My brother and I used to attend swimming lessons every Saturday morning. After class, we’d excitedly demand a trip to Sutherland Library (a place which still feels a bit like coming home even with recent changes to library lay-out). Once ensconced in the library, we’d spend anywhere from an hour till library closing time rifling through the children’s section, reading books on the ground and trying to get away with borrowing more than our cards allowed. To my mum’s mortification, she was told off on many an occasion for allowing us to borrow what was deemed age inappropriate material (The novelisation of Conan the Barbarian was such soft core porn for this little sucker). We continued this Saturday library tradition right up until the mid years of high school.
I have such fond memories of these long Saturdays with books, that I thought I’d write two posts capturing my favourite discoveries. This first post covers primary years. The second post will track early high school.
And now in no particular order…
1. The Asterix comic series
I read them all, but a few stick out as being particularly memorable. I still can’t read about Cleopatra without imagining Caesar and everyone else she came into contact with commenting on the quality of her nose. I enjoyed Asterix in Britain with the constant tea drinking and the football match. I can’t think about the country Switzerland without seeing the comic strips from Asterix in Switzerland of Roman legions engaging in orgies and gorging on too much cheese fondue. Asterix and Obelix all at Sea highlighted the bond between the two friends and I also liked the stories set in The Middle East.
2. The TinTin comic series
There’s a strong theme happening here. Once my brother and I had devoured all of Asterix, we started on TinTin. Excluding the first two (let’s pretend they never happened), most are great mysteries. TinTin in Tibet is the most emotional, but I also loved the Incan two parter, The Calculus Affair and The Red Sea Sharks with an unhealthy obsessive love. Most loved of all was the first appearance of Captain Haddock in The Crab With The Golden Claws. Best. Comic. Ever. The relatively good animation is now available on Netflix.
3. Enid Blyton. All of them.
They aren’t politically correct. They aren’t high brow literature. They are often racist. Blyton novels may be all these things, but by jove how I wished I was one of the featured children off on my next adventure. I never warmed to The Secret Seven as much as The Famous Five, and I liked The Faraway Tree series better than The Wishing Chair series. Strangely, none of the popular ones were my most beloved. The Adventurous Four and The Adventurous Four Again as well as The Adventure series became firm favourites. I’m ready for a re-read…
4. Nancy Drew series
I even owned the computer game of Secrets Can Kill (Number 1 in the Nancy Drew files) as a child. That game was scary, hard shit. My best friends and I spent hours and hours trying to crack that mystery and I don’t think we ever managed it. Anyway, Nancy Drew. I loved everything about her stories. There’s so many and I’ve mixed them up so often in my head, I couldn’t pick a favourite, but I seem to remember loving one about a Chinese girl getting kidnapped and another involving candles containing chloroform or some such. I did get into The Hardy Boys, but they were no Nancy Drew.
5. The Obernewtyn Chronicles
Back when I was a kid, some bright spark in government decided to get children to read more books with The Premiere’s Reading Challenge. I’m all for reading challenges, but my ten year old heart broke when there was a set reading list, 90% of which wasn’t genre fiction. Getting through the reading list was torture, but there was one small ray of sunshine.* The librarian handed me a copy of Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody. The story scared the shit out of me, but I loved it, and thus a stubborn persistence to wait for the series to end was born. I finally read the final book in the series last year. It felt like coming home.
*All right, I exaggerate a little. I also discovered Emily Rodda through this challenge and Deltora Quest was some seriously cool shit (the book cover artist came to my primary school once and it was the best). And around this time I discovered Geoffrey McSkimming and Cairo Jim which was tongue in cheek fun of the best kind.
What about you readers? Any favourites from your youth you want to share?