Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inspired by Childhood Book

by Sue Berger
What was the book from you childhood that made you a reader? For me, it was the Maida series.

For my eighth birthday in 1951, my Aunt Gloria gave me an entire series of books. - The Maida Series by Inez Haynes Irwin,

Imagine opening a giant package with ten beautiful new books in colorful dust jackets. I immediately dived in to the first one. When I finished, my brother read it. (We always share our books. I read all his Tom Swift Jr. and Hardy Boy books. He read all my Maida’s and Nancy Drew’s)

Maida’s Little Shop published in 1910 and had a fairy tale quality about it. Maida Westabrook, the daughter of Jerome “Buffalo” Westabrook, Wall Street tycoon has had everything that money can buy and the devotion of her father, but she has also known trouble and heartache. Her mother died when she was younger. Poor health has given her much pain and for most of her life she was unable to walk.

When the story begins, Maida has recovered from surgery performed by a renowned German specialist, and has regained the use of her legs. However, her father and her doctor are worried that she remains listless and want to help her find some interest in life to improve her health and happiness. On a chance visit to Charlestown, on the outskirts of Boston, they visit a little neighborhood shop, and Maida is enchanted and wishes that she, too, could keep a shop just like this one. Buffalo Westabrook, delighted to see Maida take an interest in something, buys the shop and arranges for Maida to live above the shop with elderly Irish housekeeper, Granny Flynn. The only two conditions are that she must make the shop pay, and she must not reveal her true identity. The story of how she does this and makes friends with the children who live in the court is enchanting. In the end, her true identity is revealed.

The adventures of Maida and her group of friends from Primrose Court continue through nine more books, thanks to the generosity of Buffalo Westabrook, who makes all of the arrangements for the children to live together in various interesting settings.

I say nine more books, but I did not realize until a few years ago Inez Haynes Irwin wrote four more Maida books after Aunt Gloria gave me the series. (I have looked for these books, but cannot find copies under $200.00)

Maida’s Little Shop was written in 1910. The last book I had - Maida’s Little Lighthouse- was written in 1951. Although the series was written over a period of forty years, the characters age very little. During the period that Ms Irwin wrote these books, there were two World Wars and the Korean War. You will not find these events in the books. They remain a tribute to childhood and friendship. Occasionally I go back and reread them. I have loved many books since the Maida Series, but you never forget your first. My dream is to write a book that will mean as much to a child as the Maida books meant to me. Write on!


  1. Maida's Little Shop is available at in many formats. It is free

  2. The look like a charming series.
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  3. My favorite books as a child were the Trixie Belden series, but the Maida series sound delightful! Thanks Sue for the info!!!

  4. I can't really remember the books I read as a kid. But what inspired me to keep reading and start writing was my mother reading me stories before bedtime.

  5. No single book made me love reading, but I greatly enjoyed the Heidi series as a child.

  6. I'm sure there were many that came before but I remember The WRINKLE IN TIME series as a big starting point. It was 1978 and Madelaine L'Engle visited my school. I was fascinated not only by the story but by the writer and proceeded to drag my parents all over New York City to track down any and all books she had written.

  7. I read all the Trixie Belden, Nancy. Also The Dana Girls and an old and wonderful series called the Patty Fairfield Books. (1890's-World war One)
    Christopher I always think reading to kids is a great way to make readers of them. My boys's favorite "read aloud to them" books were The "Matthew and the Midnight.." series by Allan Morgan, anything by James Stevenson and the Indian in the Cupboard books.

  8. Tim, I love that you dragged your parents all over New York to find those books. I di not read them till I was in my twenties. I thought they were marvelous.


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