Monday, 23 January 2017

Favourite Childhood Books

Children’s writers are the most influential of all writers. 

No one cares about a book as much as a child, who often almost memorises his or her favourite. Do you remember that? If you were a child who liked to read (some come to it later), you know how much those childhood favourites influence your life. 

What were your favourite books when you were a child?




Childhood favourites affect a whole life




Maya Angelou

When I read Alcott, I knew that these girls she was talking about were all white. But they were nice girls and I understood them. I felt like I was almost there with them in their living room and their kitchen.


Illustration from an 1868 version of Little Women


Hilary Mantel


Jane Eyre and her aunt
I was nine or ten [when I read Jane Eyre]. That was my first experience of realising that there was another head in the world that felt like mine—the passage right at the beginning, when Jane’s relatives accuse her of being unchildlike. For a young reader that’s an important moment, when you recognize that your self exists in the world and that your self exists in literature. I totally identified with Jane as an unchildlike child...When I read Jane Eyre, I found that I existed in fiction.



My mother “accidentally” read [George Orwell's Animal Farm] to my brother and me, thinking that it was a bona fide children’s book. We were about seven and eight at the time. Of course we all found it pretty disturbing soon enough, and Mum seriously considered quitting when the violence and treachery set in—worrying that it might “warp our little minds” as she later recalled—but we passed a unanimous family vote to continue because the story was just so compelling. And universal too...As a child I saw it as an allegory of the schoolyard: all the deep friendships, dubious allegiances, bullying, arbitrary rule making, and power games that adults, preoccupied with their own lofty social politics, rarely witness in the world of lunchtime recess, much less understand.

A seven-year-old kid in suburban Western Australia can read it and think, I know just what this Orwell guy is on about! 



Ballet Shoes was the first book Jacqueline Wilson ever bought for herself. It was a substitute for actual ballet shoes, because her mother did not think there would be much point in sending her “mousy” daughter to ballet classes. Another reason the young Jackie was drawn to this book with its picture of three girls dancing on the cover: “I was an only child and longed for sisters. I felt as if I were the fourth Fossil sister as I read my way through the book...It certainly isn’t a star-struck fairy-tale about fame and fortune. The Fossil sisters have to work very hard indeed at Madame Fidolia’s Academy, and it doesn’t come easy for them.




I was obsessed with Alice when I was growing up and beginning to draw and think about drawing. I used to draw the White Rabbit. I used to think about how it was drawn and copied it endlessly. I also loved the story and how pictures worked with text - I thought back then that it was all by one person. Alice says “what is the point of a book without good conversation and pictures?” I still believe that.




For my fifth birthday, my father gave me a very fat book called The Book of a Thousand Poems. I loved it. I read the poems, recited them, learnt them, and then started making up some of my own. Although I wanted to be a poet all those years ago, I later decided I would rather go on the stage. That didn’t quite work out, so I did other jobs – teaching and publishing. But somehow I’ve ended up doing what I wanted to do when I was five years old. I have a theory that this happens to quite a lot of people.

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Julie Sullivan named her oldest child Lucy after the girl in her favourite childhood book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. 

@webwight



2 comments:

  1. What a joyful post - nothing so fascinating as the favourite childhood reads of eminent authors. It's that time when you're completely yourself, enjoying books for their own sake rather than because you know they're classics. I too loved Little Women, Alice in Wonderland, the Narnia books and - a bit later - Jane Eyre. To this list I'd add The Phantom Tollbooth - still one of my favourite books of all time.

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  2. I remember 'accidentally' reading my sister's 'O'level text Lord of the Flies when I was about ten. The section when Piggy gets killed had my weeping but the understatement of tragedy - 'stuff like strawberry jam came out of his head' - has stayed with me.

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