When I was a kid, we didn't have a TV. My dad acquired one for the household when I was around 12. Living in the countryside, before the era of high-speed internet in every home and the fabulous thing that are ebooks, I had few choices when I had finished my homework. I could go play in my room, go play in the garden, I could also go knock on doors to see if my school buddies had finished their homework and were allowed to go out. Or I could read. So I read (in between jumping in puddle of muds and picking cherry in the garden). I read everything. The newspapers that were arriving on a daily basis. The weekly news magazines that came in a fancy glossy plastic cover. The textbooks. The kids magazines I had a subscription too. And the books my parents had in the house. I read Anna Karenina at 10, had fallen head over heels in love with Wuthering Height at 8, had decided that The Idiot was a stupid book and was chilled by Daphnée Du Maurier. All that before 12. But it wasn't any of those books that are sticking in my mind when I think of the books that made me want to keep on reading. To be honest, to this day, at almost 25, I refuse to re-opened a single Russian author. I blame having read them too early and think that I should give them a second chance. But lets go back to the subject of the day. Children books. Because in the end, it was children books that made me love reading, that I am still reading now, once in a while and that I keep on recommanding to children I tutor and to adult I am working with. I love children books and if you get me started, I am going to spend the rest of the day telling you about this one or that one and this one where the hero is revived thanks to strawberry milk*.
Here, I'd like to talk about the three boks that I regard fondly as being the eyes openers, the children books that made me fall head over heels with reading. I am going to spare you the classic Le Petit Prince and may do an entry only dedicated to this book. Those books are french and american and are as follow:
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
I discovered the book via a magazine I was receiving at home. Each month, at the end of the magazine, there was a graphic rendition of the first chapters of a book. The mystery of Daddy, the imagination of Judy, the unfairness of her life and the arrival of a mysterious benefactor ... all that talked to my little country girl heart. I bought the book and to this day, still own this old battered copy. I loved the way it was written, the timeliness of it all and I was shivering when Judy was, had misty eyes when she cried and was transported by her adventures. It was so different from all those books that I had at home (too adult) and those that I had at school (too childish compared to my usual too adult reading)and it gave me some kind of hope, that there was a genre in the children literature that was made for girls like me. A few month after I discovered Little Women and was conforted in that thought.
Tistou les pouces verts by Maurice Druon
I remember reading the extract in the french textbook. I was around 7 and got hooked by this little boy who was always bored at school and who was discovering he had "green thumbs". He could grow flowers, instantly, everywhere.It was another approach to education, a very peace oriented book and written in such a way that it was just magic. We knew of the author because he was an Academicien, one of those gray and old french guy that are representing the epitome of thefrench language. He was a very important person and yet, he had taken the time to write this fabulous tale for us, children. It added a sense of wonder and while back then, I didn't really get the factual message behind the book, I understood it. I understood that weapons were not the solution and that the "green thumbs" of Tistou were a metaphore to explain us that kids can change things. That children could make a difference and that there were some adults that believed it.
Le Lion by Joseph Kessel
I never read this book again. This book left me sad and upset and I have never been able to open it since I was 9. So, why do I put it in my top 3 of the book that made me love reading? Simply because it moved my little girl self beyond belief, because it made me travel down in Africa, alongside a girl my age who fall in love with a lion, because I discovered the Masaï and their rituals. And like Maurice Druon, Joseph Kessel was an Academicien. The prose in this book is fabulous and yet completely accessible. It is like a king went on all fours and instead of seeing the world like children do, picked us up on his shoulder to show us that kids could read and understand think just like adults. This book also resonate with me because it was part of the school curriculum and in order to be sure we would read it, the teacher made us read it in class. Out loud. One afternoon or two a week, we were all in class and paragraph after paragraph, pages after pages, we got to read this wonderful story outloud. We were all crying on cue, laughing at the same time and most of us girls where swooning in rythm when the author had the young Masaï enter the story. I last read this book 16 years ago and I have so many emotional ties linked to it that I guess I will never read it again. But for all it has given me, I will always see it as part of the three chldren book that I love above all.
So here it is, my first blog post on RedRoom. I hope I will manage to write more often here and to read some other blog post and articles.
*I did ask it like that once, to a librarian. 10 years after having read the book I had wanted to read it again and could only remember that. No author, no title, no summary. I just remembered that he was saved by strawberry milk at some point. The librarian couldn't help me. But Google could.