When creating the character of a book hoarder in Junk, I didn’t have to look too far for inspiration. Like many avid readers, I’ve gone through periods of owning far too many books. However, I’ve now got it down to a smallish collection I can manage. The main issue was in deciding which sorts of books Jasper was particularly motivated to keep, and would therefore be able to hold onto while getting rid of the others.
For Jasper, as for me and countless other bookworms, the intense emotional connection to a good book began in childhood. I have vivid memories of sitting inside a duvet cover in the back garden, making my very own tent as I sat and lost myself in fictional worlds. The books I most loved in childhood are still on my shelves, and I had fun adding some of them to Jasper’s collection. Here are ten of all my all-time favourite children’s books, in no particular order:
Beautiful illustrations and poetic text to go with them. I do own a small soft toy Max, I must admit. Got to love a wild boy in a wolf suit!
Probably my all time favourite book. I remember borrowing it from the library as a child, and it was a splendid copper silk covered hardback with the two strands of the story written in green and red ink… just like the book inside the story! I now own a scruffy, much read paperback version but I’m still hankering after my own silk covered hardback. Of course, they’re now highly collectible and cost a small fortune. One of these days…
An out-of-print classic. I loved this for both Boswell’s wonderfully detailed illustrations you can get lost in, and The Raggle Taggle Gypsies—I often fantasised about running off with the gypsies or the circus when I was a child. Still do sometimes, I must admit! My copy of the book is missing a spine and has kitten stickers on some of the pages, but I’ve kept it despite having a newer, intact copy which I read to my daughter. And just like my mum did for me when I was a girl, I sing The Raggle Taggle Gypsies to her :)
I always preferred this to the more famous Pippi Longstocking books. This is one of those books all young girls should read, as it’s a great antidote to saccharine and stereotypical versions of what little girls should be like. I wanted to run around in the forest and have adventures like Ronia. In fact, I still do…
A spellbinding series, and none more so than the wonderful Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Shame about the very last book, though, where the religious agenda got in the way of telling a good story.
I have to add a caveat: I’m only interested in the version illustrated by Sir John Tenniel. That was the one I grew up with and that’s what everything looks like to my mind. There seems to be a popular idea that kids don’t like the Alice books and it’s only adults they appeal to. Nonsense! I loved these bizarre stories when I was a child, particularly the second one. I might not have understood what he was going on about half the time (mathematics, apparently), but that didn’t stop me enjoying the absurd storyline.
This book has a special significance to some of the characters in Junk, and is referenced several times.
I remember being nonplussed for years as to why my aunt and uncle kept buying me these books for birthday and Christmas, and then I finally tried reading them. I was hooked! On the Banks of Plum Creek is still my favourite, though, with the plague of locusts and various disasters that the Wilder family had to live through.
Like many of the books on this list, it’s the illustrations I fell in love with first. The little planets that can be walked round with a few paces are a genius idea, and the fox is so cute!
A wonderfully atmospheric tale with an intrepid orphan girl uncovering mysterious goings on in her new home—the wonderfully named Moonacre Manor. Enchanting, and just as good to read again as an adult. Also, Maria has the best bedroom ever!
A subversive and humorous twist on the standard fairytale princess trope, where the princess is perfectly plain and ordinary, and runs off to live in the forest rather than be married off to a prince. Also, she has a pet red squirrel and a necklace made out of acorns. What’s not to like?!
As you can see, illustrations are incredibly important to me too, and all of these books have ones that I love.
I’ve revisted all of these books as an adult, and they haven’t diminished in any way. In fact, I’m even better placed now to judge how much wisdom for life there is in books like The Little Prince and The Neverending Story. These are books I return to every few years when I want something that both comforts reaffirms what’s important in life, and to my mind they’re far superior to the spiritual growth fables written for adults, like Coelho’s The Alchemist. There’s a part of us that will always remain a child, and children’s books speak directly to that inner core.
Readers, what were the books that first got you passionate about reading? Please share the love of your childhood favourites!
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Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.
When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.
Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.
What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.
Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.
Warning: Contains a level-headed counselor with a secret addiction, a bespectacled geek with a sweet tooth, a killer “to-be-read” pile, embarrassing parents, a van called Alice, and deliciously British slang.
Junk is out now, available from the following retailers:
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com
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