I’m late to the party (first chance I’ve had to blog this week!) but what kind of CBCA judge would I be if I didn’t take part in this Book Week challenge, laid down by my friend and fabulous author Tansy Rayner Roberts?! Tansy challenged us to blog about our childhood reading experiences. While I could probably ramble on for a dozen posts about this, as I’ve pretty much always been a voracious reader, I just know I won’t get a chance to do more than one, so here it is!
While I know I was reading earlier than this, my first major reading memory is that of my grandma reading Black Beauty (by Anna Sewell – unabridged) to us two and a half times while we drove across Australia moving from WA to North Queensland. I was six (just), and I adored that book to pieces (and my grandma too!). It kind of set the scene for me for reading for a long time, with horse books dominating my reading choices for many years. In the early 80s, most of the books I got were English pony club books, and I devoured them. I loved reading about kids getting horses, struggling to keep horses, having feuds with others who had horses, not being able to afford horses, and of course, all the descriptions of pony clubs, gymkhanas and other riding events. They were still my genre of choice up until I was about thirteen I reckon, when my friend Rachael and I discovered boxes of old Mills and Boon novels in their shed and we moved on to romance!
Other books that I remember loving before I hit my teens were the Sadler Wells series by Lorna Hill, and two particular books that were loaned to me by a family friend which I must have reread dozens of times each: The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown (I recently tracked down the sequels to this series but haven’t yet been brave enough to try the one I got!) and Tessa and Some Ponies by Lady Kitty Ritson (again, haven’t yet garnered the courage to revisit the sequels I have found, but couldn’t resist getting them). The world of the theatre, ballet, and again, that of horses and eventing, were strong lures!
As a teen I moved onto romance, particularly falling in love with historical romance – I spent a lot of time haunting the second-hand bookshops of Toowoomba filling out my Harlequin Historical sequence, delighting in finding books I didn’t have, particularly when they were by favourite authors and even more so when they carried on a series, as the HHs often did. And my favourite historical was Fire and Ice by Catherine Hart – I actually wore out my first copy and had to find a second! I still have dozens of those books in boxes in the shed (oh for a library!). At about 15 I moved on to Virginia Andrews, followed soon after by Dean Koontz and the next logical step, Stephen King. Interestingly, I recall few fantasy novels in my childhood (although I’m sure many books had fantastic elements). I did read and adore the Tamora Pierce Song of the Lioness quartet but I didn’t actually get hooked on fantasy as my genre drug of choice (as opposed to broader spec fic, which Koontz and King definitely fall into!) until I was nearly 20.
I don’t remember many picture books or early chapter books from my early reading years. There’s a Monster at the End of this Book (a Sesame Street book) was one that stands out, and I bought a copy for my own kids a couple of years ago (still have my old one somewhere too, but it’s a bit tatty!) – you can even buy this as an APP now! Flat Stanley is a fond memory, and I was so pleased when my son enjoyed the series a couple of years ago. I moved upwards in reading pretty quickly though; Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High and the Sweet Dreams books loomed large for me in middle primary school, alongside the horse books. And I went through a BIG Trixie Belden stage! Oh wait! Of course, I went through the Enid Blyton books before this! I loved the Folk of the Faraway Tree books, but didn’t progress through many of the Famous Five or Secret Seven. I also read a lot of comics as a kid – I inherited a box of Archie comics, loved Garfield, Footrot Flats, Asterix, Tintin and Joliffe, and later found a stash of Batman and the Outsiders, Teen Titans and other DC (and a few Marvel) titles in a house we moved into, which I worked my way through.
So I guess this post shows that I have a somewhat eclectic reading background! I remember when reading books wasn’t just about the discovery of the story, but also had surrounding it that mystery of who the author was, had they published other books, and could I get my hands on them? I lived in very small country towns, and relied heavily on my school and tiny public libraries, plus Book Club and sporadic second-hand bookstore forays when I was older. There was none of this looking up an author to find out what else they had, and point and click purchasing in online bookstores! The accessibility of books now is a marvellous thing (and my Kindle makes it even EASIER to feed the addiction), but at the same time, there’s a sense of nostalgia about the mystery, the not knowing, and the joy of unearthing something by a favourite author in the used book shop, or the delight of a new book in a beloved series appearing on the shelf in the bookshop (or newsagency!).
Thanks Tansy, for prompting this trip down reading memory lane – now I need to go find some of my favourite childhood books and foist them onto my children!