Reading Festival: Eleanor Catton’s snapshot of her childhood reading


Eleanor Catton has written two wonderful novels for adults. She lives in Auckland where she teaches creative writing at Manukau Institute of Technology.  This year her second novel, The Luminaries (Victoria University Press), won one of the biggest book prizes in the world, The Man Booker Prize (and actually it is the longest book to win ever!). Lots of New Zealanders watched the award ceremony live on TV and I am sure the country rocked with all the clapping and stamping and whooping. I cried! I reviewed the novel for The NZ Herald and I loved every bit and bite of it. It is a glorious read. Here is my review.

Like Margaret Mahy was, Eleanor is a very humble and generous person. That kindness is a shining light in their writing.

I decided to invite Eleanor to share her reading life as a child with us, as I know behind all the world’s great writers is a sparkling load of books. The great thing about the titles she has shared, there is sure to be one you haven’t read yet.

Let me know is you have read one of the books in Eleanor’s list and tell me what you think of it. I have a few spot book prizes.   Send to Include your name, age, year and name of school.

Eleanor’s snapshot of her reading life as a child:

Where did you like to read? When I was a kid I usually read in an armchair in our living room, or, on winter nights, on a folded blanket in front of the fire, with pillows.

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What were your favourite books? My favourite book of all time was, and is, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom also has a very special place in my heart because it was the first book I ever bought with my own money. I loved the Dr. Doolittle series by Hugh Lofting, especially ‘The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle’, and also the Adventure series by Willard Price, and all the Asterix and Tintin books. Authors who meant a lot to me included Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, LM Montgomery, Gillian Cross, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Robin Klein, John Marsden, Susan Cooper, Maurice Gee, Diana Wynne Jones, and Beverly Cleary. The first Harry Potter novel was published when I was 12, and the first of the His Dark Materials trilogy came out around the same time, so in a way I kind of grew up alongside Harry and Lyra.

220px-Goodnight_Mr_Tom_1981_book_cover  9780143305019    200px-FantasticFoxChaffin

Do you remember being read to? Yes: I would always get into my mum’s bed after my bath, and read. Sometimes she read to me, and sometimes I read to her, and sometimes we both read books of our own. My dad also used to make up stories for me when I was very little: they were a kind of serialised adventure, and I was a character. We called those stories “Komal Stories” because they were mostly about me and my best friend from childhood, Komal.

Was there a book that stood out that a teacher read to you? In primary school my teacher read The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier and it made me cry. I remember it vividly because only a very few books made me cry as a reader: the others were See ya, Simon by David Hill, A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

200px-The_Silver_Sword_cover       9780143318026

Do you still read children’s books? Do you have a favourite this week? I really like to read children’s fiction, especially fiction of the 8-12 year old age range. My favourites this year have been Heap House by Edward Carey and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Right now I’m reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, the first book in the Percy Jackson series. It’s great!

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2 thoughts on “Reading Festival: Eleanor Catton’s snapshot of her childhood reading

  1. Angela S

    Thanks Paula. That has inspired me to put up a display in the school library, and maybe extend it to teacher’s favourite books from their childhood.

    1. Paula Green Post author

      Wonderful! Do you want to send a photo of your display that I can post?
      Do you want to try answering some of the questions yourself and I will post?
      I am delighted!


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