This week I thought I’d write a post to commemorate my favourite literary delights of childhood. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, devouring books at a rate astonishing to comprehend now, and receiving 24 books one Christmas when the average for my primary school class was a solid 0. Some of these I’m still obsessed with (Hogwarts wannabe forever) and some I haven’t revisited in years, but here are five of my favourite childhood books and fictional series!
Like millions of continually obsessed devotees worldwide, growing up I was absolutely in love with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. At one stage, I could correctly answer every question in my dog-eared quiz book with authority, and I still love a rambling discussion about the wizarding world. Rowling’s universe is absolutely wonderful: full of tantalising detail, fantastic characters and a whole breath-taking world of spells, creatures and magical history, I will forever be in awe of her truly incredible imagination. I can’t think of any one series – or book even – that has inspired me with such endless curiosity and excitement. My favourite is either the Order of the Phoenix – purely because I want all Harry Potter books to be of equal length – or the Prisoner of Azkaban. But the less said about the films the better.
Oh, how I wanted to be transported to a 1940s boarding school when I was a child! Completely misguided, of course, but my introduction to Enid Blyton’s depiction of jolly schoolchildren at fictional boarding school Malory Towers aged eight was another fascination that endured. I’m a bit worried to revisit these old favourites, in case they’re more problematic than I remember (as is so often the case with books penned in less politically correct times) but they were lovely to read anyway, documenting a nostalgic world of midnight feasts, endless sports and practical jokes. St Clare’s could never compare.
The Princess Diaries
This year, in a spirit of rebellion against dull sixteenth century history plays (and tedious exam revision), I started binge-reading the Princess Diaries series again after a gap of many years. It was amazing, and just as great as I remember. Aside from the feminist references that I really didn’t notice the first hundred times around and the enthusing portrait of New York City (which definitely encouraged my longing to visit there), what I love most about Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series is Mia’s self-deprecating, anxiety-fuelled, pop-culture infused musings. Mia and Michael are perfect, and even if I didn’t enjoy Royal Wedding as much as I really wanted to, nothing quite conjures up memories of being a tween like reading the first page of the bestselling series.
Although I was less enamoured with the rest of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Northern Lights immediately captured my imagination at the age of eleven. Lyra Belacqua’s journey from the grand, instantly evocative spires and colleges of Oxford to the terrifying clinical experimentation of Bolvangar, encountering bear kings, mystical gypsies and a friendly Texan along the way, was thrilling and mesmerising – but I’m not convinced that I entirely grasped the theocracy that ruled Lyra’s universe. Regardless, the book was truly magical, and I’m tempted to re-read.
A Little Princess
Another boarding school story (I was fairly predictable), Frances Hodgson Burnett’s moral tale follows Sara Crewe, a lavishly spoiled child whose dramatically sudden reversal in fortunes sees her forced to live hungry, ragged and cold in a rat-infested attic. I think it was the Edwardian sumptuous riches that first hooked me, but Sara’s enduring loveliness and compassionate spirit certainly kept me reading.