Were you a voracious reader as a child?
In my childhood we had more time to read than children do now. We didn’t have the distraction of electronics, extracurricular activities or even much in the way of children’s programming on TV. And bless her heart, my mother encouraged reading and drove her kids to the library once a week where we were allowed to borrow as many books as the library allowed. I spent hours curled up in nooks and cubbyholes reading to my heart’s content.
I recently completed a delightful book called Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (Lucy Mangan.) Although the author grew up in a different decade and country than I did, reading about the books that shaped her life stirred up memories of books that have stood the test of time for me.
One of the first books I remember from early childhood is Pooky (Ivy L. Wallace). It starred a delightful little rabbit with wings who set out to find his fortune. “What was a Fortune? He had no idea, but he thought it must be a mixture of happiness, lettuce and kind words.” (I totally agree.) There was a whole series of Pooky books and I cherished every one.
The first novel I remember reading was Call It Courage (Armstrong Sperry). I believe it was one of the first books taught after we’d completed the Dick and Jane readers. The Polynesian setting was new and exotic to me. How I felt for Mafatu as he desperately faced his fear of the sea. This may be the book that started my lifelong obsession with novels. Then came Harriet the Spy and who didn’t love Harriett?
My favourite high school novel was The Chrysallids (John Wyndam). It was full of dark, disturbing themes and one of the only books I’ve reread in recent years. To this day I’m haunted by the forbidden telepathy shared by the children in this story.
As a teacher in the ’80’s the novels that I loved to read to my grade two, three and four students were The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis), Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Judy Blume). I still have a painting of a beautiful lion head (the mighty Aslan) hanging in my home, and it may be after first reading Charlotte’s Web that I gave up eating meat.
Then I became a parent. One of the best parts of raising small children was reading picture books again. A couple favourites from those days are Stellaluna (Janell Cannon), The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear (Audrey Wood), and The Napping House (Audrey Wood.)
In Bookworm, Manganese’s says that by the age of six “I didn’t need parenting, just feeding and rotating every few hours on the sofa to prevent pressure sores”. I can totally relate. I’m hoping that someday I’ll have grandchildren so I can share my passion for children’s books with them, revisiting my old favourites and keeping abreast of what is new and wonderful.
Which were your favourite childhood books?