Monday, 29 January 2018

Stories and lasting impressions - Hilary Hawkes

Was there a story you heard as a young child that left a lasting impression on you?

Some books/stories do that - and can trigger memories and feelings many years later.

It's National Story Telling Week at the moment. Some time ago I was trying to recall the title and author of a story my mother used to read to me about a bear who lived beside a singing stream. For some reason, one day, it stopped singing and the bear’s mission was to find out why and make the stream happy again. I remember a feeling of total awe and concern as I listened to this story and watched the pictures as the pages turned. There was a happy ending, of course.

There is something reassuring and settling about happy endings – knowing the antagonists will get their come-uppance and that protagonists will win through their struggles and learn something wonderful along the way too.

Those early stories probably shape the way children begin to think about the world and situations around them. They might have a subtle teaching effect and convey nurturing messages about kindness or perseverance and good versus bad.

Many of my friends who love reading say the stories that were their favourites when they were very young became favourites with their own children or grandchildren too.  Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Paddington, not to mention those timeless fairy tales that seem to stick through the generations.

Having worked as an early years teacher it was easy to spot the books that were almost certainly going to become the ones remembered. The ones that got picked by the children over and over and barely needed reading because they recalled most of the words themselves! The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Kipper, Dr Zeus, The Gruffolo.

Two years ago an article by Telegraph reporters was published on the “100 Best Children’s Books of All Time”.  Whether a list of books is best may be a matter of opinion, but they meant bestselling, and titles that withstood changes in fashions. You can see the list here


Some of my own childhood favourites are there (sadly not the bear story).  We’ve all got other favourites that would make it on to our own personal “Best” list. Mine would have to include The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, Veronica at The Wells by Lorna Hill and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What favourite childhood stories all do is make children feel something important and special and good. They can transport you somewhere exciting. They can be windows into situations or other places and lives, they can shine light on things we need to discover - but in a gentle way.  They can leave children feeling secure or with a sense of justice being done. Basically, they make a contribution to helping children develop secure foundations for life.

For children’s authors those books that were favourites are additionally important.They are probably the stories that introduced us to the magic of story worlds and perhaps we even absorbed something about how stories worked without even realising. That’s not to say it doesn’t take a lot of work to make our own stories work too of course. But, maybe, remembering what we felt when we heard or read our early favourites gives writers that first desire to write.

For me the story of the bear and the singing stream was one of the stories that caused me to fall in love with children’s stories. And it is a love that has never left me.

Credit:Klara Viskova/shutterstock with persmission

How about you? Which books read early in life, or stories heard, left a lasting impression - or even influenced your own writing?



Susan Price said...

Kipling's Jungle Books and Just-So Stories.
The Greek and Norse Myths.
Andersen's Fairy tales.

Hilary Hawkes said...

Great stories - thank you, Susan.

Teddy O'Malley said...

One of the stories that I remember really loving in my childhood was a book about a family that moves from the country to the city and has to adjust. The book had whimsical illustrations that looked childlike and almost like a child drew them. I remember poring over the illustrations frequently. Sadly, I don't remember the title or the author.

A story that left a lasting impression on me as a person, I think, was Josephine's 'Magination: A Tale of Haiti by Arnold Dobrin. I don't know where my mom managed to get such diverse books like this one in the early 2000's, but she managed. This one was about a little girl who wants a doll but can't afford one. She meets someone who inspires her and she uses her imagination to come up with an idea.

I could probably list off a hundred books that inspired me on the journey to becoming a children's book writer and illustrator. But I'll stop there. Thanks for the great article. It brought up really great memories!

Hilary Hawkes said...

Sounds like you had some inspiring and lovely books as a child, Teddy. Thank you.