The SCBWI Ning group has been aflutter with nostalgic memories of the first books people have read and this has inspired me to compile my own list of books.
These are books that I can still remember reading, where I was, how I felt at the time and so these books contain memories, yes, it feels as if the book contains an actual nugget of my life and by re reading it or sometimes simply sniffing the book in question those memories are re awoken. One reason of many why I will always love books more than a kindle however useful and space saving they may be.
1. Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl.
This stays with me because it was one of the first books I ever bought for myself. Purchased proudly from the charity shop when I was six or seven I read it all by myself and gave it pride of place on my very first (but definitely not last!) bookshelf. I still love the story, devastatingly simple but completely brilliant. How can you go wrong with quotes like "Boggis, Bunce and Bean, one fat one short one lean."
2. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
I was a few years older when this book landed in my lap and how I devoured it. The childlike perspective of a young girl whose family flees the Nazis it is so involving, I was utterly gripped by it all. I felt the pain of leaving Pink Rabbit behind and even if I didn't understand the background of the war completely when I read it I understood that little girl and I loved her. Recently I read the continuation of the series which I never realised was the first part of a trilogy. The sequels are great reads but don't have quite the same resonance as that book did.
3. Deenie by Judy Blume
If I'm honest all of Judy Blumes books belong on this list because each one affected me. "Are you there god it's me Margaret?", "Blubber", "Tiger Eyes", "Forever" how I loved them. So entirely honest and true I re read them all a hundred times. Going through puberty without them would have been almost impossible and I will be eternally grateful to Judy Blume for her skills. I picked Deenie in particular though because I remember how much I wanted to be her, the cover design showed a stunning young girl with long blond hair who was picked to be a model but ended up in a back brace due to scoliosis of the spine. As a not very attractive teenager I longed for beauty and all it's trappings but this book made me understand that looks aren't everything and accepting yourself and all your flaws is the only way to go. Thank you Judy!!
4. Twopence to Cross the Mersey by Helen Forrester
I was given this book by my mum when I was a teenager and was immediately drawn into Helen's world. An autobiographical tale of her growing up as part of a large family fallen on hard times and forced to move to Liverpool and live in the slums. I lived all of it with Helen, the bedbugs, the hunger, the shame, the anger at her parents for their inability to cope, for spending money on furniture they couldn't afford just to make a good impression even thought their children were cold and hungry...sorry. I can feel a rant coming on so I'll just say the injustice and hardship that she suffered and how she coped with it all was an honour to read and
I still have the original boxset containing all three volumes of her life on my bookshelf now. In fact i might just read them again!
5.Firestarter by Stephen King
Due to the lack of YA available in my youth I started reading adult books I found on my parents shelves and Stephen King was one of my favourites. I love his writing, the characters come alive and leap off the page and they're always completely memorable. Firestarter was one of my favourites because it has a young girl in the lead role, her parents were part of a secret government experiment that gave them psychic powers and Charlie as a result ended up with a very powerful ability, she could start fires with her mind. Just writing that reminds me how completely cool it was!
6.Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan
One of the very few authors for teenagers around Lois Duncan had a fabulously creepy way of writing and this book kept me up at night, devouring each word and then being unable to sleep because I'd scared myself. The tale of identical twins separated at birth and how one girl learns the art of astral projection and takes over the life of her much luckier sister it was so thrilling to my young self I remembered it for years and finally got hold of a copy from ebay.
There are many more books I could list of course but these six give a flavour of what I was reading growing up and from here you can almost see how my taste developed. I'm now a huge fan of historical fiction, fantasy and YA and it's been a huge pleasure reliving all those memories once again. A great reminder of why books are fabulous and how amazing it must be to touch someone's life as those authors touched mine.
Thanks for reading.