When I look back on all the amazing books I’ve read over the last two decades – I can’t help but fondly remember the children’s books that have shaped my literary appetite as it is today.
I guess the first book to stand out is CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which I was given by my cousin Joe. The copy I own has been read so many times that the cover looks like it’s been through a tsunami. I loved the fantasy world that it transported me to and that in the end, ordinary children could be warriors, Kings and Queens. the fact that one of the characters was called Susan really delighted me even though I always secretly wished that Susan was as exciting a character as Lucy!. I read the book over and over and enjoyed it without ever needing an explanation. Then, when I was in Junior year of high school we did the book in class. Suddenly, there was all this religious symbolism attached to the classic book of my childhood. Fascinating as it was, it was totally unnecessary for me. I love the book whether it has one level of meaning or fifty.
From a very young age, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland really got me dreaming. The book appeared before the Disney version for me – and as a result, I never really quite got what Disney was getting at. The Lewis Carroll version is so much grittier, more frightening and funnier! When I was a child my mum used to leave me in a main street book shop while she did her food shopping next door. It was during one of these sessions that I discovered Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Dodo. I still have my hardback copy bought from that very shop in Bray.
Sometimes called the greatest children’s author of all time, Roald Dahl will always hold a special place in my heart. Like the Carroll version of “Alice”, Dahl gave kids a look at fantasy in a slightly grimier way. In a world where you’re small and powerless, Dahl provided a resistance to authority and it was the kids that always triumphed. The Witches was always my favourite, followed closely by Matilda – but I have almost all his books and they’re all cello-taped together or missing pages! I still buy Roald Dahl’s books for my little nephews.
Truly wonderful children’s literature is timeless. You can read it as an adult and it still transports you, endears you and frightens you. Harry Potter did this for me as a young adult and I’m already looking forward to re-reading all seven books with new eyes! Can’t believe I almost forgot to mention Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy – children’s books that I couldn’t put down for a minute.
Another book, written as a children’s story but definitely for adults is Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. It took me about six months to finish, but my god was it worth it. It’s a history of philosophy through the eyes of a young girl and takes you from ancient times right up until the present-day. Accompanying the course is a magical tale of confusion and fairy tale fantasies that make you question your own existence and place in the world. I would highly recommend it for anyone who’s looking for something thought-provoking.
So, grab a cup of tea – get out your favourite childhood read and remember how amazing it was.
I’ll be attempting a children’s story here in the next week or two. Wish me luck!!