Storytime – Growing up with books by Jane Sullivan

‘I am a compulsive reader.’

In this book, Jane Sullivan revisits about a dozen books which she had read in her childhood. Her objective was to recall her memories of those books, then re-read them and record her new reactions. I picked up this book because I love reading about the reading experiences of others.

‘This will not be a book about books. It will be a book about my experience of reading those books.’

Jane Sullivan is only a few years older than me, and many of the books in her list are books that I have also read: ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’; ‘Alice in Wonderland’; ‘The Wind in the Willows’; ‘Little Women’; ‘What Katy Did’, ‘Heidi’ and lots of Enid Blyton. Other books such as the Narnia series, I read as an adult. Some I’d never heard of.

‘It’s ten o’clock at night and there’s still enough light to read by.’

I can’t imagine growing up without books. They were a source of learning as well as a source of escape. Robert Louis Stevenson was my favourite author before I was ten, but once I moved into the adult section of the library (with special permission at around that age) my horizons widened.

I was interested in which books Jane Sullivan chose to reread and why and interested in her reactions. Should I confess that I’ve never felt like rereading most of the books that were part of my childhood? I’m afraid that the magic would be lost, that the child who so enjoyed the adventures of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ would be pushed aside by the more critical adult.

I enjoyed this book, especially reading Ms Sullivan’s differing reactions to the books she chose. I am tempted to dip into the world of Moonmin, and perhaps Edith Nesbit. But I am not tempted to reread the books I already know from this list.

‘I needed different things at different times from different books.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith