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Sunday, 17 July 2016

My Favourite Childhood Books

It is always a treat to read of the books that sparked a love of reading and stories in others as it brings personal favourites to mind. Johanna’s post this week is sure to ring a bell with some of our readers.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 
~ Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

As I read these words again, after so many times, I still find that familiar lump in my throat forming; the tiny pricks of tears welling at the side of my eyes. Even as an adult I still find myself profoundly affected by the words contained within the magical pages of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

I can’t tell you how old I was when I first read this book, but I do remember it sat in my bookcase for many years before I reached up to the shelf where it sat and took it down. However, once I read The Velveteen Rabbit it was a book I returned to many times. These words comforted me when things in my world were not going to plan; I felt they spoke directly to me.

Like the boy in the book I too had toys that had been so loved they seemed real (to me). I often wondered if they waited until I was asleep and then jumped up and played together, freezing mid activity if I ever awoke. With a grandmother who was a librarian, it made sense that I loved books so much, and I’ve tried to pass this love on to my two sons.

I bought my youngest - who is seven - his own copy of The Velveteen Rabbit, telling him it has always been one of my favourite books. The first time he read it he found himself dealing with a mix of emotions spanning sad to happy, and he questioned why I would buy him a book that made him sad. I explained that I thought he would enjoy it - even though there was sadness in the story - and that life is both happy and sad. He has dipped into it again several times since, so I can see he has come to appreciate the feelings the book evokes.

The Velveteen Rabbit is one of many books that confirmed my love of the written word in childhood. This love affair began with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle when I was a baby; continued with Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis; and then expanded to Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr as I approached my teenage years; plus myriad fairytales, Roald Dahl stories and legends about Greek gods and goddesses.

Today reading is still a treasured escape, and I am ever grateful to my mother and grandmother for encouraging me to lose myself in books right from an early age.

Which books did you love as a child?

Johanna Baker-Dowdell

Freelance journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.

1 comment:

  1. Great nostalgia-provoking list Johanna. I can still remember blinking back tears as I finished reading Charlotte's Web in grade 3 during silent reading. Also loved The Muddle Headed Wombat, anything by Roald Dahl and Paul Jennings, and spent hours and hours hunting down the details in Animalia and The Eleventh Hour.