Why blog?

early days of reading

I’m not a children’s writer, but I am a writer and the mother of a small child, and so my world has been filled with children’s books for the last many years. From the beginning, I’ve loved reading with my daughter – because of the intimacy, because of how much she enjoys it, because of my interest in stories in general. But also because the books open a window on to childhood, and give me new ways of considering my own work. Though written for adults, each of my novels has featured children among the main characters, and I am always intrigued by the child as narrator, protagonist, and, of course, listener.

I’m not always the reader in this house. Sometimes I eavesdrop when my husband reads aloud, and increasingly, the smallest among us can figure out the words on her own. Sometimes we even sit side by side with our individual books open, together but separate, too, as we turn the pages.

I’ve often thought that if I could take time away to study anything, it would be children’s literature. And in a sense I guess I am studying it, as my daughter moves through the years reading new books and classics alike. I can see how the stories help broaden her perspective, and give her new puzzles to solve, or at least contemplate, about the real world. And I remember my own early days of reading — the small green stools at the library, placed around child-sized tables. Shelf after shelf of books, about endless numbers of things. I loved the way the children’s section looked down on the wide open main floor, where grown-ups sat on couches reading newspapers and magazines, close by but a world away.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, of Secret fame

Frances Hodgson Burnett, of Secret fame

The stories we read together at our house have come up now and again on this blog – Frog and Toad, The BFG, The Secret Garden – and it always occurs to me that there is so much more to say about these books and the people who created them — Roald Dahl was a Wing Commander in WW2,  learned Norwegian myths from his mother, and wrote macabre short stories for adults as well as his kids’ books; Frances Hodgson Burnett grew up in a Manchester slum — she later supported her siblings with her writing income, and divorced two husbands in a span of four years.

I’ve decided to make a shift in the next while, and start a series of meandering posts on children’s books and their authors, and the kinds of things that come up when we share stories in our house. (For instance “Pooh,” here, is pronounced “Poo-huh,” by someone who is busy discovering the many surprises of the English language.) I hope this series will still give me the freedom to muse about Vincent van Gogh and Charles Darwin, or maybe A. A. Milne and L. M. Montgomery. However things unfold, I’m looking forward to charting our progress through stories, and to hearing what others think about the many subjects we’ll touch on.

So if you know some fans of great children’s literature, or parents who might like to follow along on our journey, please pass on the link. And think back on your own childhood – what were your favourite books, and why?

October 2009

The BFG catching dreams

The BFG catching dreams

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3 responses to “Why blog?

  1. Don Elzinga

    What a wonderful BLOG. Your father Jim and Helen recommended it to all of their followers. I immediately thought of my wife Kay who has been reading to our grandchildren K… 11 and J… 8 for many years. Usually in the evening in our bed, so I don’t get to read my own books ’til they are done. There is lots of laughing and giggling and during scary parts older sister warns J to cover his ears! I am reminded that my favorite book that my dad had to read to me was ‘Nicodemus and the little black pig’ I got it from my Aunt when I was three and have kept it for 77 years. My aunt later served in the Army Nurse Corps in France in 1944-45. I note that my younger sister tore the cover off and wrote her name in it in crayon. In her later years she has done some book illustrations that are really quite well done! My favorite passage was the storm—
    “There was a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder.
    And he sat down to wait.
    The little pig squealed.
    Little sister cried.
    The lightning flashed.
    The thunder rolled.
    And the thunder came down harder and harder.’
    I can still hear my father;s voice. When i searched the author’s name – Inez Hogan – yesterday I found she wrote 63 books mainly for children. many of them would not be PC today?

    After reading OCCUPIED GARDEN I went to Google Earth and found all of the places mentioned even the canal that your grandfather must have skated on to court your grandmother! Nice Blog Don

    • Thanks for following, Don, and for the nice note about reading to the grandchildren. Great to hear how much they enjoy it. And how lovely that you still have your favourite book from all those years ago! I must look up Inez Hogan. Stay in touch!

  2. Thank you very much, what a lovely idea!

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