I love this book. It was one of the first books given to us after the birth of our eldest child, and I’d never heard of it. At first, I couldn’t quite work it out – it seemed to include characters from all the fairy tales: Tom Thumb, Cinderella, Jack and Jill, a wicked witch, Robin Hood, the Three Bears… all tangled up in a little rhyme. Our friend had given it to us saying that she hoped we’d enjoy it, because her children had loved it.
I took it home, read it aloud, and I got it. The lovely, easy cadence, the cuddles of a tiny child, the sweet little illustrations that we’d spend ages poring over: minute horses, tiny little birds, a plum pie.
Mooowhahahaha, a wicked witch.
Over the years, with three children, the book started to fall to bits. What started as a crinkle became a crack and a tear and a patch-up with Sellotape and a rip and a wearing-through and more Sellotape, and then someone chewed it… gradually the layers of tape increased, forming creases and bubbles and eventually it became about 50% tape with holes where the pages should be.
I bought a new copy, and we read that. But we still read the old one.
I had a clear-out of the old baby books, making way for Tolkien, Paver, Walliams, and many more. I threw out the old board books with their torn-off flaps and chewed corners… but for a long time, there were three old books that I couldn’t bring myself to throw out: Where’s Spot, Goodnight Moon and Each Peach Pear Plum. All had newer duplicates, but there was something about the original, over-thumbed books that spoke of all the hours spent cuddled up, reading for the first time with my babies.
They sat on the shelf, looking tatty in the same way as the Velveteen Rabbit.
I bought a lot of copies of Each Peach over the years. Friends and family received copies for their newborns. I gave a copy to the school library.
Then the friend who gave it to us died, and suddenly I didn’t want a new copy, I wanted our old original: did we still have it? I looked, but it wasn’t on the shelf. We’d had a particularly stern clear-out earlier this year and I remembered holding the book and thinking, it really has fallen to bits. But still, I felt sad at the idea of having thrown it away.
It was only when I read to my youngest at bedtime that I found it, at the bottom of the pile of books beside his bed. He doesn’t read it as a story book any more; he looks at it to remind himself of those early years because the book has woven itself into his memories of early childhood, symbolic of mum hugs and sleepy comfort. I was ridiculously pleased to see it.
‘I knew we still had it,’ said my twelve-year-old.
They all gathered round to look at it and smile. And then, as usual, it was placed down with all the other books, just part of our home, something we’re used to – something we take for granted, because it’s always there.