30 Day Book Challenge – day 10: The first novel I remember reading
Now we’re really reaching back in time and and through layers of faded memory. My first experiences of novel reading were in childhood – and that was a while ago now.
The first stories I read for myself and remember with any clarity are the Milly Molly Mandy Stories. These are short tales by Joyce Lankester Brisley about a little girl who lives in an English village. They were published, and are set, in the 1920’s, but at the time I read them that meant nothing to me. Anything longer ago than a few months was in a sort of pre-history limbo where parents and grandparents were young and might have shaken hands with Good Queen Bess.
But this 30-day challenge is for a novel and I have no idea which one I read first. It was most likely something like Alice in Wonderland. I can clearly recall reading Alice through the Looking Glass and I’d already read Wonderland by then. We had ancient, illustrated editions of both around our house – not bought for us children but inherited from some other household.
These are all children’s books, as would be true of almost anyone’s first reading experiences. As I wrote this sentence something occurred to me that I’ve not realised before.
Books intended for children are usually referred to as ‘children’s books’ or ‘children’s stories’. Why not ‘children’s novels’ or ‘children’s short story collections’? Just because they are aimed at a young readership doesn’t make them a radically different kind of thing to adult novels. I think this is some kind of ageism.
Whatever. I enjoyed all these books, but have never re-read them so my memories of them are a bit hazy.
Cover art cqout.
I remember Milly Molly Mandy! I can remember being fascinated by the drawn maps of her village on the inside front cover of the books…happy days!
I’d completely forgotten the maps. Their presence suggests the books were really well and thoroughly thought out by the author.
Four years ago I reread “Gumbles Yard” and and “Dog So Small,” two of my favourite books when I was young. These were books I had read many times, usually when I was ill. I thought I knew them very well. To my surprise I found I had forgotten nearly everything or, worse, invented themes and endings to fill the gaps. It made me wonder whether as a child I had ever really “read” anything.
That’s an interesting question – while children are learning to read, do they actually ‘read’ or just make things up? Maybe there’s a time where they’re free to use the author’s ideas as material for their own stories. Then the reading becomes easier but more rigid and they find themselves going with what the author wrote.
Thank you for the food for thought.