Today’s post is a bit of a reminiscent one really – my Mum and Dad have been redecorating my childhood home, and with that I had to throw out a lot of books (don’t worry, they went to Oxfam, not the tip). Some of these I’d had since I could read (no Green Eggs and Ham for me though…), and it got me thinking that a lot of these had a big effect on me and my love of literature. So I thought it was worth a trundle down memory lane, which I hope you enjoy.
I did an English degree, so it’s no huge surprise that I love literature. Literature takes you into so many different worlds at the flick of a page, and for an only child this is fuel for the imagination. My Mum and Gran would take me shopping, and find me under clothes rack reading a book while they browsed – I would read everything I could get my hands on. So here are a few of the ones that really stood out:
1. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales
HCA will always have a place in my heart – I remember sitting on my Dad’s knee as he read them too me – me in my pale blue Winnie-the-Pooh pyjamas (oh trust me, we’ll get to him in a bit) and Dad on the navy blue crushed velvet (oh yes) armchair in the old house. There’s always one particular story that jumps out at me – The Tinderbox. It’s a superbly creepy tale, with a witch, a princess, a poor lowly soldier and a few death threats – the stuff of nightmares when you’re four years old. But for some reason, not in this case. The Tinderbox always reminds me of those first memories of being a daddy’s girl, and some proper bonding time with my ol’ Pops.
2. A.A.Milne – Winnie The Pooh
Funny ol’ Pooh. Winnie-the-Pooh was like a gateway drug to Disney for me, but the books were where the love began. Mostly, actually, in the poetry books When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. There’s a lovely little poem about Christopher Robin going to Buckingham Palace, with Alice! You can imagine a six year old’s joy…
I had a Winnie-the-Pooh themed bedroom, where my Mum painted the 100 Acre Wood on the far wall, all the soft toys – even Gopher. No one had Gopher. Winnie-the-Pooh is my childhood in a nutshell.
3. Jacqueline Wilson – The Lottie Project
There were a fair few Jacqueline Wilson books on my shortlist here:
- The Story of Tracy Beaker
- The Bed and Breakfast Star
- The Illustrated Mum
- Lola Rose
…but in the end it had to come down to the very first one I read. Coming from quite a stable background, The Lottie Project was my first insight into a one-parent family, grandparents who weren’t particularly loving, and what can happen when a family dynamic is turned upside down. It was a great read, and I’d always recommend it. I’m a huge fan of Jacqueline Wilson as a person, as well as a writer – she cares about the children who read her books, and endeavours to create scenarios that are relatable, have drama, but are also appropriate for her audience. But most of all, they all have hope. Whether it was Ellie, in Girls in Love, who thought she was too fat to ever find a boyfriend, or Tracy Beaker, who thought she was too damaged and angry to find a mother to love her – Jacqueline Wilson created these imperfect characters forms all to love and to root for.
4. J.K. Rowling, The Harry Potter Series
Seven seems to be a theme here, maybe I’m just realising it…
I was seven when I was given Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for my birthday, at which point I had to read the first three. My Mum bought them for me specially, and I think they were probably my first proper books. Instantly, I loved them. I loved Harry, Ron and Hermione like siblings.
But the reason the fourth book particularly stands out to me, is it’s the first one I would sneak into the Dining Room and read by myself – before that, my Mum and Dad would try and read them first in case I had nightmares and they needed to understand what I was talking about (Top Parenting Points, right?). The Goblet of Fire is also the first time things start to get properly dark – Harry’s first awareness grief and loss, his fall out with his best friend (if you were ever an eight year old girl, you totally get that one…) and the threat of Voldemort looming over the wizarding world. I was a full on Potterhead.
5. Stephanie Meyer – New Moon
Yeah, bit of a wild card here – but technically Harry Potter slips into adolescence (and full on adulthood) too.
I was 15 when I first read the Twilight saga, and to be perfectly, unashamedly, honest – I loved it. New Moon in particular stood out, because as a 15 year old girl, with her first raging crush, you really understand heartbreak. Who didn’t feel like Bella, abandoned in the woods when they didn’t text you back? Or like your soulmate had vanished into thin air when they spoke to another girl and not you? Oh yeah, teenage angst was rife in my neck of the woods, you only have to check out my very very locked old Twitter account to see that one.
I’ve tried to find a link between each of these, and I can’t. Some had a perfect fantasy world for my imagination to roam freely in. Some were relatable. Some were completely bonkers, which is what made them a great story. Some were about talking animals and that was just a dream come true.
But these are definitely the books that shaped my early years, whether it was from sparking my imagination, giving me more imaginary friends, or just spurring on my love of reading.