Book changers was a hashtag on twitter this week. I was interested to see the books that authors said changed their lives. Laurell K Hamilton said “One hundred & One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith showed me that as long as one 1/2 of a couple holds it together you can take care of each other.” Janni Lee Simner said “L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet: For showing me the awful things don't have to happen & that the universe is filled w/light.”
I tried to remember what that book would have been for me. I really can’t choose just one. We didn’t have a television when I was a child. It explains everything, really. I read all the books in the school library and loved Tolkien’s Hobbit. I was in third grade (about 8 years old?) and I pestered the librarian until she ordered the Lord of the Rings. She swore it was too advanced for primary school children. In Australia, that’s ages 8-12 or so. I wore her down.
I read the entire children’s section at the local library… twice. I got irritated by the Ann of green gables series and Louisa May Allcott. I liked the Little house books. I read all the Nancy Drew series. I loved l’Engle but would have chosen her ‘Wrinkle in time’ story as my favourite. Introducing quantum physics to children? Awesome. When I started reading to my own children, I discovered that I went for my favourites.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Hard to read aloud whilst crying.)
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart and the rest of the Arthurian saga.
The Dark is Rising sequence from Susan Cooper.
The owl Service by Alan Garner.
Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Mary Poppins books by PL Travers
The Narnia series by CS Lewis
Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Anything from Rosemary Sutcliff. Although my favourite would be the Eagle of the ninth. I learnt a lot about English history from her books.
The Gauntlet by Ronald Welch. The idea that you could put on a rusty, metal gauntlet and travel back through time was intriguing.
I also read aloud the entire Harry Potter, Dune, and Hitchhikers’ guide series to my older children. At one stage, I was reading aloud every night from three different books to three different children.
The local librarian suggested to child me, that if it was okay with my mother, I could borrow from the adult section. My mother wrote a note for me and suitably permitted, I plunged into the world of adult books. I was a little disappointed first off. With hindsight, I can say that it takes a lot more effort to write a short, well put together novel than a longer one. Also adult writers can just resort to sex to fill a chapter or to demonstrate a relationship. A child or youth author has to demonstrate that relationship in other ways, and often that’s harder.
I was pleased to discover Mary Stewart wrote romances as well. I discovered Georgette Heyer, Laurence Durrell, Ellis Peters and many more. I read a lot of things I was too young to fully comprehend. I can’t even name all my favourite authors.
In senior high school English we were assigned a poem by Bruce Dawe, called the Not so Good Earth. I pointed out to my English teacher that it was clearly derived from the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Pearl S Buck, ‘The good Earth’. She didn't know it and was not pleased to be shown up in front of the class when I expressed astonishment that she was an English teacher and had never heard of it. Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938.
All that reading, and I never did learn any common sense… lmao.