Book Week

Author Tansy Rayner Roberts is having a Book Week Blog Challenge and here at HaT I made an executive decision decided that we should become involved. (Sorry guys I didn’t think you’d mind). So if you want to play along on your blog, or in comments, or HaT authors by putting up their own book week post, please do.

This is Tansy’s challenge:

I decided this year I want to do something fun on the blog to celebrate Book Week, as I usually forget about it until it’s too late. So I’m going to write some posts about my childhood reading, not only favourite books, but how I read them and why I still remember them. If anyone out there wants to join me in blogging about their childhood in books, please let me know about your posts, either in comments, by Twitter (@tansyrr) or via email to tansyrr (at) gmail dot com. I’d love to be able to do a round up next weekend of various people blogging about their childhood reading and the books that made them happy

The childhood books I still remember are Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree books and The Children of Willow Farm, Eva Ibbotson’s Which Witch and Brer Rabbit stories. I also got to read lots of the Bobbsey Twins and Mallory Towers and What Katy did next which my grandmother had kept from when my Mum and her sisters were little. My aged yellow copy of the Faraway Tree was from my grandmother as well.

The Brer Rabbit stories book is the first chapter book I ever remember being given. I think at the time I was shocked to think that my Mum thought I could read such a long book. Now I remember long weekend mornings when I woke up early but had to wait for Mum to get out of bed before I was allowed out of my room (probably because I woke up at the crack of dawn) reading my Brer Rabbit book over and over again.

Once I became a dedicated reader I started demanding more books. That’s when my Grandmother pulled out her old Enid Blyton Faraway Tree book for me to read and I got lost in a fantasy world were you could go on adventures and still be home in time for tea. It wasn’t long before I was devouring The Children of Willow Tree Farm and wishing that we had a wild man (I know, right!) in our little patch of trees so that I could go and have adventures too with a twist of salt in a napkin, some sandwiches and a bottle of ginger beer. I wasn’t so fussed on the idea of a withered apple from the last season though.

To be honest, a lot of my reading came from needing to fill up my time. We lived out of town on a rural property and I was bored quite a bit. I loved where we lived but I envied my friends who lived in town and could, I thought, go down the street whenever they liked, get stuff from the local shop, visit their friends and when we moved into town when I was a teenager I did all these things. But it never really occurred to me that as a little kid I wouldn’t have had that sort of freedom. Reading was a real escape for me from boredom and being told to go outside and do something. I probably did spend a lot more time outside than I remember, especially when the cricket was on TV.

One of my favourite reading memories is taking a blanket outside and sitting on the back verandah reading with a cat or two on my lap. I particularly liked watching the rain falling on the hills in the distance while I was tucked up warm and happy.

I also enjoyed a lot of Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and when a bit older Sweet Valley High. I haven’t been back to see how they stack up now. Perhaps it is better to leave them where they are in my memory?

My Dad was the reader in our family. He could, and did, spend hours wrapped up in a book. When I was older and had run out of things to read I sometimes picked up some of his books from the library or one of his Wilbur Smith’s that he collected. I think he thought that most of it would go over my head, and to some extent it did. But not as much as he assumed perhaps…Having read some Wilbur Smith as an adult, well lets say I haven’t read any for years and don’t plan to. But I’m glad Dad gave me my love of reading.

I’m sure there are lots of books I am forgetting. I have kept some of them to give to my children, although I haven’t handed over the Faraway Tree book. It is quite old and quite fragile now and I’m not sure I could manage if it got damaged further. I have read it again as an adult and needless to say that there are a lot of things in there that are nowdays problematic. In fact if my kids wanted to read it I’d probably look for a copy that had been ‘updated’.



Categories: arts & entertainment, fun & hobbies

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7 replies

  1. Spoilers: Sweet Valley High doesn’t turn out to be good literature 🙂 I have however enjoyed the long slow half-decade of nostalgia on the Sweet Valley Diaries blog, now into it’s sixth year and yet to get halfway through the series. I really liked Trixie Beldon but my library had a very random assortment of them, and the occasional books that actually had major character development were definitely not among my library’s copies.

  2. Yeah, I’m not sure whether to go back and read them again before passing them onto my kids or just leaving them in the past and reading books for kids now to see if I like them first. I know this sounds helicopter parentish but I’m a bit wary of giving my kids a book full of fail that I don’t know about and then having to deal with them saying ‘but it’s in the book – that you gave me’.

  3. Mindy, your book- and reading-related childhood experiences sound quite similar to mine…
    One thing I remember about reading Enid Blyton books – I was always quite amazed by the ability of the kids to go out and do really interesting things with such independence. My parents actually gave us quite a lot of freedom, but like you, I grew up some distance from any town so there wasn’t really all that much to do with said freedom.
    Something else I became fascinated with as a result of Blyton’s books: high tea!

  4. Another Faraway Tree fan here, although I read them when I was quite young and moved onto other Enid Blyton books afterwards. I had a huge collection of Famous Five and Five Find-Outers that were passed on by my uncle (he is only thirteen years older than me) as well the Four (somethings? were they Four somethings? all I can remember now is the book titles were things like Four Go Away Together.
    But from the same uncle I also got all the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome – I loved those so much. I have not managed to persuade any of my children to read them yet.
    I did try and read my daughter a Five Find-Outers book a few years ago, but I found the language just too strange. That is, I thought it would be incomprehensible to her. For me as child in England thirty (and some) years ago all those ‘I say old thing’ sort of phrases were not too far removed from language I still occasionally heard on the telly. Reading it to my 21st century Australian daughter felt like I was speaking a foreign language.

  5. Thanks for playing along, everyone!
    My nostalgia about Sweet Valley High was beautifully cured by reading the recent Sweet Valley Confidential book which is so awful but also makes you hate all of the characters in a way that I don’t think re-reading the old ones could possibly achieve.
    Also anyone who is feeling inspired by Blyton memories to investigate ‘high tea’ and its like, Jane Brocket wrote an amazing book called Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer which looks at the food in classic children’s literature, why it always sounded so amazing, what it tells us about social history, and how to make it yourself.

  6. Slightly off topic but hey, it’s relevant to Book Week: China Mieville’s keynote speech from the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference is in The Guardian today. Worth a read.
    I do so like his realism (about people and the way the world of people works), which is also why I like his books.

  7. @angharad I read Swallows and Amazons aloud to my oldest child, I think when he was about 8, he enjoyed it but didn’t go on to read any others (unlike me, who promptly retread the lot for my own enjoyment). Mind you, he doesn’t read any other novels either so that doesn’t mean much.

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