She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain

And now for something completely different.

Growing up on an isolated Welsh hillside as an only child, I spent hours and hours and hours with my head buried deep in a book, devouring the words, savouring the freedom and escapism that the magical combination of paper and printed words provided. My favourite authors fired my imagination and my physical world readily adapted itself to my demands. Grass became sea, trees became crow’s nests as I sailed the Seven Seas (my reputation was fearsome and bloody. I took no prisoners). I joined the ranks of Robin Hood’s Merry Men and Women in the woods on a neighbour’s land (Marion and I kicked butt). And, of course, the wonderful, scruffy ponies who were my other companions were more than willing to take on new identities (small wonder, since it usually involved galloping at top speed).

I’ve had several conversations over the past few weeks about childhood books, which have stirred up a lot of wonderful memories. I dare say that any attempts to read most of those books now would result in disappointment, but that matters not. At the time, they were wonderful.

Naturally, I became the honorary member of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, the Adventurous Four and The Five Find-Outers (not forgetting the Adventure Series and the Barney mysteries), and joined in the midnight feasts at both St Clare’s and Malory Towers.

Josephine, Christine and Diana Pullein-Thompson took up a considerable amount of room on my bookshelves, as did Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion series, Patricia Leitch’s Jinny and Shantih books, Pat Smythe (The Three Jays), Ruby Ferguson (Jill) and Judith Berrisford (Jackie), to name but a few. Not forgetting the likes of Monica Dickens and Mary O’Hara, plus a whole host of short stories and annuals, as well as wonderful one-offs such as Coco the Gift Horse, Jerry: the story of an Exmoor pony, Topper, Rosina Copper and Black Beauty.

James Herriot was a firm favourite of mine, though I only read the last books in his series a couple of years ago, and he was joined by a whole host of books and stories about animals in general, though only one author I can currently remember is Dick King-Smith.

As a teen, I discovered my mother’s collection of novels, fact and faction, about the Second World War (my favourites being the POW escape stories) but it only occurs to me now that this was preceded my some of my favourite books in younger years: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, The Silver Sword, I am David, Fireweed, and Carrie’s War.

Other authors, titles and series that randomly spring to mind as the ones I read and reread the most often are The Hobbit, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Robin Hood, William Tell, the Green Gables books, Rosemary Sutcliff, Roald Dahl, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, The Children of the New Forest, Louisa May Alcott (all four, not just Little Women), Malcolm Saville (the Lone Pine books), Kidnapped, The Call of the Wild, The Wind in the Willows, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, Goodnight Mister Tom

Hmm, my memory is clearly failing me as that list is far too short! Well, I enjoyed them at the time, even if I can’t remember them now!

(I wasn’t a huge fan of many “classics” and still shudder at the memory of What Katy Did and The Secret Garden. I have never read the Alice books and gave up on fairy tales at a very early age because the girls were all wimps.)

Yup, it’s safe to say that books were my friends as I was growing up – and still are today, though I’ve only read a handful of books in recent months.

I aim to change that and for me, 2010 will be the Year of the Book.

No, honestly, it will. I’m going to join a library and everything. 😀

12 responses to this post.

  1. By the way, WPT, yes I still have your books that I borrowed last year. You will get them back, I promise!

  2. Hey Jo, just caught up with the last few days of your life in blogland. Good you can use this as a way to ‘talk’ and defintiely good that more people hear about the help that can be available good or bad. Keep on writing and keep on listening to your real world friends – seems like they are determined to help you help yourself out!

    Mostly though you just made me smile as I am due to reread Watership Down this year. It’s a total childhood favorite that I re-read every five years or so – always outside in the summer somewhere with the possibility of rabbits wandering past. And even though I’m now quite middley old and sometimes almost sensible it still makes me cry!

  3. Hey Lec. ‘Help me help myself’… Yes, that’s the PERFECT way to look at it, thank you.

    And thanks for the reminder about Watership Down. How on earth could I forget?!! Gosh, it’s been years since I read it … must amend that sometime soon!

  4. Posted by J C on 7 January 2010 at 9:22 am

    Yes, lots of my childhood favourites there too! But what about all the many Swallows and Amazons adventures, Just William, all the Narnia ones, Just So Stories, and Jennings and Derbyshire school tales. I did used to read What Kadyd Did, because she always struck me as a bit of a rebellious so-and-so, but I could be wrong. The Hobbit I read at about 11 years and have re-read it several times since then, and the Rings trilogy, although the Hobbit is still much the best I think. I used to read all the time, but have slowed since I went to learn to be a teacher etc etc about 20 years ago. It takes me a while to get through a book these days, but I still manage it eventually! A thought just came to me then… how about an on-line book club! But actually it wouldn’t work because Lec and I would probably find it very difficult to get hold of the books! Forget it.

  5. I read some of those books too but nothing like as many as you managed. The Silver Sword was an absolute favourite and I am currently deciding whether I should re-read it – will I be disappointed or will it bring back lovely childhood memories? Likewise the Narnia books (so much better than the film) but they are in my local library so I may give them a go in French.

    Rosie x

  6. JC, I was counting LotR as I discovered that in my teens, but I’ve read it amost every year since then (though it’s now every other year as I alternate with the extended length special edition DVDs!!).

    However, as to the rest, other than Narnia, I confess I never read them. I liked the Narnia books, but I think the only one I ever read more than once was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    I like the idea of the book club, though if availability is an issue, maybe we could adapt it somehow?!

    Rosie, I have re-read The Silver Sword and it’s still a good book. But it wasn’t as good as I remember. You should never go back home and all that…

  7. Posted by jan on 7 January 2010 at 8:10 pm

    JC is me, Jan. I did something to my profile and had a spell as JC, but testing, testing to see if I’m Jan now…

  8. Posted by jan on 7 January 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Sometimes, with books, you should NEVER go back. I’d always had really good memories of The Ship That Flew, read to us in top juniors every Friday pm, so I bought a copy about 15 years ago. It was awful, even making allowances for my having grown up.

  9. My list of books read as a child would be far too long to put into print. I was a complete bookworm. I read every mystery, fantasy, and horse book I came across some of which I still have in my book cases or whiling away their time in boxes in the attic until I get more book cases. Heavens, if it were up to me my walls would be nothing but book cases…;)

  10. Posted by Granny Anne on 7 January 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Ditto to Doggone. I remember when I was an honary member of my brother’s gang (only girl!) and we modelled it on Just William’s outlaws!

  11. Hey JC, guessed it was you, thought you were trying something new!!

    DM and GA, ditto to the desire for floor-to-ceiling bookshelves!

  12. Granny Anne already has floor to ceiling bookshelves, stacked double depth!

    I remember once seeing a room in a house (could have been a picture, can’t remember) with walls lined with bookcases, and even a bookcase on the back of the door. I always wanted something like that. The idea of even utilising the door appealed to me. And another picture (did you show me this one Jo? Might even have been on the blog?) of lots and lots of bookcases, even under the treads of the stairs in someone’s house. Nice. Shame I live in a ground floor flat really!

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