Monday, November 13, 2006

Childhood Books

I was born in London, England, and did not move to Canada until I was ten, so my reading choices were formed by the Britain of the 50s and 60s. There wasn't much transparency in cultural borders then. There was BBC 1 and BBC 2 on the television and books were written, for the most part, by British authors. Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne, Arthur Ransome and Enid Blyton. Rupert Bear and Tintin. I loved them all.

But especially I liked Swallows and Amazons by Ransome, and the Famous Five series by Blyton (there are 21 books in the series so I am linking to the first one....and have you noticed that some Wikipedia articles have links to

Enid Blyton wrote books that appealed to different aged children....I read Noddy books when I was young, graduated to the Magic Faraway Tree series, and then to the Famous Five and Secret Seven series. Actually, I can't remember at all if that's the sequence in which I read these books. It's very likely that I re-read them many times, and as I was the oldest, I probably read the easier books to my siblings. I do recall having conversations with my sister Kath about which were the most desirable of the magic countries at the top of the tree. I am pretty sure we favoured The Land of Birthdays, and The Land of Take What You Want.

Looking back, clearly I liked series, recurring characters, and fantastical and improbable adventures. A mixture of the comfortable and the impossible. This persisted in later reading interests: the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, the Narnia books, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and most mysteries with recurring main characters, although sometimes they die which is traumatic.

I started reading the Narnia books when I was about 8, after my godmother Sybil, read The Silver Chair to me and Kath at bedtime during one long visit to us in Scotland. But Syb gave Kath and me a gift none of the rest of you had or can ever have: for many years, she told us stories while we were in the bathtub, about Herbert (pronounced 'erbert) the goldfish who went down "the plughole" (the drain in the bathtub) and had many adventures. She might have made them up on the spot, and never has written them down, as far as I know.

So, here's to children's authors, published and unpublished, famous and not, everywhere. Thank you for all the happy hours spent in the bathtub and reading under the bedcovers by flashlight, caught in the magic of other lives and other places.


George said...

I think I want your childhood!

Eric said...

Oh George, I don't think you would have been very good at being an Anglo-Canadian school girl. To quote the great sage, Christopher Robin, "Silly bear." ;)