real life

Nancy Drew, Flowers In The Attic... do I want my kids to read my old favourites?

The other day my son pulled an old Nancy Drew book off the shelf and started reading it.

“Oh, please like it,” I thought. “Please like it.”

There is a special joy that comes from seeing your kids love what you loved as a child: hearing them sing along to your favourite songs, or play your family’s old board games, or sit transfixed through movies that are special to you.

For me, more than anything, it’s books. Sure, I watched plenty of TV as a kid – Diff’rent Strokes, Mork & Mindy, Family Ties – but for me, books always meant more. I would happily disappear into a different world for hours on end.

My kids are getting to the age where they’re ready for the books that I loved as a kid. It’s got me thinking about what my favourite book series were and why I loved them…

Good stories are timeless.

Nancy Drew. Nancy was talented at absolutely everything, solved a million mysteries (okay, 175) and had titian hair (whatever the hell colour that was). Sure, she had a boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, but you knew she preferred hanging out with "slightly plump" Bess and tomboy George. Looking back now, what's even more amazing is that the first Nancy Drew book came out in 1930. Oh yeah, girl power existed long before the Spice Girls.

Trixie Belden. I admired Nancy, but I really loved Trixie. She was so much more real... as real as a 13-year-old going on endless holidays and solving mysteries with no parental supervision can be. Trixie had freckles and a "sturdy" build, and came from a poor family (but that was okay, because her best friend, Honey Wheeler, was rich and Trixie could ride her horses). Fake long-lost uncles, precious jewels, sasquatches... I was so sure that when I turned 13, my life would become as exciting as Trixie's. (It didn't.)

The Chronicles Of Narnia. That idea of pushing past fur coats in a wardrobe and finding yourself in another land still gives me a thrill. Tumnus the faun, Reepicheep the mouse, Aslan the lion - it was all so magical. It wasn't until years later that I found out Aslan was supposed to represent Jesus. Well, that went right over my head.


Dragonriders Of Pern. In Year Eight, my best friend and I were obsessed with these books, but I never met anyone else who read them. There were dragons, fire lizards and deadly rain called Thread. I loved the three books centring on Menolly, an incredibly gifted 15-year-old musician, whose family just didn't appreciate how amazing she was. (Typical.) "Oh, you like sci-fi," I remember someone saying when they saw me reading the books. No, I just liked a good story.

Some books will stay with you forever.

Flowers In The Attic. This was the first book I found so addictive that I read it under my desk in class because I just had to know what was going to happen next. Those beautiful, tragic and... erm... incestuous Dollangangers. Seriously, how did this book even get published, let alone become a must-read among 13-year-old girls (at my Catholic girls' school, anyway)? I read the rest of the books in the Dollanganger series, and even some of the other books by Virginia Andrews (or the ghost writer who took over after her death). There was definitely a theme running through them.

So my son read that Nancy Drew book, The Bungalow Mystery. He liked it, but didn't ask for any more in the series. At the moment he's really into Roald Dahl, and is getting me to read his favourites, which I never read growing up - The B.F.G., The Witches, Matilda, etc. They're brilliant.

I guess don't really mind what books he reads, so long as he loves books. I want him to have the experience that I did, of disappearing into another world for hours at a time. (Just maybe not the Dollangangers' world. That's too weird.)

Which books from your childhood do you want your kids to read?