Andrea here. Books have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother was an avid reader and lover of words and pictures, so I know I had books read aloud to me from a very early age (though that I don’t came to remember.) By age five I had written several books of my own, lovingly preserved by my Mom. “Horeses” became a family joke for many years. (Yes, I’m still a bad speller!)
The recent controversies in the U.S. over banning books in public libraries got me to thinking about how much reading was a part of my childhood, and it shaped a lifelong love of books. Local libraries, both in my twon and in my school, played a big part in kindling that sense of unfettered wonder. In them, I could explore so many worlds—from the charming English country gardens of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit to Captain Nemo and his Nautilus in TwentyThousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Tales of adventure resonated with me. One of my all-time favorite children’s books is The Fabulous Flight, by Robert Lawson, in which Peter Pepperall grew small as a mouse due to a scientific experiment, while his intellect expanded . . . realizing that an evil scientist was threatening the world with a secret weapon, he and his pal, Gus the seagull fly off to Europe to save mankind . . .and enjoy a little sightseeing in London. I can’t explain why it appealed so deeply to me, but this “buddy” story of two delightfully mismatched characters still makes me smile to this day.
The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss opened by eyes—and ears—to clever word play. I loved how he had fun with language, and my brothers and I had hours of silliness reciting parts of the book and making up nonsense rhymes of our own.
I learned about history from books like Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle and the orange-covered series bios for kids of figures in American History, like The Swamp Fox.
In a nutshell, I found books absolutely magical. The power of storytelling—that alchemy of words on paper which take you to wondrous places and introduce you to wondrous friends—was transformational.
Our local library was at the end of the main street in the small town where I grew up, and my mother knew she could leave me in the children’s reading room while she went shopping and I’d never wander away from my chair. Among the many other treasures I discovered there were The Wind in the Willows and Charlotte’s Web; and the swashbuckling deeds of King Arthur and Robin Hood. What they all had in common was how they sparked my imagination and encouraged a sense of curiosity, wonder and adventure. I was one of those girls who wasn’t very interested in girly things, and my storybook friends, be they Bear, Badger, Mole, knights or just other children, helped me dare to think outside the box.
And when I look back from the present day, I realize that those books of quests, of courage in the face of fear, the power of friendship, and the power of love are the things that have shaped who I am as a writer. I fervently hope that nobody—child or adult—ever has that precious freedom to let one’s imagination soar and explore whatever world one wishes to visit curtailed by censors.
What about you? Have you always been a reader? What are some of your favorite books from childhood?