Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A WHOLE NEW WORLD

An outing to the local library used to be the high point of my childhood years. I have always loved to read. Anything was fair game. I have read old issues of the National Geographic, Woman and Home, Little lulu and Mandrake comics, even the backs of cereal boxes!  My childhood was spent curled up with Enid Blytons and in my imagination I have lived in ‘The Secret Island’ which remains my favourite book of all times. Surviving on an island, building a home, making meals out of almost nothing…this was the stuff that dreams were made of! Equally absorbing were the Magic faraway series where a new land came up every week on top of this fascinating tree! Characters like Washalot and Saucepan man were three dimensional childhood friends that I knew and lived with.
Another brilliant book which captured my imagination was ‘What Katy did’ the saga of twelve year old Katy Carr, the oldest of six children. Cared for by their Doctor father and Aunt Izzie, the Carr children are impulsive and outgoing, liking rowdy play and imaginative games.
Disobeying her Aunt's order not to use the family's new swing, Katy suffers serious consequences when the swing breaks and she falls. Katy is paralyzed by her accident and forced to spend four years confined to her room. Over the course of these four years, Katy learns patience and responsibility as she works to maintain her place in the hearts of her siblings and her connection with her family and friends.
Growing up, one of my loved books was James Hilton’s ‘Lost Horizon’, which I suspect has contributed to my wanderlust today! The story of four Britishers, whisked away to remote Tibet where monks lived for two hundred years and preserved art and beauty was an inspiring tale which influenced me profoundly. James Hilton continued to be my hero with his ‘Random harvest’ - a romantic novel filled with pathos.
Mary Stewart’s brand of fantasy and magic (a forerunner of Harry Potter??) kept me enthralled for years as did Elizabeth Goudge. A. J Cronin and his ‘Hatter’s castle’ and Daphne Du maurier’s ‘My cousin Rachael’ haunted me. Was Rachael really a schemer or was she a good person?
‘To kill a mocking bird’ was also on my list of faves and I loved and revered Atticus Finch for his pithy sayings! Another book which inspired me to keep a journal was ‘Dear Kitty’- the ‘Diary of Anne Frank’. Anne’s life unfolding behind a staircase in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, her teenage crushes and dreams...this book occupied a pride of place in my book shelf.
In a totally different genre but as enjoyable was E. B white’s ‘Charlotte’s Web’, the tale of a friendship between an endearing pig called Wilbur and a spider called Charlotte which prevents him from being slaughtered. With Charlotte’s help he even wins a prize at the country fair. I still read Paul Gallico’s ‘Snow goose and the Small miracle’ with tears in my eyes! Pepino, an orphan in Assisi and his sick donkey is one of the most touching tales in the world. The Snow Goose, where a reclusive, hunchbacked artist becomes friends with a child and nurses a wounded bird against the backdrop of the war is sweet prose!
I can’t sign off without including one more book in the hall of greats. ‘Daddy longlegs’ by Jean Webster- a rich benefactor sponsors an orphan girl’s education on the condition that she writes letters to him! The entire book is a collection of the letters that she writes and never gets replies for! And naturally there is a twist at the end… Absolutely heart-warming tale!
Give me a good book any day- It scores over any television show or movie. The power of the written word pleases me like nothing else can ever can! So far neither of my two kids are great readers-they’re in front of the computer instead. I truly wish someday they find the joy in reading like I did!

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