The Books That Shaped My Childhood

We are complete and utter book worms here at Chapter W, and it’s definitely safe to say that reading shaped our joy of writing. From squirming toddlers trying to work out our ABC’s to pretentious students pretending to LOVE ‘Ulysses’, books have paved the way for us. We wanted to share with you the books that shaped us, and we’d love to also hear from you on your favourite reads. Our first installment comes from Louisa, on the two books that changed her childhood…

When I was 6 years old, it was pretty clear to my parents that reading and writing was my passion. I would digest books quicker than my parents could buy them, my frantic eyes darting from left to right as I completely lost myself in fiction (which is probably to blame for my terrible eyesight in my twenties).

I would also sit on a rock in my front garden with folded up pieces of paper, creating my own masterpieces, the first being called ‘The Magic Bed’. I even wrote a short book of stories and sent it off to a publishers when I was 10, including a woeful tale of a boy who died building the perfect sandcastle, but was brutally declined. You’ll be sorry, one day Penguin….

Of all the books I read during my childhood, two will always stand out to me. The two books that completely solidified my love of fiction, and also of these two authors. Yes. It’s no surprise that I’m talking about Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson. As much as I wish I could offer a new, edgy children’s author, there’s a reason these two are the greatest of the greatest, and I hope you’ll enjoy my accounts into why they mean so much to me.

The Magic Finger – Roald Dahl

The first book I recall gracing my bedtime stories was this one, a tale of a somewhat angry young girl who ‘saw red’ and couldn’t control her emotions, with chaos ensuing. My copy of this was absolutely battered, as I insisted that my Dad read it to me every single night. I can remember Quentin Blake’s scrappy illustrations so vividly even to this day, or the girl pointing to the sky and changing those evil hunters into ducks.

Looking back on it, I think what I connected with was this feeling that the girl could be angry, and sometimes she just could not control those feelings. I hold my hands up when I say I’m not the shy and retiring type who is able to mask her emotions, and to see a girl heralded for this was definitely refreshing.

To see a young girl as a MAIN CHARACTER who wasn’t perfect, was a little bit angry, a little bit passionate, clearly resonated with an 8 year old me, whose blonde head was subconsciously becoming the *ahem* honest woman I am today.

To think this was released in 1962, the year my own Dad was born, and was still being read to me almost 40 years later shows that it is a true classic. I urge parents to read this to their little girls, if only to let them know that they can be angry, passionate and opinionated – even at 8 years old.

The Illustrated Mum – Jacqueline Wilson 

So full disclosure – Jacqueline Wilson is a little bit of a hero to me. I literally can’t hear a bad word said about her, and when people say they ‘never really got into her’ I am left stunned into silence. She is my Beyonce. The woman is a legend. You’ll know a little bit more about that if you read our previous piece on the woman herself…

I remember being around 8/9 years old, and handing over my absolutely torn to shreds copy of ‘The Illustrated Mum’ with shaking hands to the Queen herself, who smiled kindly and stated ‘Wow I can certainly tell you love this one!’ I nodded profusely, and proceeded to read it another fifteen times…

The Illustrated Mum, in essence, is really not for children. Despite its young narrator and section allocation in Waterstones, the plot is really quite mature. A young, single mother with copious mental health issues, struggling to raise two children with no money or support. She gets swept up when the love of her life comes back, but when she realises he’s not interested in her, she becomes engulfed by her depression, leading to a pretty haunting conclusion.

Coming from a pretty stable, conventional family, I was completely sucked in to this world I did not understand, but I desperately wanted to. It made me want to relate to people completely different from me, understand their lives, and get to know people from complete different walks of life.

I attribute my nosiness, my compassion and empathy towards people, and also my curiosity to this book. The stories of Dolphin and Marigold touched me so much that I could quote this story to anyone, at any time.

Whilst most of Ms. Wilson’s books are classics, I believe this one was definitely something special. A book that has been the basis of many of my adult friendships, as we bonded over falling in love with this tragic and beautiful tale of a modern family. I only have her to thank for the writer I am trying to become.

What books shaped your childhood? Let us know, we’d love to feature your own childhood memories on Chapter W! Email us at hello@chapterw.co.uk

Louisa Davies

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