Looking back to my childhood reading, there are certain books which I remember reading so vividly. Whilst I may not remember the text, or narrative in the greatest detail, I remember the reading experience, or some detail profoundly. The feeling that these books created in me, and how they shaped me as a reader. So I am going on a nostalgia kick to look at the books that made me the reader I am today.
I definitely believe my positive experiences of reading at a young age shaped, and continue to shape, me as a reader.
Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden
In all honesty I think perhaps one of the main reasons I loved reading this, and remember it so warmly is because it was set in my homeland of Wales. At that age being able to identify with the narrative and where it was set was definitely a plus point. Though it was set around WWII, and Carrie and her brother (Nick??) were evacuees, I don’t think I really understood the darker themes of the book. I saw it as far more of an adventure narrative and imagined finding some dark, ‘cursed’ place like Druid’s Bottom to explore.
Either way, I definitively remember reading it, the class I was in, the age etc, I had just moved house and school so perhaps, being a time of such upheaval, is why the memory remains so clear.
George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl
This one is very simple. I wanted to make a medicine!! My Nan collected the tokens on Weetabix boxes (anyone else remember these promotions?) and sent off for the free books/toys etc, one series was Roald Dahl’s books. I remember reading this one and thinking how much I’d love make my own, multicoloured, magical potion/medicine. There was no one I had a desire to use it on, but I certainly wanted to go through the process.
You really cannot go wrong with Dahl.
I’d imagine all the things around the house I could use, forbidden things, off limits things, fantastic things, smelly things. How the potion would look, the colour changes, the plumes of smoke, and what powers it might possess, what child didn’t want to do this?!
Children of the Dust – Louise Lawrence
I distinctly remember the narrative structure, I don’t think I had previously read something with such a complex format. Multiple narratives, following different members of a family across the generations. Set amidst nuclear war, its immediate and long term aftermath, again we see some deep themes at work, death, destruction and despair, nothing is off limits.
This would have been the first dystopian novel I ever read, a novel dealing with the what if questions, and I think this should probably be credited with my continuing love of dystopian literature.
It was complex and deep but overall there was a feeling of hope. And still almost always, no matter how dark a dystopia is, I cannot help but find that faint glimmer of hope.
Scribbleboy – Philip Ridley
I got this one from the local library and honestly I chose it for the cover;
SO MANY COLOURS!!
I loved this novel, and the ‘big reveal’ as a young girl was perfect. Nothing deep or profound but fun and fantastic, I borrowed it multiple times. I absolutely loved going to the library, borrowing the maximum allowance of books and the excitement of heading home to read them, it seems a shame so many kids miss out on this experience now.
The Babysitter – R.L.Stine
Another library book. This was in the point horror series (who else remembers all the different point books? point romance was another!), and wasn’t in the children’s section, but the ‘teen’ section. I remember being so excited to be able to borrow these books, though I think I was probably pre-teen perhaps 11/12.
A babysitter receiving threatening letters, who begins to fear the father of the family for whom she works…
Here are some other classics:
I think with these it was mostly how grown up I felt to be taking ‘teen’ books from the library, horror, murder and thrills. I have great memories of so many of these books!
There are various reasons specific books stick out so vividly in my memory, the narrative, the period of time, the way I felt reading them. For me one of the most important things in books for children, was that I wasn’t patronised. I loved to read and had done so from a young age, it was nice to be confronted with complex, often dark, themes and narratives. But sometimes it was fun just to escape into a total fantasy world!
This was a fun exercise in nostalgia! What do you remember reading most vividly from your childhood or teenage years?