Heidi by Joanna Spyri
Heidi was written in 1880 by Swiss author Joanna Spyri. It is a hugely well-known and well-loved children's story and I can truly vouch for its value. It wasn't until a couple of years ago when my sister and I took a trip to Switzerland that I even remembered reading it (hey, I've read many many books since then). I'm so pleased to have restored it to its rightful place in my memory.
I read Heidi when I was in primary school. I have memories of reading it with one of my teachers as an individual reading project of sorts. The whys and wherefores otherwise escape me, but I have a quite vivid memory of coming across the word 'quench' and asking what it meant. I was directed to a dictionary, and I can still remember exactly what the word means (many words elude me even after I've looked them up and tried to remember) and that I learnt it at that moment.
Perhaps it was having that secret knowledge that I knew a 'grown-up' word that none of my friends knew which first sparked my passion for reading. Even now it is still the words that fascinate me as much as the story and the characterisation.
I have two beautiful editions of Heidi. The Puffin paperback I read and a lovely illustrated hardback edition given to me by a family member. I can pretty much trace my love of bookish aesthetics to this point.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
As you can tell from my very battered copy, this was my absolute favourite book when I was young. I still love it now and even have it in my iBooks for those moments when I need a nostalgic blast from the past.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a short story about a toy rabbit who is transformed into a real rabbit by the love of his owner. It is full of talking animals (so that's where my obsession started - from here to The Wind in the Willows), and various life lessons about love, friendship and bravery. I think it is a book that can be enjoyed at any age as it truly is a beautiful read.
I was always a serious bunny lover as a kid and even made up a fantasy land full of anthropomorphised bunnies which I used as characters in stories (ah, the childish imagination). I suspect this story started me off.
I have considered myself a reader for as long as I can remember. I fit all those bookish child stereotypes to an absolute t, but I seem to have failed to give credit where it's due. I didn't become a reader overnight, it wasn't something that was just there - it was sparked by two wonderful children's books. I was lucky to grow up in a household where books were important, but I think it still takes a particular story to really make you a reader. That's where these two come in. I do wonder how my life would have panned out without books - would I still have such an overactive imagination, or such a desire to learn new things, to travel and explore? I'm not sure, but I can safely say that Heidi and The Velveteen Rabbit both had a huge effect on my life. I may never have written stories about bunnies without reading Williams's story and if I'd never written those stories, maybe I would never have realised how much joy writing brings me. It's a huge case of 'what ifs' but I'm still going to say it's all down to these two books.
Do you have a book that made you a reader?