04 February, 2014

Fiction Friday: Do you remember your first book?

I was at the library last week when a mother came in with two young children, maybe 4 and 5 years old.  They were so excited to be there and to pick out new books to take home. I love seeing kids get excited about books.  If they read, they'll imagine, and if they imagine, there's no limit to their world.

Do you remember your first book? Not the first book you wrote, but the first book you read.

I can't remember learning to read, actually learning.  Someone told me that means I was a "sight" reader. I just remember reading, well before I got to first grade.  Maybe it's because I had two older brothers, and parents who read to me.  Or maybe it's because I was destined to be a writer.  I like to think it's the latter.

I fondly remember Madeline (Ludwig Bemelmans is a relative - my only claim to literary fame), The Box-car Kids and The Secret Garden.  I still have my well-worn copies of Now We are Six and When We were Very Young. By seven, I was reading in  both English and French. There was a whole series of books about children by the Countess de Segur, a French writer of Russian birth.  And yes, I still own all 22 of them, bound in red leather. Obvious I have a problem getting rid of books!

With older brothers, I read the Hardy Boys before Nancy Drew. Little Women and Little Men were favourites for a while, as were Dadou Gosse de Paris and Sissi.

I went to boarding school for the first time when I was nine, a Catholic school in Belgium where we slept in tiny cubicles with a cloth curtain drawn across the opening. Most of us had books and flashlights hidden in with our uniforms and we burrowed deep down under duvets in the unheated dorm to read so the nuns couldn't see the lights. Now that's dedication -- you don't want to know the punishment if caught! The Borrowers, Charlotte's Web, Le Petit Prince, Vol de Nuit, so many great memories. So many close calls with Sister Jean Berchmanns!

I imagine most writers are life-long readers. Chicken and egg? And I'd be hard put to decide which gives me more pleasure, reading or writing. Maybe it's a tie.

So, what was your first book?  Can you remember your childhood favourites? Are there any I missed and should read?

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