Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Meg, Mog, Buck and Chas (and many others)

"What was your favourite book when you were growing up?"
It’s a question I’m sure every author has been asked a thousand times, but my son was the one asking me this time, so I thought I should give it some serious thought for once.
I have a terrible memory. I can forget the name of a TV program I watched the previous week, and despite my adoration of books, I find it hard to remember many that really ‘did it for me’ as a youngster. However, a little trawling of the grey stuff managed to dredge up some wonderful memories, and I thought I’d share them on ABBA.
The earliest book I can remember reading for pleasure (as opposed to the Red Pirate and Blue Pirate books I was sent home from school with) was Meg and Mog by Helen Nichol and Jan Peinkowski. I have no idea why this book stayed in my head the way it did, but I was delighted when a friend bought it for my daughter to read when she was a little dot. When I asked her if she remembered it too, she squeed with delight and rushed up into the attack to see if it was still somewhere in her growing-up box (it’s not, so I might have to buy her a new copy despite the fact she’s fifteen now).
The first book I can remember having read to me was The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. I’m certain there must have been others, but this is the one that has most firmly lodged itself (although The Hungry Caterpillar was also waving frantically at me from somewhere deep in my pre-frontal cortex). When some family recently came to visit us from Scotland, I dug out this little gem to read to their children. Their reaction to it was a joy. It really is a timeless classic.


Darker things now. For some reason, the Moomins by Tove Jansson scared the crap out of me as a child. I’ve never revisited them to try and discover just what it was about the books that have left me so scarred, but I do remember being particularly unnerved by the Hattifatteners (even writing that down has brought back disturbed, and no doubt terribly suppressed, memories). Despite this fear, I have a feeling I read three of four books in the series, so my delight of being scared clearly outweighed my fear (something I’ve never forgotten as a writer).
Next on my list are two books that I read back-to-back when laid up sick in bed with the flu at the age of eleven (it was proper flu, not man flu). Call of the Wild by Jack London and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien are two of my most loved books. Maybe it was the fever I was running at the time, but these two stories are branded into my higgledy-piggledy RAM, and are as much a part of me as any book I’ve read since. London’s Buck has now also become a favourite of my youngest child. What goes around comes around, huh?
Last on my list is the book I think I loved more than any other in the years before I found my way into the Horror, Sci-Fi and General Fiction sections of my local library. A book about a boy living in the North East of England during WW2. Chas McGill is up there in my top ten list of characters and is the hero of The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall. A wonderful, poignant book that still appeals to young and old today. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and do so.
Of course, whenever you try to put a list like this together, it’s inevitable that many great books will be left out. But for me, the above list represents the books that made the most lasting impression on me until I reached those torrid teens and discovered a whole new world of literature.

7 comments:

JO said...

When I was little, it was a poetry book with a shiny red cover (who know what it was called), and, once I could tackle a bigger book - Black Beauty. It was a long time ago!

catdownunder said...

The Story about Ping (Marjorie Flack) is one of the first books I can remember - I was always so anxious for Ping and I always thought it was so unfair to be spanked for being last - probably because I was always the last when it came to being in line! Was it a favourite? I suppose it was in a way.

Steve Feasey said...

Oh, poor Ping!

Jaxbee said...

I'm so glad it's not just me with the memory. I'll remember exactly whether I liked a book or not - and why - and will generally remember the cover and often the ending but as for the title, I can barely remember it while I'm still reading so haven't got a chance a few years later. However, I do recall that I also absolutely loved books about the war, but only those centering on evacuees and their plight and/or excitement. Carrie's War was a particular favourite and, ah, there goes that memory again...

Anny Choo said...
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Linda Strachan said...

My kids loved Meg Mog and Owl and their children love them now, too. we still have rather battered copies of three of the Meg books.

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