Review Blog

Sep 06 2016

The book that made me ed. by Judith Ridge

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Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781922244888
(Age: Mature upper primary - Secondary, Adult) Most avid readers will understand how special it is to share a book with someone. This may be through encouraging others to read a title, or from discussion in study, book clubs or impromptu conversation.
This publication compiles submissions by authors who explain how they were moved, comforted, inspired and influenced by books and it differs from others in that the authors don't have pretensions and make no effort to impress with a taste for high brow literature.
Originally I thought it might be a clever way to engage reluctant readers, however I soon realised that this is a book for people who love reading, those who want to cheer when someone else voices exactly what they felt about scenes from their favourite childhood tale or who want to feel cross that someone just didn't 'get' the book which meant the most to them in their teens.
It meant a lot to me that different authors voiced similar thoughts about titles. For example, Fiona Wood first encountered notions of feminism from the strong, decent and very human main character in Anne of Green Gables. Rachel Craw also recalls Anne as a powerful female character yet notes that Trixie Belden was her first. Benjamin Law fondly remembers the works of Roald Dahl, as does Bernard Beckett who also experienced the joy of sharing this author with his own boys via an audio book on a long car journey.
In many of the entries is a sense of yearning for happy, simple moments from childhood, framed within the familiar setting of favourite books. For some, it is clear that books helped the endurance of difficult times, such as family disintegration and isolation in remote locations.
I was transported by the authors who recalled the excitement of the weekly visit to a public library, to select three books which would be devoured, some several times, before the next visit. It was also interesting to read the opinions of individuals from an array of cultural backgrounds, to appreciate the value of different forms, such as spoken narrative, comics and graphic novels. Clearly some stories had almost universal appeal whilst others may have reflected blinkered attitudes from their time.
Some secondary and a few advanced primary students will enjoy reading the views and experiences of these authors, however many contributors will be unfamiliar. Similarly, with some exceptions, a lot of the titles discussed are so dated that they are unlikely to be known. However, I'd be delighted if this book prompts readers to search out these treasured favourites which they might otherwise not have come across.
Rob Welsh

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