Bookworm by Lucy Mangan is a memoir of childhood reading, from her earliest memories as a small child reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle, to her secondary school years in the late 1980s when Judy Blume books and the Sweet Valley High series were at the height of their popularity. Born in 1974 to northern Catholic parents, Mangan grew up in south east London and was a voracious reader from the start. Even though my formative years of childhood reading occurred over a decade later than Mangan’s, there is a significant amount of overlap in our literary diets. This isn’t very surprising given that Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and other staples have remained so popular over several generations, and it means that most readers will be familiar with much of what Mangan reminisces about here too. For the most part, we also have fairly similar taste in books – like Mangan, I prefer stories with fantasy elements to be at least partly grounded in the real world, and neither of us are great lovers of poetry (“All that feeling”). The exceptions are the ballet and pony stories favoured by Mangan and the late arrival of a series of books about a certain boy wizard which was a big part of my childhood reading.
Tag Archives: Children’s Books
I have been reading more non-fiction than ever recently, moving away from the science and medical themed books I covered for the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist to memoirs about all things literary, specifically writing, libraries and children’s literature. Here are three titles I recommend to bookworms everywhere:
Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World by Nell Stevens is an account of her attempt to write a novel by living in the Falkland Islands for three months using funding from her Global Fellowship at the end of her creative writing course at Boston University. After arriving in Stanley where many of the 2,500 residents are based, she lived in self-imposed isolation on the uninhabited Bleaker Island for several weeks, believing that a total lack of distraction would be beneficial for her levels of creativity and productivity. For her stint on Bleaker Island, she had to pack all of her food supplies, restricting herself to just over 1,000 calories a day living mostly on instant porridge and Ferrero Rocher with just a copy of the film ‘Eat Pray Love’ on her laptop for company. Despite the unusual setting, Stevens’ experience of writing procrastination will resonate with anyone who has ever had an essay deadline to meet, even if her expectations and lack of preparation for some aspects of her trip are a tad infuriating in places. Extracts of her fiction are interspersed throughout and while these chapters are variable in quality and pad out what would otherwise be a very slim book, I think they are worth reading to get a sense of her creative output at the time. Overall, this is an interesting and often very funny account of a unique travel experience which proved to be inspiring for Stevens in the end, even if it wasn’t quite in the way she had initially bargained for. Continue reading
I reread the His Dark Materials trilogy in July in anticipation of the release last month of the first volume of the new Book of Dust trilogy by Philip Pullman which he describes as an “equel” to stand alongside ‘His Dark Materials’ as neither a prequel or a sequel. This particular volume is set before the events in ‘His Dark Materials’ in Lyra’s universe when she is a baby and features 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead, son of a local pub landlord, who ends up supplying information to a resistance group attempting to subvert the Magisterium, a powerful church authority. With the help of Alice, an older girl who works at the pub with him, and his trusty canoe named La Belle Sauvage, they seek to protect baby Lyra from the church, and specifically from the clutches of Gerard Bonneville and Lyra’s mother, Mrs Coulter. Continue reading
Although the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is supposed to be metaphorical, the controversy surrounding the new Penguin Modern Classics edition of Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ suggests that many readers care about actual book covers quite a lot. Variously described as postmodern, sexualised, creepy and downright terrifying, the new edition of Dahl’s best-loved book released next month ahead of its 50th anniversary has provoked some very strong reactions from readers and critics this week.