This is my love letter to all the books that I read as a child, a little girl and then a teenager. To the stories from the Big Book of Bedtime Tales that were read out to me by parents, to the illustrations I pored over and the comics I borrowed from friends. (“Archie’s isn’t something you buy” my mother used to say). You filled my soul with “wild imaginings” and with my nose three inches from your pages, I could be anything I wanted.
Thank you Louisa May Alcott for Little Women, Good Wives and Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. Making Jo March a rough and tumble tomboy who also cried piteously over books broke the stereotype.
Enid Blyton. Thank you for Hurrah for the circus which made me believe that one day, an ordinary child could just get up, join the circus and live the rest of his days in a caravan. Thank you for The Folk of the Faraway tree, for Mr. Pink Whistle and for teaching me that parents said things like “By George” and children said things like “Good golly.”
To The Five find outers and dog, with Frederick Algernon Trotteville aka Fatty at the helm. You had the best mysteries and were the funniest, The Famous Five, you came a close second.
As for the debate over whether Malory Towers was better than St. Claire’s, well we might as well just give up. Malory Towers had a swimming pool that filled with the tide and was hacked out of a rock. But the girls at St. Claires had better midnight feasts.
To The wind in the willows for Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad and all their lovely adventures. Also for the beautiful pictures of their little homes: Checked table cloths, slippers by the fire and strings of onions that hung from the ceiling at winter time. (How cute.)
Thank you to the slim volumes of Ladybird classics and Childrens Illustrated that made complicated literature simple for the benefit of my 9-year old brain.
To the Just William series by Richmal Crompton for introducing me to the uproarious, scruffy William and the Outlaws. The great thing about William is you can read it as an adult and still laugh your head off. On another note, William totally turned up his nose at his meat and potato dinners which meant that meat and potatoes (feast and fancy dinners here) were boring sabji-roti type meals in England. Curiouser and coriouser. Which brings me to Alice in Wonderland. Thank you Lewis Carrol, for The Mock Turtles story with its amazing wordplay. And before you bring it up,the mad hatters tea party was wildly overrated. Yes, I just said that.
To Sweet Valley and The Babysitters club series. For all the fun, the fights and the drama.
To Judy Blume for keeping it all real.
To JK Rowling and CS Lewis, for endless magic and wonder.
To Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and all the books about Dorothy that followed. For fantasy and clever, breathless adventures that left me disoriented when the last page was turned.
To The Secret Garden, A little Princess, The Railway Children and Daddy Long legs for the beautiful imagery, the lively descriptions but mostly for the happy endings.
To the Diary of Anne Frank for infinite beauty and because it got me to love history.
To Roald Dahl, for things like Oompa Loompas and Vermicious Knids. Also for the rhymes (Aunt Spiker was as thin as a wire, and dry as a bone, only drier….)
To Lois Lowry for appealing to my dark side. To Madelaine L’Englebert for the genius that was A wrinkle in Time. Also, because Meg Murray was the first female protagonist who was bespectacled. At least the first one I read about. Yay, girl power and glasses.
To the Little House series, for the sumptuous detail, Christmas dinners that went on for chapters and for filling me with a restless thrill every time Pa Ingall’s “wanderin’ foot got to itchin.’”
To books that taught me things, books that stayed with me and books I left behind, books that I grew up on, the ones that made me cry, laugh or think. To authors who made me vow that I wanted to be “just like him/her when I grow up.” Thank you for all the love. Thank you for all the reading.