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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

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  296 ratings  ·  68 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 (first published 1965)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Daisy May Johnson
Oct 14, 2013 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
Apr 03, 2013 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 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
Jennifer Mcfarlane
May 11, 2011 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.
This was a delightful book about an American family in 1958 making a journey to Britain to see if they could discover different locations written about in the books they read and loved. The author, Joan Bodger, her husband John and their two children, Ian (almost 9) and Lucy (age 2) share this once-in-a-lifetime adventure—a true pilgrimage of love and literature.

As I read I spent a lot of time looking up locations up on the internet, and searching for photographs of places and information about
Melody Schwarting
A sparkling literary travelogue of the sites of British children's books. Written in the late 1950s, it doesn't quite have everything we'd think of now as classic British children's literature. Paddington, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and other '50s publications get a few mentions, but Joan Bodger had not read them as a child, and they were fresh off the presses. (Wouldn't it have been lovely if they had met grumpy Lewis [already on faculty at Cambridge by their time] and family man Tolkien?)

Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There is a lot packed in these pages. It is a travel diary, a record of a special summer spent with family, a literary memoir of books read to children, and an inspiration to go as close to the source as possible to get first-hand information. The 1999 edition includes an afterword which lets you know that there was much more to this family's story and that the book in spite of everything not turning out "happily ever after," would become a cherished book for future readers. In addition to the a ...more
Mar 27, 2008 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
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
A sweet story of a family of four on a pre-internet quest to find the literary landscapes, gardens, and buildings that had seized their imaginations. From a modern perspective, they are almost comically underprepared -- they have few leads and few concrete plans (even for accommodations), naively counting on help from the locals.

One very charming note - the little one, Lucy (age 2), takes it for granted that they can walk into the pages of her favorite picture-books.

The Afterword offers an inte
If you have ever read a book and wished you could visit the scenery, this book could be an inspiration for you. Written in the late 1950’s, a family from America plans a vacation to England to visit the sites of where all their favorite authors wrote their books. They spend a week on a river trying to find the exact location of Toad Hall and Rat and Mole’s house from Wind in the Willows. They wander the moors to discover all things Bronte and locate Misselthwaite Manor. They scour Beatrix Potter ...more
Heidi Steiner
This was a beautiful book. Written in the 50’s, it is a mother’s memoir of her young family’s travels through the English/Scottish countryside looking for the places that inspired their favorite family books. I especially enjoyed the chapter on The Wind in the Willows and the last few chapters on A.A. Milne’s home, Mary Norton’s Borrowers, Robin Hood’s Nottingham and Sherwood Forest, the Bronte’s moors, Robert Louis Stevenson and Beatrix Potter. So very delightful. A book for anyone who has fall ...more
I absolutely loved this book. I loved how Joan took her family on a journey to find the places used in some of our favorite children's stories. I wanted to be right there with them hunting down the places and talking to people; discovering the imaginative places in the stories we read and finding them to be places authors used as springboards to give us beautiful places to think of in our minds. I will treasure this book. ...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
Nov 14, 2013 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 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
It took me about three weeks to get through the first chapter, then I finished the rest of this book in two days.
It isn’t the best written, most fascinating book I’ve ever read, but there’s something about it that is utterly enchanting.
There are a few things in it that are shocking to our modern minds. The first and biggest thing is that the author, her husband, and their two year old daughter shared a room in one hotel, while their eight year old son had his own room in a completely different h
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this, an American, Joan Bodger, a writer and herAcademic husband and two young kids (8 and 2)travel the UK to discover the landscape and houses of their favourite children's stories and illustrations, with over all success. Its an odyssey and as its the 1950's they just relied on inns., B&B s in the Lady magazine or any they came across , even a caravan though romantic was freezing due to typical unseasonable breaks in the weather.
I thought it delightful and would be inspired to do the s
I wanted so badly to love this book...I expected to love it. Travel memoir meets British children's literature? Right up my alley.

But I didn't love it. It's a pretty short book but it took me over two weeks to read! I love the idea of it. Some parts were really sweet and touching and thoughtful and well written, but a lot of it was a bit dull and seemed to drag on. And I was surprised by how many of the books mentioned I hadn't read, or how many sections I didn't really have any interest in (th
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
A pleasant enough travelogue and recounting of visits to real places associated with some of our favorite children’s British literature. I realized I’ve been to several of the places described herein, and I was happy to revisit and get a new appreciation for said places (Stowe, Windermere, etc.). I’m kicking myself for not finishing a read-aloud of Swallows and Amazons yet but on the other hand thoroughly proud we all read or listened to all of the Pooh books and The Wind in the Willows in parti ...more
Kathy Wilson
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If I had read this book along with taking children's literature in college, my life might have taken a whole new turn - simply because, I wouldn't have been able to embark on this trip without my librarian grandmother. Hence, I would have had to rob a bank for necessary funds. Anyone who is in love with children's literature, written by British authors, will adore this book. It is definitely dated, but the book was a delightful romp down memory lane accompanied by beloved authors of my childhood ...more
Virginia B
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this book long ago, wish I could read it again, but it’s out of print, and used copies cost $80! It’s a lovely book about an American family’s travels in England in search of places where children’s books took place; authors like Kenneth Graham, Arthur Ransome, Frances Hodgson Burnett lived and wrote.
Lisa Thomas
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
A nostalgic look at British children's literature and the landscape that inspired it. Dated, but interesting. ...more
Autumn Lord
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So incredible! I will definitely use this as a guidebook when I go to England.
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Delightful and charming. It's fun to read books that are about books I've read, a different sort of nostalgia. ...more
Jul 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Enjoyable particularly the interview with Arthur Ransome
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Delightful read through England
Sheri Poe-Pape
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An important to all about the history of British children's books. Very imformative and a must read. ...more
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Always expands my to-read list. 2
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
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82 likes · 22 comments
“Now I see more clearly how a truth, too big to be expressed except in art or poetry, can hitch itself to a landscape. The process of attachment engenders another dimension to the idea, enlarges it, and makes it visible through time as myth incarnate (if you consider the planet as a living being). The myth may fade, the place may lose significance, but like the sleeping hero, like a recumbent goddess, the truth will remain. When the time is right it will reemerge to support what needs to be expressed. Then the landscape will be rediscovered, the story told again, the truth revealed for a new age.” 0 likes
“-Would-be Pilgrims have sometimes asked me, anxiously, whether they can make the same journey. Will it be the same? Is there anything left? They remind me of children to whom I am about to tell a story. 'Is it true?' they ask. My stock reply is, "It is truer than true." Often there is one child, determined not to be impressed, who says scornfully, "I've already heard that story." I am immediately interested. "You have? So have I. But since the last time I told it, and since the last time you heard it, the earth's gone 'round the sun, the rain's fallen into the brook, and the brook's run into the river. Even if you've heard this story before, even if I tell it word for word just like the first time, you've changed and I've changed and the story will change."
You can never step into the same river twice.”
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