Reading was my favourite pastime when I was younger. I was never the sporty child who was picked for the school teams (except in primary school because there was only 7 girls in our class so we were all forced to be on every team!). I was never the arty, outgoing child who was picked to star in the high school Christmas show. I had a lot of free time on my hands because I lacked confidence so I absorbed myself in books. My Grandparents encouraged this hobby and now as an adult (supposedly!) I still love reading. I’m going to write a little about each of my 3 favourite childhood authors.
I think Enid Blyton books were a big part of any avid readers around my ages (28) childhood. These days they are not exactly politically correct but what we need to remember is Blyton did all of her writing in the first half of the 20th century, when nothing was politically correct. I know modern editions of her works have removed some of the more controversial content which is probably for the best and I see no harm in encouraging our children to enjoy Blyton’s charming stories.
My favourite of all her stories is the ‘Faraway Tree’ series as I think it epitomizes all that Blyton is best at. She excels at creating a fantasy world that allows the readers to get lost in her creation. Probably her best known works are the ‘Famous Five’ books. I loved these too and would read them over and over again wishing that I was having an adventure with Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy. The ‘Wishing Chair’ books were another favourite of mine. They were about two little children and a pixie who had a magical chair that would grow wings and take you to wherever you wished to go. My neighbor had an old wooden rocking chair and I used to sit on it and pretend I was flying off on a wonderful adventure.
I still love to read Enid Blyton even now and I encourage my daughter to do the same. Her books stimulate your imagination and make you believe, just for a little while, that anything is possible.
It has come to my attention that Pascal used a team of ghost writers for her ‘Sweet Valley’ books. Obviously I didn’t know this as a child so for the purposes of this post, I’m going to credit Francine.
Looking back, I can see how the fictional town of Sweet Valley had the potential to set feminism back 50 years. What with the residents worshiping the blonde hair and aquamarine eyes ‘the colour of the ocean’ of Jessica and Elizabeth and anyone carrying a little weight or wearing glasses being labelled ugly or a nerd. As a child I longed to look like the Wakefield twins, have rich friends with pools and a boyfriend like Ken Matthews. I would never give these books to my daughter to read as I now believe it could contribute to a low self esteem and possibly even body dysmorphia. Maybe it even inflamed my own body issues, who knows.
I’ve added her to my favourite childhood authors because at the time, when I was between about 9 and 13, it was my idea of perfection to be a rich, beautiful, popular girl and I love reading her books. Now, thankfully, I see how damaging these stories are and I know that the female body isn’t solely there to provide something pleasing to men’s eyes and my worth cannot be defined by the colour of my hair or my social status.
I have always loved scary stories. Even now my favourite genre is horror or psychological thrillers. Goosebumps was my introduction to horror, tame as it was, and fuelled my interest in all things paranormal, also inspiring me to read the ‘Point Horror’ books as I moved into my teenage years.
The first one I read was ‘The Ghost Next Door’ and quite honestly the idea of this one still gives me nightmares to this day. Obviously the story is written in quite a tame way for younger children but the plot would make a pretty chilling film for adults – a child who was in a fire at home makes friends with the kid next door but begins to suspect that kid may be a ghost. As time goes on the child realises it is actually they who are the ghost and they died that night in the fire at their house.
Another silly, but true, thing for me was the texture of the book covers. As I child, I was amazed that the books actually had goosebumps! (What is it they say about small things and small minds?) If I see a Goosebumps book in a charity shop I have to buy it even now.
These are the top 3 authors I loved as a child. Obviously there was many others. Judy Blume, Hans Christian Andersen ( The Little Match Girl made me cry every time), Rosemary Billam and Jane Hissey. I have so many cherished memories from my childhood and most of them involve me reading with my Nanna or my Granddad telling me a story before bedtime. I’m a firm believer that if you can get a child interested in books, it will stick with them for life.