Hello everyone. Having been handed the baton I thought I’d look to the month of March itself to inspire the next four weeks’ Wonderings – quite appropriate, I thought, since anyone venturing into the precarious world of writing must be as mad as a March hare… Writers, of course, are readers too; a love of books and reading is something we all want to hand down to the next generation, which is why I decided that our first port of call should be World Book Day which falls tomorrow, March 6th.
World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators and books, when children of all ages will come together to explore the pleasures of reading. One of WBD’s aims is to give as many children as possible the opportunity to own a book, something that sadly not all can take for granted, and millions of book tokens will be distributed to schools and groups in the UK to make this happen. Let’s hope lots of new readers are ‘born’ tomorrow – we wish World Book Day every success!
So, on to this week’s question. Imagine you have in front of you all the books you read as a child and teenager. Which one would you choose to pass on to a child or teenager today, and why? Then, if you want to, tell us more about the books you loved the most.
The Write Romantics had this to say:
My favourite book as a child was ‘Meet Stroller,’ by Marion Coakes as she then was before she married Mr Mould. I loved horses as a child, I still do. Goodness knows how I got to love them living on a densely populated council estate in south London. I used to dream I was out in the country riding horses in the fresh air. But it was a lot more than that. Stroller was small for a top class showjumper and Marion, his owner and rider, was a girl, and a young, small girl at that. That worked to their advantage, because they could take shortcuts in the course and save vital seconds pipping the others to the post. As soon as I was old enough I moved to Bristol to work as a nurse. You could see fields in Bristol and still be in the centre of town, so I could see how it felt living close to the country. It didn’t take me long to decide I loved it, and forty odd years on I still love it and never go to London if I can help it.
As a child, I was inspired by Enid Blyton. I particularly adored The Faraway Tree Series, Famous Five and MaloryTowers. When I started writing, I toyed with writing for children. My copies of these books had all been sold at jumble sales years previously so I bought a fat book that encompassed all the Enchanted Wood/Faraway Tree books in one as well as a MaloryTowers box set with the intention of re-immersing myself in my youth. I never quite got round to it. My daughter is now 7 and has started to dip into the MaloryTowers ones but the Faraway Tree is too fat for her to hold so I keep promising her I’ll read it to her. Really must do something about fulfilling that promise before she becomes a teenager and bypasses the Enid Blyton thing!
I wish I did have all my childhood books in front of me, there were so many amazing stories I read that inspired me to write my own stories when I was a child. I started off reading the wonderful Enid Blyton – Naughty Amelia Jane, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, MalloryTowers. I was hooked and would spend my £1 pocket money on a brand new book every week. The Famous Five were my favourite because of the adventures they managed to get caught up in and each one would have me intrigued and desperate to read more.
I then moved on to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie series which I enjoyed immensely. My love of reading as a child and a teenager meant I could escape my not so exciting life and live in a whole different world for a time. Reading is the most effective way of living someone else’s life without leaving the comfort of your own home and I’m so glad that I was able to read so many wonderful books as a child.
I can’t remember any particular books that I read as a child apart from The Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton. They were hardbacks in Red and I think The Secret Seven were blue. I don’t think I was bought many books, although my dad was an English teacher, as there were five children and not a lot of spare money. I did use the library a lot but can’t remember any particular book standing out, just a fear that they would get lost in our rambling house and I would be in trouble for not returning them! I do still have a precious book that I was given for Christmas, The Swan Princes, illustrated by Raymond Briggs. It’s in fairly bad condition so I think I must have read it a lot. I remember being really pleased that it was JUST FOR ME and I was determined that it would stay mine and not be shared!
Oh, even though I do love these sorts of questions, they do reveal me to be very low-end in my reading tastes. I wish I could name one of the classics or say that War and Peace changed my life as a teenager, but I’d be lying! As a child, it would probably be the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. My dad used to read it to me on Sunday mornings and do different voices for all the characters. He died fourteen years ago, so it’s a memory I’ll always treasure.
As a teenager, it would have to be The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. I have mentioned the Adrian Mole series of books on the blog before but, like Adrian, I was a wannabe writer even aged thirteen and three quarters and shared a lot of the same teenage angst that he went through. I still love the books now and think Sue Townsend is a genius for creating him! In fact, I think I’ll get my daughter started on the series soon, since she’s only six months off her own thirteenth birthday, and I hope she’ll love them as much as I do.
I don’t have just one book in mind but I would pass on all the Judy Blume books that I read: Blubber, Superfudge, Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret and many others. I think that they’re really honest books and tap into young teens’ psyche in a way that not everyone can. Even though the books were around when I was a teen, they are still popular today – my daughter just read Superfudge at school as a class reader and the kids discussed the issues within the text which made for a good learning experience.
It’s so hard to choose – but I did set the question so here goes… For a child I’ve picked ‘The Family from One End Street’, by Eve Garnett. She wrote it in 1937 and won an award for it. It’s about the Ruggles family who live in a tiny terrace in the East End. Father is a dustman, Mother a washerwoman and they have seven children – as an only child myself that was a big part of the appeal. Nothing particularly extraordinary or adventurous happens – it’s all about life’s little dramas like catching measles and setting fire to a petticoat – but I remember taking it out of the library time and time again and poring over the exquisite little pencil drawings. There’s a sequel, too, with the family’s ‘further adventures’. You can buy them today as Puffin Classics. I might treat myself.
For a teenager, I’ve chosen ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith. This was one of the first ‘grown up’ books I read, and I remember being entranced by the romantic setting and sharing the heartache of the heroine’s first love. It came out as a film a few years ago and I enjoyed it, though not as much as the book. But perhaps that’s just the nostalgia talking…
It would have to be Swallows and Amazons. I was a bit of a tom boy when I was growing up and I adored these stories of adventure and sailing. Looking back I think I one of the reasons that I loved them was because the girls were really strong characters and didn’t sit quietly in camp waiting for the boys to come home. I read the copies that my Dad had from the late forties and they’re just lovely with the original (somewhat tattered) dustcovers and the illustrations by Arthur Ransome. I’m really hoping my nephew grows up to love reading because I’m looking forward to handing them on to him.
The other book that I have a real soft spot for is Anne of Green Gables. Obviously I had no problem relating to a red headed heroine even though she was a lot more outspoken and got into a lot more trouble than I ever did!
I was given a copy of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty when I was about seven. I’ve read it and read it and it now lives safely tucked away in my bedroom. Although it’s one of my most treasured books, it is in a somewhat battered condition. It was this book which started my love affair with reading and subsequently, writing.
Obviously I would like to pass that book on to a younger child. The story evokes so much emotion as well as teaching that life can be tough. But first I’d love to be able to give a gift of books to a very young child, to allow them to sample the delights of turning the pages, looking at the pictures and very importantly having quiet time with adults.
Have we inspired you with our choices? Do stay around and let us know your favourites too – we’d love to hear from you.