Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

Reunited with a childhood treasure …

Yesterday was a meeting of the Thorn clan: – My daughter & I,  my Dad, my ‘little bro’ and his brood, my two half-siblings and their kids, plus associated partners. One thing that came up in conversation was a book that has now passed through a number of hands and across generations, but has been loved by all…

Amazingly, the actual book still exists and current custodians are my brother’s girls – they went to retrieve it.  What arrived was a volume with a faded and scribbled on lilac cover, no spine, and delaminating boards – it looked even worse more loved than this copy on the right. Originally it would have looked more like the copy below with it’s gaily coloured dust-jacket.

366 Goodnight Stories, illustrated by Esme Eve et al, was published by Paul Hamlyn in 1963 (reprinted ’64).  Our ‘family’ copy was given to me for my birthday in May 1965.Inside is an anthology of little stories and poems, for each day of the year.  Some are no more than a single verse, other stories are a page long, afew of the poems are old classics from Lear, R L Stevenson et al.

There are two particularly charming features of this collection I want to tell you about though …

Firstly the illustrations – each day has a picture or two. The spreads alternate between four illustrators, all with different styles – sadly I couldn’t tell you which is which.  To the right is one of my favourites – bright and cheerful.

Secondly – the seasonality of the book is lovely.  It is arranged starting with spring, so the first story is for March 21st.  Many of the stories and poems relate to the seasons in the countryside, the weather, flora and fauna.  See below for a typical late spring page, featuring more of my favourite illustrations.

In between the nature stories are many more – about toys, trains and cars, dolls and teddies, parties and celebrations. Interestingly, the story for the 29th of December was a cautionary tale  ‘Warning’ about excess guzzling – pity the poor child who had that one on their birthday!

I hope the big pictures didn’t take too long to load for you, but I had to share some of this wonderful book with you. It has been read by three of one generation to four of the next, and so far two of the following one. I wish I’d known it was still in the family when my daughter was a toddler – she’d have loved it too.  I’ve vowed to return it to my nieces who, although they’re now teenagers, are rather loath to let it go – they can guard it for me, or pass it on to the next younguns in the family perhaps, but I think I’ll have to scan in a few more pages before handing it back!


  1. I also had this book given to me in about 1974. I loved this book but was confused by the seasons as I’m in Australia. The cover was different but the content the same. I still have it and my girls have enjoyed it too.

    • gaskella

      December 31, 2011 at 12:05 am

      Robyn, I can see how the seasons would be confusing down under! I bet your copy is in better nick than the family Thorn one.

  2. So glad you posted this as I’ve been asked to write about 10 of my favourite childhood books and this had to be one of them but I didn’t remember the title. Now what book to take off the list?
    I also loved my copy of this book and read it over and over and learnt some of the poems by heart. I probably got it around 1963/4 when I was about 5 or 6, mine had a different cover so there must have been a few editions of it. I’m from New Zealand and remember being charmed by the difference in seasons and wanting to live somewhere where it snows.
    I found this on flickr:

    • gaskella

      December 31, 2011 at 9:56 am

      Kerry – thanks for finding that great montage. The illustrations were the things that trigger the memories, but the poems and stories came flooding back too. It was obviously a big seller…

  3. I have a few childhood books on m shelves a atlas from my grandparents is much treasured ,all the best for next year stu

  4. I also have a well-loved copy of 366 Goodnight Stories–the lilac cover has been taped back together many times–given to me as a gift in 1965. Our (American) family was traveling through Europe at the time on an open-ended journey that lasted ten months. I treasured this volume, which was packed and unpacked in numerous cities and hotels. Many years later I read it again with my daughter who loved it, too. She was quick to look at the dates that corresponded to family birthdays and enjoyed learning British idioms and spellings. I’d also love to see it passed on to another generation one day.

    • gaskella

      January 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Juna – I shall be taking my copy into school where I have access to some book tape to do some repairs, then I hope it’ll last into the next generation too. It’s nice to see that others have kept their childhood copies too.

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