An activity in my creative writing book got me thinking about my own introduction to both reading and writing. It made me think about how important writing and reading were to me growing up both as a way to express myself and my feelings and an escape from reality.
Many of my books growing up ran to the typical but many of them did not. I read anything I could get my hands on from school books to menus and leaflets. I devoured words and expanded my vocabulary at an alarming rate and it’s stood me in good stead for the future. With over 1300 books read in my Goodreads library (and they’re just the ones I remember reading) I decided to write about some of the books that were most important to me growing up.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty – unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.
Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden
Evacuated from London to Wales during World War II, Carrie and her brother are sent to live with the very strict Mr Evans. In trying to heal the breach between Mr Evans and is estranged sister Carrie does the worst thing she ever did in her life.
The Magic Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton
The Enchanted Wood – Jo, Beth and Franny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends. Moon-Face, Silky the fairy and the Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands. The Roundabout Land, the land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.
The Magic Faraway Tree – Jo, Bessie and Fanny take their cousin Rick on an adventure he’ll never forget to the Magic Faraway Tree. Here he meets Moon-face, silky the fairy and Saucepan Man and visits all the different lands at the top of the Faraway Tree. Like the Land of Spells, the Crazy Land of Topsy-Turvy and the land of Do As You Please, where the children ride a runaway train.
The Folk of the Faraway Tree – Jo, Bessie and Fanny are fed up when Connie comes to stay. She is so stuck up and bossy. But they don’t let her stop them having fun with their tree friends. Together they climb through the cloud at the top of the tree and visit the wonderful places there, the Land of Secrets and the Land of Treats – and Connie learns to behave herself.
The Prophecy of the Gems – Flavia Bujor
In a magical realm, three teenage girls: Jade, Opal and Amber are chosen to fulfil an ancient prophecy. On the day of their fourteenth birthdays they set out on a quest that will require them to leave their homes and families face fierce enemies in a land called Fairytale where magic reigns and evil is unknown. Although they meet as strangers, they must learn to trust one another with their lives as they embark on this epic journey, armed only with magical stones.
At the same time in a parallel world, a young girl named Joa fights for her life in a hospital in Paris. While she is dreaming she is transported to the magical realm where the three young heroines fight a spectacular battle. Their success or failure will determine the fate of fairyland.
The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland
The Seeing Stone – the year is 1199, the place is the Welsh Marches. Young Arthur de Caldicot practices his tilting and archery, learns to be a dutiful page to his father and waits impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his father’s friend Merlin gives him a shining black stone. When Arthur starts to see stories in the stone, his life quickly becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the boy who pulls the sword from the stone.
At the Crossing Places – Arthur De Caldicot has achieved his dream. He now serves as a squire to Lord Stephen of Holt Castle. But this new world opens up fresh visions as well as old concerns. Arthur longs to escape the shadow of his unfeeling father and meet his birth mother, to marry the beautiful Winnie but maintain his ties with his friend Gatty and to become a crusader with all the questions of might and right involved.
King of the Middle March – Arthur de Caldicot waits eagerly in Venice for the start of the fourth crusade. But it’s now when Arthur’s future should be clearest, that he feels the most doubt. Jealousies and greed threaten the crusade, leading him to question its true mission. Back in England his engagement to Winnie remains uncertain, as his search for his birth mother is stymied by his vicious father his seeing stone shows him the last days of King Arthur’s court – a great dream destroyed, but also a glorious legend rising from the ruins. Likewise in this book, Arthur becomes a man worthy of his kingly name.
The Chrestomanci Series – Diana Wynne Jones
Charmed Life – Cat doesn’t mind living in the shadow of her sister Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the minute the two orphans are summoned to live at Chrestomanci castle. Frustrated that the witches of the castle refuse to acknowledge her talents, Gwendolen conjures up a scheme that could throw whole worlds out of whack.
The Lives of Christopher Chant – His father and uncle are enchanters. His mother is a powerful sorceress but nothing seems magical about Christopher Chant except his dreams. Night after night he climbs through the formless place between and visits marvellous lands he calls the almost anywhere. Then Christopher discovers that he can bring real, solid things back from his dreams. Others begin to recognise the extent of his powers and they issue an order that turns Christopher’s life upside down. Go to Chrestomanci Castle to train to be the controller of all the world’s magic.
Witch Week – SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH. When the note written in ordinary blue ballpoint appears between two of the homework books Mr Crossley is marking he is very upset. For this is Larwood House a school for witch orphans, where witchcraft is utterly forbidden. And yet suddenly magic is breaking out all over the place like measles! The last thing anybody needs is a visit from the divisional inquisitor. If only Chrestomanci could come and sort out all the trouble.
The Magicians of Caprona – Tonino is the only person in the famous Montana Household who wasn’t born with an instinct for creating spells but he has other gifts. His ability to communicate with cats just might help defend the city against its mysterious enchanter – but only if Tonino can learn to cooperate with a girl from the hated Petrocchi family of spell-makers. In this spirited tale of adventure Tonino learns that sometimes a boy, a girl and a cat can do more than all the magicians of Caprona combined.
Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin
A Wizard of Earthsea – Ged the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth. Hungry for power and knowledge Sparrowhawk tampered with long held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.
The Tombs of Atuan – when young Tenar is chosen as a high priestess to the ancient and nameless powers of the Earth, everything is taken away: home, family, possessions and even her name. for she is now Arha, the Eaten One guardian of the ominous tombs of Atuan. While she is learning her way through the dark Labyrinth, a young wizard Ged comes to steal the Tomb’s greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain.
The farthest shore – darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea: the world and its wizards are losing their magic. Despite being wearied with age Ged Sparrowhawk: archmage, wizard and Dragonlord embarks on a treacherous journey accompanied by Enlad’s young prince Arren, to discover the the reasons behind this devastating pattern of loss. Together they will sail to the farthest reaches of their world even beyond the realm of death as they seek to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it.
Tehanu – years ago they had escaped together from the sinister tombs of Atuan. She is an isolated young priestess, he a powerful wizard. Now she is a farmer’s widow having chosen for herself the simple pleasures of an ordinary life. He is a broken old man, mourning the powers lost to him through no choice of his own. Once when they were young, they helped each other at a time of darkness and danger and shared an adventure like no other. Now they must join forces again to help another in need – the physically and emotionally scarred child whose own destiny has yet to be revealed.
The Other Wind – the sorcerer Alder has the power of mending but it may have become the power of destruction. Every night he dreams of the wall between the land of the dead and the wall is being dismantled. If the wall is breached the dead will invade Earthsea. Ged once archmage of Earthsea, sends Alder to King Lebannen. Now Alder and the king must join with a burned woman, a wizard of forbidden lore and a being who is woman and dragon both. In an impossible quest to save Earthsea.
Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay
The four Casson children whose mother Eve is a fine arts painter have all been given the names of paint colours. Cadmium is the eldest, then Saffron, Indigo the only boy and Rose the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted she is deeply upset. Though the others assure her that it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve’s twin sister who lived in Siena, Italy and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy as a very small child back from Siena. At Grandad’s death he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy it is her Angel although nobody knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to be treasured a long, long time.
These are of course only a selection of the books I enjoyed and would highly recommend. Anything by Enid Blyton, The Old Kingdom Series by Garth Nix, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and many more but I wanted to talk about some books that maybe people hadn’t heard of before and recommend that if you haven’t and you haven’t read them already then you should!