Thank You For My Childhood

Thank You For My Childhood

A lot of people consider one book, or more usually book series, to have formed a large part of their childhood. For many of our generation, that was Harry Potter. The day the last book came out, people flooded to the bookshops. And wept. When the last film premiered, it was like they too were leaving Hogwarts. It was the end of an era.

Though the series has had nothing like the astronomical fame and success of Harry Potter, for many of my internet friends Tuesday was a similarly sad day, as it was the release of the last Artemis Fowl book. I’ve been a fan of the series since I was about nine or ten, and so this for me was also meaningful.

Through my life I’ve been a big fan of series – up to a point. (I did lose track of how many Roman Mystery books I read, and I think there’s still an Alex Rider book I haven’t got around to yet.)

I wait for eagerly for each new Terry Pratchett book; I will be in bookshops the day ‘Requiem’ by Maggie Stiefvater comes out (I’ve waited three years, guys); I bought ‘Inheritance’ as a Kindle edition because I couldn’t afford the hardback, just to have the closure of tying up loose ends; and I bought Inkdeath the day it was marked down to a price I could afford (hey, I was skint).

But I can’t turn around and say, “This series was my childhood.” I don’t look at their endings as a new era.

My childhood was a patchwork  of different books. For many people, they remember a series because it encouraged them to read. One of the reasons Harry Potter was so successful was because it enthused children who previously hadn’t enjoyed reading, so that they became its loyal fans. My sister, who through her teenage years read obsessively, lists Harry Potter high among her favourites because it was the first book she chose to read, the first book she wanted to read of her own accord.

I don’t remember ever having a book like that. I read obsessively from a young age and never needed encouragement. The first word I learned to read was ‘rabbit’ (pretty long, for a three-year-old). My ‘reading record’ from year 3 (I was seven) includes multiple notes from my parents saying, “Miriam had read this book before she left the playground. Could you please give her a longer one next time?”

(A couple of months into the first term, there’s a note that says, “Miriam hasn’t read her reading book this week as she was too busy reading The Hobbit.” I repeat, I was seven. By the time I joined his class I had read more books than my year 4 teacher and consistently got top grades for blatantly ripping of LotR in stories I wrote in Literacy class, which I got away with because he hadn’t read it.)

I remember the day I started reading The Hobbit, up to the cover illustration and where I was sitting and what Mum was doing while I was reading. I remember nagging my parents to let me read Lord of the Rings and though I don’t remember starting it, I remember my little year 3 desk with its tray underneath, containing our 1970s edition of the Return of the King (me in a nutshell). I remember when I started reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I remember my mum borrowing the Thieves of Ostia from the secondary school library in my brother’s name so that I could read it. I remember being given the first three Artemis Fowl books as a boxed set for my birthday. I remember my grandma buying me The New Policeman. I remember my sister recommending the Amulet of Samarkand. I remember my uncle giving me a copy of Mortal Engines just as he’d given my brother and sister a copy when they were ten. I remember first picking up the Discworld books. I remember the only time my brother had read a book I hadn’t – the Hitchhiker’s Guide – and his encouragement that I should read it.

I read everything. I devoured it all.

And there’s no particular book that inspired me to write, either. I was writing stories from about the age of six and I don’t know why I wanted to. I just liked it. I liked being able to control what happened and I liked making people read them. Kate Thompson got me interested in Celtic mythology; Eoin Colfer narrowed that down to fairies. From there I went on to Holly Black and Maggie Stiefvater, and all of them influenced me strongly.

But I was writing before I decided it was fairies that were interesting.

In my life I’ve met two authors (Caroline Lawrence and Maggie Stiefvater) and written emails to two (Kate Thompson and Megan Miranda). I actually engaged in quite a long email conversation with Kate Thompson. Not only was she incredibly encouraging of my new-found interest in Irish music and dance, she also did what many authors refuse to do – she read my story. And she told me that she liked it. (I was eleven and it was terrible.)

There are many other reasons why Kate Thompson (and Maggie Stiefvater, for that matter) are role-models to me, but that’s for another post. Suffice it to say that Kate Thompson’s encouragement is probably a factor in why I carried on writing.

But she wasn’t the reason I started.

And because I’ve always read so many books, I’ve never been bereft between the releases of books in a series. I’ve always had something else to read, something else to fill the time.

I finished the last Artemis Fowl book this afternoon (after it arrived this morning), and maybe I do feel like something has ended. But… do I really? There are eight books on my shelf now. I can reread them at any time I want. I can analyse them and write essays on them. I can cosplay them. (Hey, I cosplayed Holly Short before I knew what cosplay was. I was ten.) If I’m desperate, I can fan fic them (though I tend to avoid that and I lean more towards fan art anyway).

The series isn’t over, just because the last book has been published. In a few years he’ll probably give in and write another, or a prequel or something.

My childhood was a patchwork of books and so although many series have since come to an end, none of them have left me broken hearted the way they seem to leave so many people.

Because it’s like the Potterheads say:

“The magic will be with us, always. Until the very end.”

24 thoughts on “Thank You For My Childhood

  1. And it will be – that magic – always.

    Strange to say, that though I can, I have not yet taken up the guts to re-read the McCaffery’s books that got me through my teen years. I guess I”m afraid the magic of Pern will be broken. I should though, if nothing more than to remember what inspired me to write the books I write. (or at least my approach to sci-f / fantasy, even if she claims to never have written fantasy)…

    Anyway I digress.

    I can’t say there was any one book series that denoted my childhood. Books were given to me by my Aunt, or purchased at the library book sales. I never followed a series, waiting impatiently for the next book. Inheretance Cylce is the first books I’ve picked up that weren’t complted, and I still have yet to get the flast book (waiting for it in paperback, since my other copies are all in paperback).

    For me, books came from the Library – they were there – In childhood I never thought about who wrote them – which is why, now, when I hear of an author’s death I’m always shocked…. I never thoguht about them before I became one myself. Now I am all too aware.

    Now I really ought to send some letters out. (Actually I have had a few e-mail conversations with authors of books I’ve recently read. *grins*)

    And Miriam, you may now think that novel was bad, but coming from an 11 year old, it probably was brilliant – it’s just your older now and your standard is at a higher place. Like how I expect my daughter to be able to dress herself and brush her teath (she’s 6) and my son I expect to need help now and again (he’s 4). :}

    1. It was… I don’t know. Not good at all. Maybe for my age, but in general life, no.
      It’s funny, I often thought about the authors. Like in the opening to the Hobbit, Tolkien says that they could hide should “stupid people like you and I” come along and I remember thinking emphatically that no one who wrote these books could be stupid, he must have been a genius. Things like that. I often thought almost as much about the author as about the character, wondering where they’d got their ideas.

      1. For as curious as I am… or think I am… I’d never thought that… I wonder why?

        I’d guess because I was so introverted after my parents Divorce – sad but true – I went from being the little girl who chased boyaound the playground to kiss them , to the quiet on in the corner trying to ignore the teasing…

        (No ownder I burried myself in books and my imagination… he he)

  2. I think book series like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl, will always be around for endless groups of potterheads to devour with complete awe of how wonderful they are. I can see where you are coming from, The last book in the Sisters Grimm series came out about two months ago and I was waiting for two years for it to come out. I got it in a rush and spent hours devouring it and then it was done. It was an end of an era for me, I loved those books. I was so upset I couldn’t believe after 4 years of reading and waiting it was done. And in a few months the last Maximum Ride book is coming out. And once again, it’ll be a long book journey. So these books series that become an obsession and we desperately don’t want them to become movies (because we all know that the movie will probably suck unless its kind of like the Hunger Games.) but we can’t help but wonder who will they cast for the main character. These series become part of who we are, they shape our perspective in the world. So thanks so much for posting this. :)

    1. Thank you for reading! Yes, I see your point about the movies. In my opinion, the main reason the Hunger Games didn’t suck as a movie was (a) because it was written in such a cinematic style, I mean, the whole thing is supposed to be televised and (b) because they had Suzanne Collins working on the script and stuff, unlike most movies which have no author input at all. There are rumours of an AF movie (there have been rumours for about four years now), but I can’t help worrying that it’d be terrible.

      1. That’s how I feel about the potential Maximum Ride movie. I saw the cast and I was just like one second you’re happy the next you’re just staring at your computer screen with complete udder disgust. And yes that is why The Hunger Games was so good, but I’m semi worried that the next two won’t be as good, because I mean the second and third books weren’t as good as the first.

        1. I’m still undecided on that point. I quite liked ‘Mockingjay’, until the epilogue or last chapter or whatever it was that irritated the hell out of me. I can’t remember now. But I read them in 2 hours each so I don’t remember much. I should probably reread them sometime.

  3. Ha, that’s weird because I barely remember anything that happens in the second and third one either. But, I didn’t like that Katniss was practically drugged half the time in “Mockingjay”, and at the end I personally didn’t like her very much as a character anymore.

    1. I didn’t like her at the very end. Because, you know, she’s been pushed around all her life. She’s done everything she was made to do. She’s never made her own choices. And before, she said she didn’t want children and she didn’t love Peeta and she didn’t want that kind of life – but in the end she has it. For him. I wanted her to stick to the choices she made.

      1. Yeah, it was like she was just done with everything. She just didn’t want to deal with all of this awfulness anymore. And poor Peeta! He really loved her and she just settled for him. I knew that it wasn’t going to end well when Prim died. And then Gale! He just left all of a sudden! Didn’t say goodbye or anything! And that kind of ticked me off.

  4. I think you’re right. Whenever I think, “Oh no, HP/Underland Chronicles/Alex Rider/etc is over!” I realize that it’s not like I can’t reread! Sometimes I like to wait months or years before rereading, because then a book seems new again.

    Now that I think of it, most of my memories as a little kid are related to books. I don’t remember much about age 8, except that my mom started reading HP and Narnia to us. <3

    1. What a good Mother you have. I need to purchase harry Potter, but I’ve already read The Wizard of Oz to my kids, and parts of The Road to Oz (do you know there were 13 or so books about the land of Oz and Dorthy, because the fans kept telling Mr. Baum they wanted more?) Crazies! *grins*

      I think age 8 was when we read The Hobbit, and maybe started in on Lord of the Rings (I have a picture I drew while listening to Lord of the Rings… brings back a very specific memory from the story) :}

    2. My parents didn’t read a lot of books to me, because I preferred reading them on my own. We did read together when I was very young, say five or six, but after that I mainly read alone. However, my dad used to make up stories and tell them to be, and he did that for years and years. I’m trying to persuade him to write them down and I’m convinced they’d be a bestseller but no such luck so far.

      1. Haha, yes. I can’t even remember if they read Roald Dahl to me or if I read it myself. Actually, I had a tendency for falling in love with HP/Narnia/etc and picking up the book and reading ahead, so I might have done that with Dahl.

        My mom occasionally makes up stories, but they’re all really weird…. O_o

  5. Personally, I feel “Satisfaction… enormous satisfaction…” when I finish a good series. Especially when it’s tied up well and obvious that this is the end. It isn’t so much the death of the story, but more of a well-done finale deserving of a standing ovation.
    With a good series, that is. With a bad one, it’s a big sigh of relief.

  6. Okay, really nothing to do with the post, but the post is reallly quite good. I live in the States, and they’re making an american Sherlock tv show. Yeah, that sounds sort of cool, only problem… Watson, is a woman. What do you think about it?

  7. This post is giving me feels all over the floor …. curse you. From one voracious reader to another, I somewhat concur, though I can certainly narrow down my “childhood” to a few series that have really stuck with me.

    I can’t believe I’ll be a legal adult next year.

    That is a truly terrifying thought.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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