Children's Literacy Round-Up: November 10
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Five Favorite Fictional Rooms from Children's Literature

Over at Charlotte's Library, Charlotte has been writing about her favorite fictional rooms. This, naturally enough, inspired me to think about my favorite fiction rooms. Here are my top five favorite fictional rooms. All of them (no surprise to people who read this blog) are from favorite children's books of my childhood.

VelvetRoom #1: The Velvet Room of the title in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's book (which I wrote about more extensively here and here). The description is a bit too detailed for me to share it all here, but here is the reaction of the main character (Robin) when she first sees the room:

"Expecting only another bedroom, Robin opened the door and stepped into the most wonderful surprise of her life.

From that first glimpse, from the first minute, it was more than a room -- more even than the most beautiful room Robin had ever seen. Her hands shook on the doorknob, and the shaking didn't come from fear or cold. Her trembling hands were only an echo of something deeper that had been strangely shaken by that first sight of the Velvet Room.

Part of it might have been surprise, surprise that this room wasn't empty like all the others. But another part of it was a strange feeling, almost like recognition. It was as if she had been there before, or at least had known it was there. As if she had always know that there would be a place exactly like this."

Maida #2: The shop in Maida's Little Shop, by Inez Haynes Irwin. And oh my gosh! There's a new paperback reissue of this 1909 title, published earlier this year by Tutis Digital Publishing Pvt. Ltd. There's even a Kindle edition. I currently possess three different old editions of this title, but don't think that's going to stop me from buying this new one. The Maida books, well, they helped make me into a reader. My Grandmother had the first two books in the series (which started with this one), and I have collected them myself for as long as I can remember. Maida's Little Shop is the story of a little rich girl who is lame, and has been sick for all of her life. Her doctor recommends a project, and her father buys her a little shop (toys and candy, etc.) in a working class neighborhood. Working in the shop and becoming friends with the neighborhood children give Maida a new lease on life. It's sappy, but I love it. Here's Maida's first glimpse of the finished shop, and her first, personally arranged shop window.

"Indeed, you would never have known the place yourself. The ceiling had been whitened. The faded drab woodwork had been painted white. The walls had been colored a beautiful soft yellow. Back of the counter a series of shelves, glassed in by sliding doors, ran the whole length of the wall and nearly to the ceiling. Behind the show case stood a comfortable, cushioned swivel-chair...

The window certainly struck the key-note of the season. Tops in all sizes and colors were arranged in pretty patterns in the middle. Marbles of all kinds from the ten-for-a-cent "peeweezers" up to the most beautiful, colored "agates" were displayed at the sides. Jump-ropes of variegated colors with handles, brilliantly painted, were festooned at the back. One of the window shelves had been furnished like a tiny room. A whole family of dolls sat about on the tiny sofas and chairs. On the other shelf lay neat piles of blank-books and paper-blocks, with files of pens, pencils, and rubbers arranged in a decorative pattern surrounding them all."

I may have especially bonded with Maida's shop because my father owned a hardware store, and I always wished it had been a stationery store instead (no, I didn't wish for a toystore, I wished for a stationery store with lots of pens and blank notebooks).

Charlie #3: The Chocolate Room from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (introduced in Chapter 15).

"Mr. Wonka opened the door. Five children and nine grownups pushed their way in -- and oh, what an amazing sight it was that now met their eyes!

They were looking down upon a lovely valley. There were green meadows on either side of the valley, and along the bottom of it there flowed a great brown river.

What is more, there was a tremendous waterfall halfway along the river -- a steep cliff over which the water curled and rolled in a solid sheet, and then went crashing down into a boiling churning whirlpool of froth and spray."

There's lots more (and of course the waterfall is chocolate, not water), but you'll have to re-read the book to experience it.

Mistake #4: The cupola in the Four-Story Mistake, from the book by Elizabeth Enright (reviewed here, and with thanks to Square Fish for re-issuing this series).

"... Randy was the first of the children to see the cupola. She followed her father up the steep, narrow steps. Almost as good as a ladder, she thought to herself. At the top Father opened the door and there they were, standing in a tiny room that seemed to be nothing but windows. The tower of the enchanted princess, Randy thought. All around is nothing but sea. Once a day a slave in a rowboat comes bringing a basket of food. The princess pulls it up on a long silken cord. She also catches fish from the window."

#5: The Boxcar from the first Boxcar Children book by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I don't have a copy, so I can't give you a quote, but it sticks in my head despite being probably 30 years since I read the book, so that should count for something.

It's not that there haven't been interesting rooms in more recent novels (the Hogwarts common room comes to mind, for example), but these are the ones that have been with me the longest, and qualify as my favorites. What about you? What are your favorite fictional rooms?

Many thanks to Charlotte for inspiring this trip down memory lane.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.