I wrote about my favourite childhood books fairly early on in my blogging life. It seemed natural to explain my obsession with books. Only I can’t really explain it. My parents weren’t readers. Not then. Mum came to books later. Dad still resists. Nevertheless both my sister and I love books. And so now does my nephew.
I can remember buying my first Mr Men book (by Roger Hargreaves). It wasn’t my first book by any stretch of the imagination. But I think it must be one of the first that I had a hand in buying. That I was allowed to choose. And that feeling of satisfaction and pride stayed with me. Mr Small. Loved it. Went back for more. All of them, in fact. Indeed, became a tad obsessed with the Mr Men. But that’s another story.
The Mr Men however brought me my first audio recording. A single (record, 45 rpm) of Mr Happy and Mr Jelly. Read by Arthur Lowe. How amazing is that?! I still have it. Don’t have a record player any more though...
I can’t write about children’s books with mentioning Enid Blyton. Brer Rabbit. The Naughtiest Girl. The Famous Five. The Secret Seven. Today I still have The Enchanted Wood, The Folk of the Faraway Tree and The Magic Faraway Tree. Stunning tales. They transported me to another world. I wanted to be in that tree. To climb on the visiting cloud to see which land was there today. To meet Moon-Face, Silky, Saucepan. To make toffee and eat pop biscuits. To experience the slippery slip, Dame Washalot.
Those tales influenced our play, our dreams. Our sleep. They have stayed with me. I can still feel the excitement of reading them. Talking about them with my best friend. The hope that such wonderful worlds might exist. The desire to create them for ourselves.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis: I remember walking through the wardrobe with Lucy. Feeling past the musty coats till the crunch beneath our feet turned to snow. Crying so hard when Aslan died that I couldn’t articulate and mum thought something awful had happened to her daughter.
Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome: sitting for hours in the abandoned boat in my best friend’s garden. Planning sailing trips. Fending off pirates. Trying to whistle and coo like owls (and btw never succeeding). Making a survival kit. Just in case.
I could go on. Books have shaped me since I could read. Stimulated my imagination. Stirred desires and hopes and dreams. And continue to do so. I can only be grateful to all the authors then and now busily working to the benefit of us all.