|The delightful Mary Plain by Irene Williamson|
Mary had so much character. Her best friend was The Owl Man, known thus because of his large horn-rimmed glasses. The Owl Man had a friend called Fur Coat Lady, but neither Mary nor I wondered whose fur it had been before. The little bear was very fond of cream buns though if she ate too many could fear she was going to be "untidy."
Before Mary Plain, I had been hooked on the Mary Mouse books by Enid Blyton, with their odd small landscape format. At the opposite end of the size spectrum came Kathleen Hale's giant Orlando books:
Really nothing else could do justice to the overwhelming glamour of a large and handsome ginger Tom. Orlando's home life showed him as very much the boss of the operation, with his wife always in an apron and doing domestic chores.
Orlando was the breadwinner (?mousewinner) though I do remember one book (?Orlando goes Camping) in which the adult cats and kittens partook heartily of watercress - a rather unlikely food for felines but I'm sure Kathleen Hale enjoyed painting it.
Another favourite was Sam Pig and Sally by Alison Uttley though I can't remember any of the stories now.
I didn't really get on with Wind in the Willows and feel no nostalgia for it. Peter Rabbit I don't remember having at all and yet I seem always to have known those little child-friendly square hardbacks that Frederick Warne produced of Beatrix Potter's stories.
There was no Roald Dahl when I was a child - perhaps I should like him better if there had been - and no Dick King-Smith or Michael Morpurgo - whom I would have enjoyed more.
But in the RSPCA's survey, Dahl's Fantastic Mister Fox came out top of the favourite animal books remembered by adults aged 16-64 this September, with Wind in the Willows coming second and Beatrix Potter's books in general coming third.
The survey was linked to the writing competition Wild About Britain. There are two age categories in the competition to write a short story about a British wild animal (no bears or ginger cats) – 11 years and under and 12 to 16 year-olds. The closing date for the competition is midnight on Monday 10 December 2012 and the winner will receive a selection of books from Random House publishers and be published on the website. The full judging panel is to be confirmed but will include Chris Packham.
Full details are here: http://www.wildaboutbritain.org.uk
And what was your favourite animal story when you were a child?