I can’t recollect when my love for reading first came about. No particular moment or book springs to mind. The same way I can’t remember speaking my first word or taking my first step, reading is something that’s always been an integral part of my life.
When I was younger, I’d love scouting the charity shops’ shelves hunting for my next bed time read. Today, I still can’t pass a bookstore without going in to simply have a browse. I’d leave my local library with the maximum number of books and whizz through their summer reading challenge. I loved – and still do – the ritual. I’d sit up in bed and read a chapter or two every night. Then, receiving a new book on my birthday, I’d flick through the pristine pages and relish that new book smell. My only reading habit that has changed since childhood is that I’m no longer such a serial re-reader.
While there’s a bounty of books I remember loving as a child, there are a select few that always brew up found memories. Here are four favourite books from my childhood:
Mention Jacqueline Wilson to your average British twenty-something, and they will be able to talk at length about her books. I could write an entire blog post dedicated to her stories alone given that she was, by far, my most read author of my childhood. Although cherishing them all, My Sister Jodie is one that has stuck with me the most.
I first read the story of Pearl and Jodie spending their bizarre summer holiday at Melchester College when I was ten years old. The memory of reading it for the first time is lodged in my brain; my heart sinking at the unpredictable turn of events, my hands clutching the books as tears trickled down my face, never aware that words could have the power to provoke such emotion. The story includes a great crisis and its fallout causes unimaginable pain. But pain is a part of life and you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.
The reason why Jacqueline Wilson stands out among other contemporary children’s authors is that she doesn’t shy away from taboo subjects in her stories. Instead, she broaches poignant topics – from mental health to homelessness, helping young readers understand the world around them. I’ll always admire her for never sugar-coating these issues, but rather shows that there is always a path through the darkness. Despite its melancholy themes, I must have read My Sister Jodie from cover to cover at least five times – picking it up when I couldn’t sleep, finding something new each time I read through it, hanging onto every word. A book I will never forget.
This entire book is a gobblefunk of words. I remember reading it and truly getting lost in the story in a way I hadn’t with many others. There’s something captivating about how a mystical creature could appear in your bedroom in the depths of the night and take you to another, more exciting, word. You’re whisked off to experience the adventure of a lifetime. Reading it as a child, you can’t help but imagine yourself in Dahl’s protagonist’s shoes.
A notable memory is watching the animated film in school. I was in Year 2, and both classes gathered chairs around the whiteboard which the film projected itself onto. We tucked into our little plastic cups full of popcorn and cartons of milk and enjoyed the magical, whimsical story of the Big Friendly Giant. If I were to read it or watch the film now, I’m sure the language would seem ridiculous. However, it doesn’t matter how silly the broken English is – snapperwhippers and babblement and crockadowndillies – Dahl pulls you into his fantasy creation and makes it believable.
Honestly, my biggest memory of reading this book is of how smug I felt after finishing it. “I did it, I read a book from ‘the olden days’.”
I remember feeling an affinity to Anne Shirley more than many other female heroines, particularly due to her love for crafting stories and her social awkwardness. She’s a fierce young girl who faces the world and charms everyone around her with her positivity. Montgomery makes you see the magic of the world around us – in nature, friendships, family – through Anne’s eyes. I’ll admit, I don’t remember many plot details, just how happy I felt while reading it. It’s a childhood classic that I need to re-read. Maybe I’ll read the rest of the series too.
This is another Roald Dahl classic I had to mention purely down to how repulsive I remember finding the characters and Quentin Blake’s illustrations. I have the fondest memories of reading this book again and again in school. They are truly disgusting and despicable characters and the story itself would be enough to give a child nightmares, but I loved it every time I read it. Plus, it has one of the most iconic lines about beauty and happiness:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
I don’t care how old you are, read this book.
What are your favourite books from your childhood?
Thanks for reading,
Also read: August Reading Wrap-Up 2019.