Anna Paulson works as Julie Klassen’s research and writing assistant.
Pink lipstick, a rapturous voice, and long, black hair that curled in disarray around her glowing face—these were my first impressions of Siobhan (pronounced shi-VAWN), my creative writing professor at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She reminded me of a whimsical book character, and I thought it fitting. Nearly every one of Siobhan’s class periods ended on the topic of her favorite childhood stories. My professor firmly believed that she could get to know us based on what we read and cherished as children, and I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. It was not until she assigned us to write a list of books that inspired or influenced us in childhood that I fully realized this truth:
Reading forms your opinions, your worldview, especially childhood reading, and anything that does that has an impact. So call them friends, call some stories enemies if you want, but don’t deny their influence.” – Katherine Reay, The Brontë Plot
As I began my list, I grew amazed. Often, I could hardly remember a book’s plot or characters, but I had not forgotten how the story affected me. From careworn classics (Treasures of the Snow, The Magician’s Nephew) to a jumble of elementary read-aloud books (Fig Pudding, Eragon) and high school curriculum (A Separate Peace, All Quiet on the Western Front), books from my childhood had left lasting impressions on my young heart. I remembered the reward of forgiveness in Treasures of the Snow, the mingling of sorrow and laughter at the end of Fig Pudding, and the clash of good and evil in The Magician’s Nephew. I remembered the anguish of war in All Quiet on the Western Front, the risk of adventure in Eragon, and the price of jealousy in A Separate Peace.
On a lighter note, loving Julie Klassen’s novels as a girl led to my opportunity to work for her, first as an intern while I was in college and now as her assistant. So while books helped shape my views, they also helped my career path unfold. My college professor may be right. To know one’s favorite childhood literature speaks volumes about the reader.
Do you agree that you can get to know a person based on what books he/she adored as a child? What books have influenced your life? How does this guide your decisions about what you recommend that children read?