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Children’s Stories

So, there are books in these boxes which I am Strongly Attached To. Not just the text contained therein, but the actual physical item. I’ve just pulled out what is probably the book I’ve owned the longest which is still in my possession. It is battered and tattered and falling apart, but it was like that before it ever went into the attic. I was given this book for Christmas when I was five, and I loved it to death. Pretty much literally. Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Children’s Stories was an illustrated anthology of extracts from various children’s classics, with some short stories and poetry as well. This is where I first read Narnia and the Arabian Nights. Only short extracts here, but those extracts fired my imagination, and led to my having read pretty much the whole of Narnia and a (somewhat *selected*) long collection of the Nights before I hit my teens.

The real joy of this collection was that Boswell selected material that would appeal to adults as well as children. I didn’t stop looking at it occasionally even in my teens, or as an adult. And it’s not just the text. It’s richly illustrated, with at least one colour drawing on every page. I spent *hours* looking at the detail in those drawings. I’m so glad to see it again.

It’s really too fragile now to handle it much. So I’ve just ordered another copy from Amazon, gambling three pounds on getting a copy that hasn’t been read and re-read as much as mine has. And when it arrives, I will take my middle-aged self off to an armchair for an hour, and be five again. But that original copy, that tatty stack of old paper and card and thread — that’s just been gently put back on the shelf. That’s *my* book, and it says so on the flyleaf, in my mother’s handwriting.

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