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How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books
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How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  165 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Over forty years ago, Joan Bodger, her husband, and two children went to Britain on a very special family quest. They were seeking the world that they knew and loved through children’s books.

In Winnie-the-Pooh Country, Mrs. Milne showed them the way to “that enchanted place on the top of the Forest [where] a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” In Edinburgh the
Hardcover, 249 pages
Published March 27th 1999 by McClelland & Stewart
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LH Johnson
Jan 22, 2015 LH Johnson rated it really liked it
Poorly written in places, intensely poignant in places, How the Heather Looks is a strange book which, in a way, taught me more about my attitude towards children's literature rather than teaching me about it. I am, at present, engaged in a bit of a project to try and find a book for every for every county in the UK and so How The Heather Looks has a curious relevance for me right now. I'm becoming fascinated with the roots of story, in the points where the imaginary and the real world connect, ...more
Dec 04, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: reread-one-day
This book kidnapped my imagination in a way I was hardly expecting it to. Bodger narrates a trip she took with her husband and two children to the UK with one purpose in mind: finding the real geographical points/locations of their beloved children's books. This seems silly and a wild goose chase, but as they did research, they found (as do you as the reader) that many of these fictional lands are rooted in the real surroundings of the author's lives.

It was interesting to read just how willing B
Nov 18, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it
If you like the English countryside and you like certain classics of English literature for children, you must read this. Chapters vary in their appeal to me; I did not get much into the search for King Arthur's country, much more nebulous than (say) trying to explore The River in Kenneth Grahame-land or walk the Hundred Acre Wood. A daring call on Arthur Ransome Swallows and Amazons, reputed to be a grouch and a misanthrope, gave a nice surprise.

This was written too early for Watership Down, o
Mar 27, 2008 Rachael rated it it was amazing
I LOVED THIS BOOK! If you've ever read Puck of Pook's Hill, Wind in the Willows, stories of King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc., you will too. Essentially, this is the story of a trip taken by the author Joan Bodger with her husband and two children to discover the "roots" of their most beloved British children's literature. So they drive through the English countryside looking for Toad Hall, or Pook's Hill, or Piglet's house...I just loved this book. The writing was beautifully lyrical in keeping wit ...more
Jennifer Mcfarlane
Aug 02, 2012 Jennifer Mcfarlane rated it really liked it
Lovely, enchanting book about a family retracing the roots of stories and illustrations from famous British Children's Literature. My favorite quote:
"T.H. White was all his life concerned with the clash of Might and Right, the relationship of Big and Little. One might say that this is the central them of English children's literature; indeed, of English history. It is well to remember that Anne Frank was held, and finally crushed, by men who had never known- or had lost- all sense of proportion.
Jan 01, 2016 Emmkay rated it it was amazing
A wonderful memoir of an American family's trip to Britain in the 1950s with their young children, to seek out the places represented in British children's books. They drive about staying in inns and B and B's, they camp in a caravan for a couple of weeks, they "mess about in boats" Swallows-and-Amazons-style, they hunt for Toad Hall and Avalon and The Enchanted Place in Winnie-the-Pooh. There are digressions (for example, about thatch), and frustrations (rain, laundry, dead ends), and it is cle ...more
Maria Elmvang
Somehow I had managed to misunderstand what the book was about, so in case others are under the same misconception, I'll state it clearly. This is not a book about books. It's a book about the scenery of books. As such, it is a very charming travel account, but as I only knew very few of the books listed (probably one of the problems with only having grown up with those English books that have been translated to Danish), and don't care much about book settings in the first place, I probably didn ...more
Feb 24, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it
I loved this memoir of a family's trip to Great Britian in the late 1950's in search of the actual places where famous children's books were set. I certainly wish I could have seen the river where Water Rat and Mole might have boated, the place where Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle did her laundry, and the settings for Caldecott's illustrations. They even got to meet Christopher Robin's mother and play poohsticks from the bridge! I later learned, from her obituary, that Joan didn't have a perfect life, but sh ...more
Catherine Gillespie
Jan 31, 2015 Catherine Gillespie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, set-in-uk, reading
The book chronicles a fabulous trip undertaken by an American family of four in the 1950s, in which they traveled around the UK finding locations of all of their favorite children’s literature. I have LONG wanted to try something similar, visiting all of the spots I’ve read about all of my life, and it was pure pleasure to read about someone who had actually done so! The book was very well written and researched, and helpful in reminding me of books I read in childhood but haven’t remembered to ...more
Jane Ellen
Apr 05, 2011 Jane Ellen rated it really liked it
I'm an Anglophile and a children's fiction connoisseur. Does this book not fit me like a glove fits a hand? Many may find passages a wee bit slow, but I savored every word. Be forewarned, however: at the close of each chapter, you will come down with a bad case of travel-mania, best cured by a quick perusal of plane ticket prices.
I was truly captivated by the author's family travels throughout the British Isles in search of the landscape of British children's literature. This is the England of The Green Knight, Merlin, Winnie the Pooh, Five Children and It, Swallows and Amazons, Peter Rabbit, The Lantern Bearers, Puck of Pook's Hill and so many others. Ms. Bodger's enthusiasm for her subject is palpable enough that I felt bonded with her enough to seek out her autobiography; A Crack in the Tea Cup. Much sadness surrounds ...more
"Over fifty years ago, Joan Bodger, her husband, and two children went to Britain on a family quest. They were seeking the world that they knew and loved through children's books. As Bodger recounts their adventures through Winnie-the-Pooh Country, Jemima Puddle-Duck's farm, and many more beloved fairy tale locations, she brings alive the magic of the stories we love to remember. She persuades us that, like Emily Dickinson, even if we 'have never seen a moor,' we can imagine 'how the heather loo ...more
Jan 15, 2013 Spinneretta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written back in the late 1950s, this is the tale of one family's travels around Britain, in search of the sites featured in their favourite children's books.
It is a fun read, capturing a taste of life just before things started changing in that country.
The story is engaging, and well written. The adventures they have are often inconceivable today, though it evokes imagery from many children's books written back around that time.
The author even got to meet some of the people she was writing about
Austen to Zafón
In the late 50's, when her children were, I believe, 2 or 3 and 9, she and her husband took them to England for an extended trip during which they visited places relevant to the many children's books they had all read. Some of them are books you don't hear much about these days (such as Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill," "Johnny Crow," and Caldecott's illustrated verses), but many are familiar: "The Wind in the Willows," "The Tailor of Gloucester," "The Chronicles of Narnia," and "Swallows and Ama ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Sooz rated it liked it
considering this is such a slim little book, it certainly took me long enough to get through it. it's one of those books you can easily pick up, read a few pages and put down. when next you visit - it is like time stood still and the the family is right where you left them. i can only imagine how much more enjoyable this book would be for someone who was more familiar with the stories and poems the family investigates for, without a doubt, the best parts for me are when she is talking about some ...more
Feb 02, 2014 Melody rated it liked it
Bodger and her family went to England to see the sites of their favorite children's books, and Bodger wrote this sweet little book about it. I really enjoyed reading it despite the fact that I haven't read many of the books- because it doesn't matter. It's a thing with which I identified, and reading about how the family reacted to various things being the same/different/missing/better was so much fun. It really made me want to do my own trip, though. And now I want to read Bodger's memoir.
Nov 25, 2013 Kathleen rated it really liked it
This book is an account of a trip to England which the Canadian author and her family made in 1959 to seek out, as the subtitle reveals, “the British sources of children’s books.” Based on the inclinations of Bodger and her literature professor husband, and in order to enlist the enthusiastic participation of their two young children, the family focused their travels on locales with links to children’s books and authors they all revered. This book is an account of their journey, but also a medit ...more
Nov 23, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it
Love this book of a family's journey through England and Scotland on a literary journey. The writing was intimate in a style that you don't often get in modern memoirs, not that families do this sort of thing any more. Which is a pity.

It was slow reading however, I think because I know a little bit about what happened to the charming literary Bodger family in the years after the events of this book took place. Plus I wished they'd have spent a little more time in Scotland and a little less in E
Mar 30, 2013 Angie rated it it was amazing
I rarely re-read books, especially nonfiction, but this was my third trip through How the Heather Looks. This time where possible I stopped mid-chapter to read the children's book whose setting the family was visiting: R. Caldecott's picture books, Leslie Brook's Golden Goose and Johnny Crow books, The Wind in the Willows, The Borrowers, Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter.

** Please support your local independent bookstore when buying this book! Buying from hurts your local economy. If y
Becky Hintz
Jun 29, 2015 Becky Hintz rated it it was ok
Meh. Just couldn't get into this one, despite my love of British literature.
Jul 26, 2014 Serena rated it liked it
for travel to the UK
Jul 07, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
A children's literature-loving family decides to go to England and look at various places from cherished books. Among the authors referenced: Arthur Ransome, Beatrix Potter, Rosemary Sutcliffe, CS Lewis, Kipling, Howard Pyle, Kenneth Grahame, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc. It was enjoyable to hear about their travels and to see how they did their research in pre-Internet days: the trip took place in 1958. The only thing that would have made it better would have been photos of the locations they to ...more
Chelsea Couillard-Smith
I enjoyed this one, though it made me want to do more research into early British children's literature. Beatrix Potter and the Wind in the Willows I know, but many others are just not familiar enough for me to visualize the artwork and stories that inspired this journey. Still, I envy them their experiences and enjoyed the humor and obvious joy they found in their trip. This edition is also nice for the afterword in which the author discusses life after the trip and how this book was received.
Nov 29, 2013 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
It is such an amazing and truly insightful journey this book takes you on into that in-between world where worlds overlap - the worlds of children's literature and historical places and spaces, mythic worlds, worlds that have that rusty patina of old memories and that world that every reader wants to believe is there waiting for him/her to discover - Bodger writes with a gentle good humour and such a passion for children's books - not my first reading but not my last either!
Apr 12, 2014 Rhonda rated it it was amazing
Actually re-reading for the umpteenth time and would rate SIX stars every time if possible. Was familiar with many of the books referenced and have, and am, reading them again and again. Those I didn't know I have tracked down over three countries, my mission being to eventually own each one mentioned so as to fully immerse myself in 'How the Heather Looks.'

Am now excited about finding 'Are We Nearly There Yet?' for some half-century-plus comparisons.
Feb 12, 2008 Michele rated it it was amazing
This book is about a trip the author & her family took to Britain one summer, in the late 1950s. They organized their travel to visit a number of sites where notable children's authors & illustrators came from, & the settings of many family favorites. The book is a delight from start to finish, but be forewarned; if you like it & want to read more by Joan Bodger, her memoir is quite different.
I couldn't finish this book. I started it because it seemed like the kind of thing I like, but I read to much and found out that one of the author's family passed away after the book was finished. I couldn't finish it knowing that I was reading the adventures of someone who was going to die.
Oct 27, 2015 Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is not only an excellent resource for your places-to-visit list, but also a source for your "read next" list; such as "Lorna Doone", "Tarka the Otter", "Oxus", The White Isle", and that's only from my favorite chapter(5) thus far.
I must find my own edition; the library will not keep renewing the date on this one and they hate it when patrons mark up their books!
Jun 02, 2013 Anna rated it it was amazing
A joyous journey indeed! Anyone who is enthralled with the literature, lore, and landscape of Britain must read this book. It not only inspired me to visit some of the places in person, but to visit (and re-visit) the books discussed. I re-discovered some old friends and made some new ones. An absolutely lovely read.
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