Thursday, March 12, 2009

25 Writers & their Influences

This is going to have to be one of those posts that gets carried across a couple of days, because I'm hoping to have a good look into some of the early stuff that I liked, which means less than the usual cursory posting.

I don't remember very much of the things I read in primary school. I was a very early reader and I munched my way through the Ladybird books, reading about the adventures of Peter and Jane through a good few of them before I actually started school. But I don't know who the writer would have been for them, so this probably doesn't count.

Later on, my dad joined the Children's Book Club, London (1976?)on my behalf. I can still remember, what I am convinced is the first book of this series arriving. It was Ludo and the Star Horse by Mary Stewart and I remember having a very vague notion about star signs from reading my mum's womens' magazines, and finding this such a compelling story.

Ludo and the Star Horse told the tale of a peasant boy Ludo who tries to bring his family's faithful old workhorse Renti back home when the horse breaks out and wanders off one winter's night. Lost in snow, Ludo and Renti fall into a ravine and somehow find themselves at the entrance to a realm in which there are twelve houses corresponding to signs of the zodiac. In order to return home, they must catch up to the sun on its journey through each of the houses, and they meet the owner of each house along the way - some being more friendly than others! I am afraid I cried at the end of this. You can actually get it now, and I did to see what my kids thought of it.

I can remember reading Robinsheugh by Eileen Dunlop and being totally carried away by the plot. The protaganist is a young preteen, Elizabeth, who's sent to live with her studious aunt in Scotland. Her aunt is busy researching about the 18thc, and Elizabeth amuses herself through 'dreaming' herself back in time to the period (or does she really dream!) that her aunt is researching in the great house at Robinsheugh. She almost pays the ultimate price though... another book that affected me greatly.

Another book that I remember from that series (I think) was titled Bella. I can't find anything about it on the net but I do remember that the plot centred around a porcelain doll, Bella, that seemed to be haunted and inspired those who came across her to become obsessive about minding her, almost to the point of their own deaths. I'd love to find out who the writer was... I loved that book! Believe me I have trawled the internet in search of it!

Conshelf Ten, by Monica Hughes and Albatross Two, by Colin Thiele come from the very same series and I enjoyed Conshelf Ten, because it was my first ever taste of science fiction, and I liked it very much (more about that later). Albatross Two was the first time I'd ever read about lives outside of the northern hemisphere, and I enjoyed it for it's setting being in the Australian world and I suppose it also introduced me to the notion of protecting our planet from pollution. It planted the seed that I wanted to go down under, (Aus & NZ) which I hope some day I will do.

And then there was the Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The great thing about being a kid is that you have no notion of who T. S. Eliot is, or how important his poetry was. All I knew was that there was this great book that my mum had bought, with fabulous pictures and the words were very funny in places too. They sounded great when you read them aloud, which I often did.

No one read this book to me, not because I was deprived or anything, but because I loved reading for myself. I really didn't like to hear other people taking over the words, I wanted to say them and see what they sounded like myself. (Precocious or what? I want to slap that child, now!) How could you not like the sound of names like Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer? And as for Mister Mistoffelees, just roll that name around your mouth like a piece of clove rock - there, doesn't that take you back...?

Another five will pop up in a day or two, when I've gotten over this sudden onslaught of nostalgia! Oh dear, what have I started?


Liz said...

Peter and Jane! - boy, do they bring me back...I've just had a flashback to Fluff(or am I mixing up cats and series here : )?) and the tree-house.
Great post, Barbara, really delves deep ...looking forward to the rest...well done on doing this - it's a colossal task but rewarding...might do it at some stage...

BarbaraS said...

That's why I wouldn't tag anyone Liz: you end up sitting in reveries in front of the computer, losing chunks of days! Oh yeah, that's what I do anyway - damn, I've been caught!

Am I right in thinking 'Pat the dog?' or am I imagining things...

Rachel Fox said...

There's a whole load of other books to try with my Small Girl. I don't know many of these but she is book-mad and always looking for new (or new-old) things to try.
Remembering the books you really loved as a child is very enjoyable, isn't it? As you say with Eliot...back to the time when another book was just another book...nothing to do with who wrote it or whether it was from such-and-such a school of writing or whether it was new or old or just a complete mystery!

BarbaraS said...

The innocence of childhood is a truly remarkable gift, which we don't realise until it has gone, Rachel :)