POSTED BY: Caitriona Butler

The unbearable nostalgia of books

7th Nov, 2018
Books piled high

The unbearable nostalgia of books

They say that nostalgia triggers the reward pathways in the brain and causes the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine which is why it delivers that indulgently warm glow. There are a few books from my childhood that never fail to hit me with that rush of nostalgia.

Three of my favourites were; ‘Miserable Aunt Bertha’ illustrated by John Vernon Lord, ‘Snow White’ illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert and ‘Brambley Hedge Winter Story’ illustrated by Jill Barklem.

These books are all heavily illustrated with incredibly intricate details and I can easily imagine myself as a child spending hours poring over these elaborate illustrations.

  • ‘Miserable Aunt Bertha’ illustrated by John Vernon Lord
  • ‘Snow White’ illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert
  • ‘Brambley Hedge Winter Story’ illustrated by Jill Barklem


When I had my own children, I tracked down copies of these books to read to them but it seems that my children have different tastes and they never fell in love with these particular books in the same way I did.

It may be because children’s books now can be so clever. Some of my own children’s favourites are very simple in terms of illustration but ingenious in their delivery.

Two that stand out are ‘Press here‘ by Herve Tullet & ‘The book with no pictures‘ by BJ Novak.

‘Press here’ (pictured below) is a simply illustrated book that asks you to follow instructions to interact with a series of coloured dots that seem to travel around the pages and change colour as the reader presses, rubs and shakes the book. This book was so popular in our house that it fell apart and needed to be taped back together on more than one occasion.


The hilarious ‘The book with no pictures’ (pictured below) literally has no pictures and instead lets children trick the adults into reading the increasingly ridiculous text printed inside. The back cover warns:

“This book looks serious but it is actually COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS! If a kid is trying to make you read this book, the kid is playing a trick on you. You will end up saying SILLY THINGS and making everybody LAUGH AND LAUGH! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…”


In these days of Kindles & eBooks and the long-term decline in printed book sales, I’m delighted to see that the Children’s Book sector is one that continues to grow and I’m hopeful that physical books will continue to generate that buzz of nostalgia in adults for generations to come.

Caitriona Butler, Web Developer.
Caitriona can usually be found crafting robust and effective responsive web sites across a range of programming languages & technologies at Neworld, a branding, creative and web design & development agency based in Dublin.