A picture book, a comic book and an annual all in one...
Cathy Olmedillas, founder and editor of independent children's magazine Anorak, writes about the role that reading has played in her life - and how she's sharing her love of books with children in the pages of her magazine.
I have always loved books. They have been a source of comfort and escapism all throughout my life. So much so that I remember some book passages more vividly than what I did last week. A book is such a precious object. It smells lovely, it sends you on amazing adventures through time and travel, it teaches you stuff, it makes you laugh, and yet it is so simple: words, ink and paper. I even love those that weigh a ton in my suitcase or handbag!
From a very early age I devoured books. But it was when I was just about to turn eight that I realized I could never live without them.
Before that, even though I had enjoyed them massively, I also took them for granted. Up until our move to Morrocco, short of celebrating my eighth birthday, I hadn’t quite grasped how much they meant to me.
To be a bookworm in the early 1980s in Tangiers was challenging. It meant that you’d pretty much go through the entire school library within a month. And then you were starved. So you read the same books again. And again. I didn't seem to mind much. I remember clearly my Mum grumbling whenever I triumphantly announced: 'I finished it!'
'Already?' she’d sigh heavily.
If I knew that Dad, or in fact or any of our friends were going in Europe for a trip I would give them a list as long as both my arms put together of books to bring back. Back then, I was enamoured with Enid Blyton’s books, specifically those from her detective series: The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and the Mystery series. I read them once. And read them twice.
When we moved to France a few years later, I was astonished to discover how many books libraries were filled with! I applied myself to reading every single one of them and more often than not I did. Thankfully we moved cities every two years, and to me, new cities meant new libraries and new books!
Becoming a Mum opened a new chapter in my bookworm life. (Excuse the pun). It meant I could re-discover and share the books I had loved as a child with my son. We went through all of them, Noddy, Babar, The Famous Five and now unto the classics with Sherlock Holmes and Robinson Crusoe. It also meant that I discovered some authors that I had never come across during my childhood, like Spike Milligan, Roald Dahl or E Nesbit.
These wonderful authors and books inspired me to launch Anorak in 2006. I looked at the kids magazine market and realized how homogenous it was. So I quickly ignored that and instead, pieced together content, format and ideas for a magazine that would be unlike any other magazines. A magazine that would be like a picture book, a comic and an annual all in one. That would carry stories like the ones I had read as a child, stories full of imagination, wit, creativity and fun. And share these. That’s the other magical thing about books. They make you want to share them with people. At Anorak, we share our love of books, by inviting our Little Editors to review them. Nothing is more satisfying to get a box full of books, send them on to our friends and read their thoughtful, honest and funny critiques. My favourite reviews are the ones that start with 'thank you for sending me this book. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d like it, it’s not the sort of books I usually read.' And end by 'this is the most awesome book I ever read.'
That’s also what books do: they open our minds. However rich our experiences in life may be - like being lucky enough to live in such places like Morocco when you are eight years old – a book will always take us somewhere even more enriching. That’s simply why I could never live without books.