Wednesday, 12 December 2012

L is for Literature

I love to read. I average one to two books a week most of the year (four or five if I am on holidays). Thank God for our local library and the reserve function on their catalogue. Actually I can reserve books from all over the state now online. I have a Kindle too these days but nothing beats a real paper book. My bookshelves are filled with old favourites. Once read I rarely get rid of a good story. My Christmas present shopping and wish list always runs heavily to books. It's not Christmas in my eyes without a Christmas Book or two (or more).

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.
Anne of Green Gables series: LM Montgomery. I always really liked the later ones when Anne is married to Gilbert.

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.
We followed the adventures of Belgarion, Belgarath and Polgara and co. from the fertile mind of David Eddings. We also loved his tales, in a separate series of books, of Sparhawk the Knight. These days, the boy is a fan of Sparhawk. Most recently Sparhawk went on a plane as trip reading for a long haul flight to Italy.

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.
Rick Riordan: The Percy Jackson and the new Egyptian ones. A really clever modern take on Greek Mythology.

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?

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