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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!

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