Today my son made me dig out my souvenir copy of The Hobbit figuring he might read it before he sees the movie. He's popping up occasionally saying things like."Gee, Tolkien was descriptive wasn't he? It's taken him two pages to describe Hobbits," and shushing me when I talk to him 'cos he's reading. My parents instilled a love of reading in me at a very early age. Today I'm having a walk down memory lane through my bookshelves looking at the childhood favourites of both me and my children.
This is my first grown up book: 70 Favourite Stories for Young Readers. The inscription inside says "To Jo-ann Christmas 1977 from Mum and Dad". I would have been 9. (And my Mum's handwriting hasn't changed any). I read from this to my own children.
Five books that I still have that shaped my childhood:
Noel Streatfield: Curtain Up. I wanted to be on stage after reading this. Have no talent in this area unfortunately. Also loved the classic Ballet Shoes which is the prequel to this.
Jean Merrill: The Pushcart War. The pushcart vendors of New York City take on the big nasty trucks and the little guy wins.
Ruth Manley: The Plum Rain Scroll. Beautifully written story about Taro the odd job boy based on Japanese Mythology.
Jonathon Gathorne-Hardy: Jane's Adventures in and out of the Book. A story about a girl who lives in a very large castle with just the housekeeper and who finds a book in a deserted turret which you can enter through the pictures.
Helen Cresswell: The Piemakers. Small village piemakers make the world's largest pie. Think swimming pool size.
I suspect that most of these are out of print now. A few of them are looking the worse for wear.
Lousia May Alcott: There is so much more to her than Little Women. My favourite was Eight Cousins, but I also love Jack and Jill.
Fantasy. My Dad and I (and my next sister down) had a shared love of Fantasy. He died nearly 13 years ago in his early fifties of asbestos related cancer and I inherited his books. (My Mum's an avid reader too but has never got Fantasy). These days when I re-read them, it's like he's looking over my shoulder reading along.
So together we discovered and read of the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. I have a vivid picture memory of buying one of these books at a petrol station on the way to our summer holidays and the growing anticipation of waiting for Dad to finish first so I could read it next.
Raymond E. Feist told the tale of Pug the Magician (and is still telling it). This is the beauty of an essentially immortal character.
These days there are books which will be precious to my children. These are the ones we read and squabble about as a family.
Harry Potter. Notice they are hanging out of shelf next to the Twilight Books. Don't blame it for the company it keeps.
Cassandra Clare: The Mortal Instruments Series : Smart Teenage Urban Fantasy. There are currently five books in the original series about Jase and Clarry, The Mortal Instruments. The new series has overtones of steampunk.
Kylie Chan: The Dark Heavens and Journey to Wudang Trilogies. This is where I am going to take the opportunity to go all fangirl on you about one of my favourite authors. Kylie is Australian and lives in Brisbane these days but spent her early married life in China and Hong Kong. I picked up the first of these (White Tiger) at the library as holiday reading for a trip to Queensland. I read it in two days, read it again and then made the family read it. When we got home, I bought my own copy. Imagine mixing an ordinary Aussie girl with Chinese mythology where all the Gods are real and living in Hong Kong along with some kick-ass martial arts action and that sort of describes these books. The characters are fantastical but live in your imagination. I've met Kylie when she came to Melbourne for a book launch and she was kind enough to sign all our battered copies. This is one author we all enjoy and whose next book we count the days down to.
What are your favourite childhood books? What memories do they bring back for you?