Books, books, books.
I have always loved books. From a young age, books had a certain appeal to me… It has been said that by the age of two, I could use a Melway to point out the page and spot on the map of where I lived. A Melway is the local brand of street directory, so pervasive and effect as a brand that the term has become synonymous with the category of street directories that it equates to.
When I was a youngling, I first began to appreciate books being read to me. Bedtime storyline is a common routine for many children worldwide, and I was no exception. It is actually a precious childhood memory for me since I have in existence a sole audio recording of my mother reading Rapunzel to me. Given that I would lose my mother at the tender age of 4.5 years, this piece of history is indeed priceless. Audio books were part of this early age exposure to the world of books and reading. As a child of the early 1980s, audio books took the form of cassette tapes. As I recall, I had three such audio books:
- Around the World in 80 Days
- Gulliver’s Travel
- Swiss Family Robinson
Each book had a supporting audio cassette and I could follow both the written script as well as the pictures. The power of audio books for teaching children how to read and imagine is a serious force to be reckoned with. I loved listening to the narrator and imagine myself journeying alongside the characters of each book.
At some point I was gifted a giant size Children’s Bible, which reproduced selected stories from the Bible and provided full-page drawings to depict key scenes and messages. Interestingly, this was a key foundation for me to learn the essential stories from the Bible – creation, the flood & Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Saul, David, Goliath, Solomon, Esther, Jeremiah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples and Paul. This treasure remains with me to this day…
Outside of school I devoured kids story books like anything. Enid Blyton became a key influence. I suspect I have preserved all my books and stored them away under the house… but all the famous series reflect my primary school years of reading: Noddy, Brer Rabbit, Magic Faraway Tree, Wishing Chair, Secret Seven, Famous Five, Original Adventure Series, The Secret Stories, Circus, Malory Towers, plus her standalone novel The Land of Far-Beyond.
Other influential children’s books author include:
- Hans Christian Andersen and his fairy tales
- L Frank Baum with his series of Oz books
- Roald Dahl with Charlie and the Chocolate Facotry, Matilda, the BFG, James and the Giant Peach
- Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol,
- Kenneth Grahame – Wind in the Willows
- Brothers Grimm and their collection of Fairy Tales
- Paul Jennings – various titles
- John Marsden – Tomorrow series
- A A Milne – Winnie the Pooh
- Beatrix Potter – Peter Rabbit
- R L Stine – Goosbumps
- Edward Stratemeyer – for Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew
- Dr Seuss – various titles
As I grew up, as a teenager my repertoire expanded accordingly and the following list may include school-prescribed textbooks:
- K A Applegate – Animorphs (which complemented the TV series)
- Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden
- Susan Cooper – Dark is Rising series (Over Sea Under Stone was a Year 7 text)
- William Golding – Lord of the Flies
- H Rider Haggard – King Solomon’s Mines (Year 8 text)
- Robert O’Brien – Z for Zachariah (Year 8 text)
- Willard Price – Amazon Adventure, Adventure series
- Robert Westall – The Machine Gunners (Year 7 text)
To this collection of reading influences, it has to be acknowledged that movies adapted from original storybooks count as literature influences on my upbringing. The impact of Disney in animating famous stories and giving them their spin deserves its own mention. It was via Disney that exposure to Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland are not listed above and instead get an honourable mention here. This extends to P L Travers (Mary Poppins) and J M Barrie (Peter Pan) plus the 1001 Nights/Tales (Aladdin).
Finally, at the simple reading end of the spectrum, comic books and the Choose Your Own Adventure series were key influences from a literary perspective. Asterix and Tintin were staples enjoyed across my years of schooling, and even as an adult, I still enjoy them. Archie Comics and Garfield completed the comic book line-up.
Some key literary influences remain absent from this discussion thus far, but are by no means, forgotten:
- William Shakespeare and his plays (Macbeth was studied in high school)
- C S Lewis and the seven-book series on the Chronicles of Narnia
- J R R Tolkien and his works – Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and the Silmarillion
Reading has thus been a key influence, hobby and pastime. Now that Winter is upon us (here in Australia), I would be quite content to relax indoors with a good book to get lost in… Happy Winter and happy reading!