My favourite books from childhood
Published on: 8 Hydref 2013 Author: Marcus Sedgwick
To celebrate Children's Book Week, award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick spome to us about transitioning from children's books to books for teens and then adult literature, and told us about the books he remembers most from his journey to becoming an adult reader.
Childhood is a long time ago, in some ways at least. In other ways, it's still with me, because the things that happened then were first impressions of the world, and first impressions count.
Another thing; childhood is a long time. Not only is it the start of your life, but it goes on for a very long while. As it's happening to you, it appears to be going on forever, and so the books you read then are crucial in building your imaginative world. It never ceases to amaze me how the adult book world sometimes looks down upon that of children's books. Because it is from here that adult readers are made.
These are five books that made me a (sort-of adult) reader.
The very first thing I can remember reading in a way where I had started living inside the book (if you know what I mean) was Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.
How much I wanted to live this book! Interestingly, and in a totally gender-free way, I didn’t want to be John or Roger. I wanted to be Nancy. She was the cool one; she was a pirate in waiting as far as I could tell.
A little later on, and even more than Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome’s earlier book, Old Peter’s Russian Tales, captivated me completely. The skill with which he stitched together his translations of traditional Russian stories with the beautiful device of Grandfather and his two grandchildren created a world of the endless Russian forest which sank deep into my memory, and won’t ever go.
I grew up a bit. I devoured all five of the Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. The eponymous second title is probably the book that spawned my love for the darker things in fiction. The calling of rooks in treetops still makes me shiver (in a pleasurable way) today.
Peter Dickinson affected me too. His Changes trilogy was the weirdest thing I'd read (until what happened below) and it was what created a love in me for the unusual in fiction. Why should we want to read what we know? I'd rather read what I don't already know.
I grew up some more. I read a lot of sci-fi, some horror, though not much, and then one day my dad gave me a copy of Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake.
He'd actually given me the middle book in the trilogy, and some instinct made me wait till the weekend, when we could go into town, and find the first, Titus Groan, which I'm glad I did. These now became the strangest books I'd ever read, and they opened up to me the understanding that fiction can be whatever you want it to be; that it can delight, amaze, horrify and sometimes even transform you. Transform you into an adult, maybe even an adult who reads. And heaven knows, there aren't enough of those...