Sometimes you just have to sit down and reminisce. When I do that I think back to my school days and often about the things I would rather forget; at other times though I will think about books I read back in the days of school, something I don't do now after the introduction of the computer and Kindle. These are probably the three books I remember best from my school days.
The three novels that I have here for you though are still in my collection as books. They usually sit proudly on my shelf and I must admit I pick them up, look at them and wonder why I still don't read them along Quantum Mechanics for Dummies. They are books that meant something to me as a child and still mean something to me now; I remember about the plot, although not in huge detail and when I finally get the chance to sit down and read them as a profitable writer myself they will be in my mind again.
My Friend Walter - Michael Morpurgo
Credit: Michael MorpurgoIf my daughter's bedroom smelt of cigar smoke, I would not think that she was at fault; although at 8 months old I would be worried if she was. This is just one of the things that Bess got in trouble for as she hid the presence of her secret friend; a man whom she had only recently learnt was a long lost ancestor. That man was Sir Walter Raleigh.
In my first top childhood book Bess learns this from an old man at a family reunion, and she went to the Tower of London to feel part of his life while incarcerated; she was eventually talking to an old man, the ghost of Sir Walter Raleigh.
When Bess' family fall into financial trouble Sir Walter tries to help in ways that even now you still end up incarcerated; his well intentions making things worse as he tries to correct the mistakes that he makes in the modern world. It does not help of course that Sir Walter is blinded by revenge on families that have blighted his own for generations.
This was a top book that took me into a fantasy world as a child. I remember buying it from a book service provided by my school, I still have the battered and tatty paperback on my bookshelf, ready to read to my own little Bess one day.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
"Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
Once the staple of every British child's school reading list; it is unusual for the national curriculum to acknowledge an American novel to be in almost every school bag in the country.
As a child I was captivated by the story. Three children almost investigating this mysterious man that very few of the small towns residents want anything to do with; a mysterious man that prefers to keep himself to himself. The father of two of the children is a white lawyer who gets caught up defending a black man called Tom; something frowned upon in the 1930's Southern US and something that led to two of the children being attacked by tom's accusers.
As a university student I remember reading the book again, now being able to understand the subtleties of the institutional racism in the American town being described; the realisation that townsfolk would readily listen to an alcoholic over a black man and reflecting loosely on the "revolution of black and white segregation" of the 1950's when Harper Lee was writing the novel.
But a mysterious man came to save the children's day, is it the same mysterious man?
The Diary of Adrian Mole - Sue Townsend
"...Sunday July 18th.
My father announced at breakfast that he is going to have a vasectomy. I pushed my sausages away untouched...."
Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TheSecretDiaryOfAdrianMole.jpgSue Townsend's collection of diaries were something completely different to me in the 1990's. At a time when I had to read Dickens and Shakespeare for an English Literature class here was a story written about a kid my age and in the form of a diary. The book series spun off a number of TV shows as well as a number of book sequels to the original The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4. Indeed even now in 2012, Sue Townsend is still working on yet another sequel, due to be published in November 2013.
"The Diaries" are published just as that. It follows Adrian who was born to working class parents in Leicester; trying to be failed great publisher of his own literary work Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland and the story of his life through moving to London, writing a TV Series that never got commissioned and the loves of his life, left-wing politics, his parents and his teenage-love Pandora Braithwaite later to become a trouble doctor of Mandarin, Russian and Serbo-Croat.
Adrian Mole's friends and acquaintances are an eclectic motley crew; from the communist pensioner that was Adrian's charitable deed for his school years (Bert Baxter) to an endless array of girlfriends that any mother would disapprove of.
These books are the most poignant of my childhood, I could have selected That Scottish Play by Shakespere or a range of literature from Charles Dickens, but I was not one to read traditionally, something the education system probably hated in it's children. I was glad when I finally got my adult privileges in the local library, it opened up the hardback collection from one Issac Asimov.
These have been the three books that I have kept from my childhood. I am sure you have some too, tucked away in the corner of your bookshelf, or in a loft next to the high-school year book; waiting to be read to your next generation of children who will ask if it is available on Kindle, or even made into a movie.