The Child that Books Built

NancyBefore Zee’s arrival, I was told by those in the know to go to the cinema lots. Seemingly it becomes a thing of the past when a chiddler arrives. I duly did so, on maternity leave I’d waddle along for a Monday afternoon showing, armed with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and it was so indulgent, such a treat. I saw Les Mis twice; I’m sure Zee was paying attention because now when I sing ‘Master of the House’ to him he grimaces. Or maybe that’s just my dulcet tones.

And in the last few days I’ve been singing songs from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to him (the grimacing continues, it must be my singing), and thinking how fun it will be when we can see the film together. But before that I’d like him to read the book. In general (call me bookish, it’s in the job description), I’m a bit cynical when it comes to books I love(d) being turned into great big motion pictures. Of course, I have exceptions to my own rule, The Shawshank Redemption, The Remains of the Day, Life of Pi to name a few. But don’t get me started on Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or One Day. There’s a case in point.

I remember when I heard they were making a film of Nancy Drew. I felt mildly indignant. Nancy Drew is special to me because she was mystery and adventure when I was all of ten years old. Before starting in children’s publishing, I clambered into my parents’ loft to hunt down and blow the dust off my hardback Matilda, The Sheep-Pig, The Chronicles of Narnia, The BFG, First Term at Malory Towers, Alice in Wonderland and yes (she says in a whisper) Forever. I was off to work in children’s books and I wanted a few of my beloveds with me. Tiny doodles and all (sacrilege I know), but I’d forgotten how much I truly did heart A.B. It was sweet to remember.

FrancisMy point? I do have one. The Child that Books Built is a memoir of childhood and reading by Francis Spufford, which I discovered whilst waist high in dissertation research all those years ago. I just love the concept. I spent some time pondering the books that built me and to what extent they affect (effect? I never could) me now. I can’t begin to explain the happiness I experienced when The BFG with my blurb hit the bookshops. But that’s the privilege of doing what I do.

Books from childhood are part of you – spend a few moments recalling the books which delighted and fascinated you as a child and see if it doesn’t make you smile.

As for the ND film, I never saw it. My mind is made up. My Nancy Drew has titian hair and freckles. This young lady (charming though she no doubt is), has not.

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