James Norcliffe is a busy writer who lives in Christchurch. He writes fabulous poetry for adults and children and he has written novels for children ( for example, The Loblolly Boy which I rasally enjoyed).
My Childhood Reading
This is a tricky one, mainly because I was a child for so very long – arguably still. I was also a huge consumer of books for a little person: reading for fun and reading for refuge so choosing a favourite is fraught. I also re-read the books I loved (and still do) again and again like comfort food. The children’s classics of course were 19th century warhorses: Coral Island, Treasure Island, The Heroes, Swiss Family Robinson, Alice in Wonderland and Wind in the Willows. The William books of course, my father made sure of that, and Bunter. Narnia and Tolkein came later.
I’d read anywhere – at school, in my bedroom, the lounge, and often in summer on a springy mattress of muehlenbeckia high in a ngaio tree in the backyard.
My father read to us, my teachers read to us, and one of the joys of being a parent of young children was reading to them, especially when we were in China and found a stash of E Nesbitt in the Nankai University library.
My own favourite book was probably a little known story by the hugely prolific Elleston Trevor called The Island of the Pines (Trevor wrote 100s of books under many names including The Quiller Memorandum and other Quiller books). I now realise that the book was heavily symbolic of wartime England with a brave little island inhabited by stout-hearted squirrels beset by a forested mainland controlled by nasty stoats, ferrets and weasels. Today it would be considered awful and dreadfully incorrect: there was not one female character (which placed it below The Wind and the Willows which at least had a washerwoman). The squirrels lived in tree houses and smoked baccy and drank beer and liked messing around in boats. I loved it. So did my kids when I read it to them later on. So, too, did Trevor Agnew, once confess to loving it as a child.
Illustrators of course are legion and wonderful. Some of my favourites were / are Tenniel (the Alice books), N.C. Wyeth’s Treasure Island pictures, and the astonishing Lawson Wood (Google him) especially his monkeys.
But so many books, then as now, and so little time. Do I read children’s books? Occasionally. I did read A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book some time ago and was prompted to go back to E Nesbitt as I guessed she had been in Byatt’s mind. Our first grandchild is coming up to one year old. I’m so very much looking forward to reading to him.