First books and the first years

kids books

Where literary taste gets started? Image courtesy of click, Morguefile.

Do you remember the books you read when you were younger?

I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t reading something, mostly for my personal entertainment. According to my parents, I started reading around age 3. At the time, there wasn’t a library in my hometown, so we had to travel quite a few miles to get to a public library.

The other option was checking out books from the library at my elementary school. I spent so much time there, I should’ve set up my own apartment in a corner somewhere. The head librarian, Mrs. H., was a kindly soul who made the library a fun place to hang out.

And the annual book fair at my elementary school? Heaven.

I can’t remember the titles of those childhood books now, but one book was a set of ghost stories and lost legends. The cover was creepy since it had a young ghost boy with blank eyes. One of the stories had to do with a ceramic cat; a thief on the run used the cat to hide a fortune in rubies after a robbery and scratched an X on the bottom for identification. The ceramic cat was one of several cats in a shop, it got sold and the thief never did find it again. True story? Maybe or maybe not.

Another story was about a painting of a castle at night, where a light in one of the windows would become visible now and then. The painting’s buyer saw this strange phenomenon and searched to find someone who knew the painting’s history. It turned out that the window in the painting was the window to a prison cell. When the prisoner died, the light in the painting went out permanently.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how some books stick in your mind and some don’t? Some books I remember because of the great art of classic illustrators such as Tasha Tudor, Garth Williams or Maurice Sendak. Others remain in my memory because of their great plots and character development.

With time, my literary taste in some ways has stayed the same (I still love good ghost stories, such as the stories of Virginia writer L.B. Taylor, Jr.) but it’s matured as the result of being exposed to various classic writers in my school classes (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, William Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker, to name a few). I’ve discovered some wonderful modern authors — mostly because somebody recommends them or I read a blurb about them, and I start reading everything they’ve written.

I wonder if anybody’s ever studied how people’s tastes in books ebbs and flows over their lifetimes? What a fascinating study that would be. (“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”)

Blog readers, what are the books from the past that you remember the most and why?






Filed under Writing

35 responses to “First books and the first years

  1. hey there, as a child i liked running away type stories 😉 and my taste in books has definitely changed over time, it makes sense that it does, it means we are growing and changing as a person.

    i was a born reader too, LOVED doing those scholastic book orders at school even though it took FOREVER to get your order 😉

  2. My Mom read my first books to me. Ferdinand the Bull. My first book in grammar school was Susan and Arabella. Next can’t the Little House books, and many, many more. I too am a bookaholic.

  3. Paddington Bear, with those brilliant drawings by Peggy Fortnum. I loved the whole series because I could read them to myself, and they were the first books that made me laugh out loud. I still remember the scene where Paddington climbs on the table at the station and puts his foot in a cup of tea.

  4. Oh, the wonderful times spent in libraries. Do hope kids now days get to wander and get lost in that wonderland as well as in ebooks! That would be in interesting idea for a study. I don’t read as many horse/dog novels now, kept up with SciFi and historical novels(tales/myths from long ago as a kid), and picked up mysteries as an adult where I avoided the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews (too easy to figure out!)

  5. Not sure what my first book was. Maybe Winnie the Pooh or else the Trixie Belden series. I read all the books in the little library in my little Catholic school. Unfortunately they were all biographies of the saints. Lots of dying there for a young kid.

  6. Mrs Piggle Wiggle. I so enjoyed how she took those problem children and turned them around in the right direction. Of course, all those children reminded me of other kids–I was never selfish or picky or stingy like THOSE kids in the story. Oh, and the Moomin books too!

  7. I can actually remember quite a few books from my childhood, probably because as my granddaughter was growing up, I wanted her to love at least a few of the same books. Most of my childhood reading involved animals, especially horses and dogs. Not much like my current taste, though I still love animals. My taste in literature has changed enormously through my life and continues to evolve. The only constant has been reading itself. I am always reading one or more books, though recently mostly in audio form as aging eyes have increasing difficulty focusing for long periods. Lovely article. Brings back wonderful memories.

  8. I didn’t read to myself when I was that young because I’m dyslexic and didn’t really get the hang of reading fluently until about the age of 12 or 13.
    My Mum read The Lord of the Rings out loud to my brothers and I when I was about 4 though. I didn’t follow it very well at that age and got the orcs mixed up with the spying birds. When I saw the film years later I thought Peter Jackson was off his nut, I was thinking ‘aren’t the orcs meant to have feathers?!’

  9. Ooh! Danger in Dinosaur Valley! It was perhaps the most perfect picture book for boys ever written, for it combined, dinosaurs, time travel, and baseball. The climax involved a family of diplodocus beating the living crap out of a T-Rex.

    Oh, how I loved it.

    Oh, how I still love it!

    I even wrote about it on my blog, see?

  10. My childhood Books were of course all German. I feel that at the time we did not have so many books translated from English or other languages. One book that left a deep impression was “Treasure Island”.

  11. Impybat

    My favorite book as a kid was “Harlequin and the Gift of Many Colors” by Remy Charlip. I borrowed it almost every time I visited the library. The children’s room librarian said that if it was ever discarded, they would save it for me. I bought it off amazon a few years ago. I also loved the Chronicles of Narnia and “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, and anything by E.B. White. The first book that I read all by myself was “Ten Apples Up on Top”, by “Theo LeSeig”…AKA Dr. Seuss.

  12. I actually remember the first book I read (and owned). It was a Ladybird edition of Thumbelina. I remember it clearly because I always kept reading it, over and over again… I was only four, and English is not my first language, so I was very pleased about myself. 🙂

  13. A.S. Arthur

    I can’t remember much from early childhood at all. But, I do remember that in grade school, I cried when I had to return the whole Madeleine L’Engle book set I had borrowed at the beginning of the year. “A Wrinkle in Time” blew me away, but “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” and “Many Waters” saved my life and started my love affair with fantasy writing. Other books I remember as fond childhood playmates: The Chronicles of Narnia!


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