Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Books from your childhood

Yesterday on Twitter the Sydney Writers Centre posed the question: What were 5 books you grew up with? What 5 books – or series – defined your childhood?

This is a topic of conversation that comes up with my friends quite regularly; books from our childhoods, television shows, movies we grew up with.  We’re all of the same generation, I barely have a close friend who wasn’t born with 18 months of myself. Interestingly though, there are certain books / shows / movies we ALL were exposed to but for the most part we had very different defining experiences. 

What is almost certain is that when one of us discovered that the other has not read a certain book or watched a certain movie, we will be shocked and appalled at their deprived childhood and rave about how they MUST see it, you’ll LOVE it, it’s ESSENTIAL to life itself to have read The Railway Children or seen E.T.

For my part, I know that my choice of favourite books was influenced very heavily by my parents. Bookworms themselves, I grew up in a house lined with bookshelves but lacking in films. When I watched a movie, it was one I got out of the video store not out of the family collection. Books, however, were everywhere.

So, my answer to the Sydney Writers Festival question ran as follows:

  1. Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág
  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  3. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  4. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
  5. Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

It wasn’t just these books by themselves. With the exception of Wanda Gág, I devoured everything that had been written by these authors as soon as I could get my hands on them. Not that it was love at first sight. My mother tried to persuade me to read My Family and Other Animals for years before I buckled. A devoted fan herself, like the Anne of Green Gables series, these books were much beloved for her and we had all of the authors works on our shelves. To confess, I didn't want to read it because the cover of My Family and Other Animals had a photo of a dragonfly on it. I didn't want to touch that!

I first read Anne of Green Gables on a family holiday overseas. I took it along finally after much persuasion by my mother once again and I remember that by the time the holiday ended 2 months later I had read it no less than 5 times.

I might have had a major crush on Gilbert in the excellent 
1985 TV adaptation starring Megan Follows.

Tomorrow When the War Began was a genuine defining series for me. It had so many firsts. It was probably one of the first ‘real world / real life’ books I read, the first action book, the first contemporary series for which I would eagerly await the next installment and the first sex scene I ever read. The initial trilogy was released between 1993 and 1995, when I was between the ages of 9 – 11 and it was incredibly thrilling. When the last novel came out in 1999, we read it under our desks in school because you just couldn’t put it down. 

What were the defining books of your childhood? Could you limit it to 5?

And so you know, Sydney Writers Centre posed the question to the world at large for a segment with author Rose Powell on Channel 10 on Tuesday, 3 July. Watch her online.

Oh, and if you haven’t read any of the ones on my list, you are Totally Missing Out and you MUST READ THEM IMMEDIATELY!


  1. Ha, I didn't want to touch bug pictures either, but our copy of My Family and Other Animals had a droll little cartoon of the Durrell family on the cover.

    Five most important books of my childhood?

    Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Really the series, not just that title)

    Anne of Green Gables

    A Little Princess by Frances Hogson Burnett

    The Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum

    Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

  2. Do you know, I've never read The Wizard of Oz. I probably should. Otherwise - excellent choices!

  3. Other people's favourites that I remember loving from my childhood included:

    My Sister Sif
    Playing Beattie Bow
    Are you there God? It’s me Margaret
    When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit


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