World Book Day - Staff Favourites
At the end of last week, I asked Form 8 to let me know which book ‘hooked’ them on reading, either when they were younger, or more recently. Intrigued by the variety of their responses, I thought it would be interesting to pose the same question to my colleagues. Below you will find a selection of our memories of ‘the book that got me into reading, when I was but a lad or lass’. Enjoy!
Mr Mill: I read all the Willard Price books – was totally hooked (still am!) Perfect for a young lad into his adventures! Two brothers, Hal and Roger, go off on brilliant adventures together such as chasing elephants and diving in the South Sea. So good! Could literally give a clear account of each book, and I read them all through prep school and in my teaching career at St Mary’s.
Callum: The series that really got me into reading was Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, starting with “Eragon”. It was just perfect for both my brothers and I – the way it was written and the sense of adventure.
Miss Simpson: I’ve always loved reading, but a particular book that lit a fire was “Redwall”, by Brian Jacques. It’s enormous, my first proper ‘really big book’, and was part of a lengthy series, a fact I also liked. Sometimes I had to wait for the next book to be written, then scurry to the bookshop on release day. It was one of the first books I truly shared, as my cousin David was a fan too, and we would play epic make-believe Redwall games in my grandparents’ garden. From a teacher’s perspective, Jacques is so beautifully poetic in his descriptions; that’s out of fashion now, and I think it’s a shame. A children’s book I return to time and again is “Finn Family Moomintroll”; don’t underestimate the life lessons Tove Jansson poured into those strange books! They’re all about resilience, loyalty, courage, individuality and risk-taking.
Miss Mandy: Many moons ago my nose was stuck in the "Adventures of the Wishing Chair", by Enid Blyton. The fact that a magic wishing chair could sprout wings and take you on any adventure imaginable was my way to escape rainy days in school holidays.
Miss Wood: I’m with you all the way with Tove Jansson and the “Finn Family Moomintroll”. When I was little I loved the alternative world that she created especially the bond between Snufkin and Moomintroll. Much of the attraction for me were her fabulous illustrations of the strange little beasties that she described. Later, at around the age of 11, I discovered “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. It was again a wonderful alternative reality where curious characters came to life. After finishing it I can remember taking it into school and being truly thrilled that my teacher chose it as our class book and read it to us all. Again the illustrations of Jules Feiffer really enriched it for me, as Milo and Tock came to life.
Mrs Redmond: The first ‘chapter book’ I can remember reading was “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell. I think I was seven, I had a book token to spend and that was the book I chose, most likely because of the front cover. It’s the first book I can remember getting completely lost in and not wanting to stop reading (pretending I had gone to sleep when my mum or dad checked at bedtime, then putting the light back on to carry on reading.) That feeling of being in another world entirely was very vivid and addictive. As a teenager, “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and ¾” by Sue Townsend was a fantastic present to receive; it made me laugh so much and I have re-read it many times as an adult. Now love it for the nostalgia, all those eighties references and the teenage angst is timeless.
Mrs Hardie: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden”. I remember the feeling of excitement as she turned the key in the door. Loved it. Images of a very private place have stayed with me all my life.
Mrs Bell: “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”, by Judith Kerr. I read this in Primary 5 because my mother was trying to steer me away from Enid Blyton’s boarding school books. I knew a little about WW2 as my mum had been evacuated from Glasgow; all I knew was from the perspective of my Grandmother. This book opened up the World for me-the War had affected other children in far off lands. Anna, the girl in the story, was my age yet her life was far removed from mine. She is taken on a huge adventure, sometimes frightening, often funny and always exciting. History, Geography and English rolled in to one, I still love this book!
Mrs Runciman: I wasn’t much of a reader when I was young. I was a slow reader and found it difficult to keep up with my friends who munched books so I gave up and went outside! However in English we studied the book “Sunset Song” by Lewis Grassick-Gibbon and I was hooked! In fact I found myself so in-touch with the lead character, Chris, and the descriptions of life in rural Aberdeenshire at the beginning of World War One that I even let a tear out when my teacher was reading a particularly sad part of the story to us… can you imagine my embarrassment when my teacher noticed and said, ‘Oh you poor dear you really are into this, bless you!’ Despite having to laugh it off to my class-mates I really was hooked and went on to read the next two books in the trilogy over my summer holiday! The first books I read which I hadn’t been told to read! I still love books with strong characters as well as historical novels so I am transported back to another time and feel you get a great understanding of different periods of history through them.
Miss Renwick: I think it was listening to stories that encouraged me to read, especially if they were read by my Daddy. He often chose Beatrix Potter’s books such as “The Tales of Jeremy Fisher”, “Peter Rabbit”, “Squirrel Nutkin” or “Mrs Tiggy-Winkle”, which is why I love hedgehogs! He was really good at doing voices for Ratty, Mole and Mr Toad from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame and we spent so long talking about Neverland (“Peter Pan” – JM Barrie) that we were always late to bed! “The Tiger Who Came to Tea” by Judith Kerr was another favourite to read. I really can’t pick one book overall – I loved them all!
Miss McRae: “Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten”, by Noel Barr. This was a Ladybird book which I had as a really young girl. It had a happy ending although the mischievous cat treaded a fine line between being kept by the family or being turned away. This bit always scared me a little even though I knew it would turn out ok in the end. We got our first cat when I was four (he cost 75p from Methil pet shop) and we named him Tiptoes after the book. Then “Peter Pan”, by J.M Barrie. I can still picture the pale purple cover of the hardback book which belonged to my sister and was passed on to me. Mum and Dad took us to Kirriemuir to see where J.M Barrie had lived and to see the small statue of Peter Pan which (I think) is set into the wall of the house. I think visiting the house really captured my curiosity and I thought it was incredible that I had actually been to where the author had lived – perhaps in my young mind I thought Peter Pan had actually lived there! I read this book over and over again. To produce it as a show was always a dream of mine – mission accomplished 2015! Lastly, “Wuthering Heights”, by Emily Bronte. This was my set text during my Higher English course. While I found the language difficult at first, I was charmed by the images of the wild moors and the even wilder Heathcliff! I think my love of the book was helped by my love of the song of the same name by Kate Bush – it’s still a favourite!
Mrs Lewington: "Minnow on the Say" by Philippa Pearce; this book really fired my imagination and made me wish I, too, could find a boat and go sailing down the river on great adventures. "The Boy with the Bronze Axe" by Kathleen Fiddler; again, another book which fired my imagination and also a love of history and visiting historical sites. My trip to Orkney as a child was particularly exciting after reading this book.
Madame Syme: I remember reading “Jill's Gymkhana” by Ruby Ferguson when I was about seven years old and living in a tiny village in India. I longed for a pony and devoured the Jill books, often reading them over and over again. Every few weeks we would drive into Bombay where there was a second hand English language book shop and I would search through the huge piles of battered paperbacks to try to find another Jill book. There were about ten books in the series and I managed to find them all, but not in the correct order. My sister and I would also get a comic called “Bunty” posted out to us every week; these would take a few weeks to arrive and often arrived out of sequence, but we didn't mind at all and were just thrilled to get something to read! Later as a teenager I loved Thomas Hardy's “Tess of the D'Urbevilles”. When I started reading in French one of the first novels that I tackled was “Le Grand Meaulnes” by Alain-Fournier, a beautifully written account of lost love, set in the magical winter countryside of the Sologne.
Dr Morgan: The first time I read a book and then looked for another one in the same series was when I read “Biggles in the Gobi”. The Biggles books combined airplanes and adventure, although they were a little old fashioned, even when I read them! For non-fiction I loved compilations of supposedly true ghost stories. As a teenager I could recount lots of these stories and I loved frightening my class mates on school trips! I still enjoy classic ghost stories by the likes of MR James, particularly at Christmas for some reason. The first time I couldn’t put a book down was when a friend gave me “Lord of the Rings”. I was about 12 years old and barely did anything else until the spellbinding read was finished.
Mrs Currie: I loved the story “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri when I was little. I could really imagine the scenery as it was so well written. I also loved the way the relationship grew between Heidi and her grandfather. He didn’t really want to look after Heidi to start with but he grew so fond of her. Another book came to mind is The Ladybird book “Bunny’s First Birthday”. It was the first book that I found that I could read at home almost on my own!! I was wee and just starting off at school! I loved the pictures and even now when I see the front cover I get a warm feeling that takes me way back. Also I loved my hardback version of “Grimm’s Fairy-tales”. I really enjoyed the stories and the illustrations. In particular I loved “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”. I thought the drawings of the twelve princesses were just beautiful and would often try to draw them myself!!
Mrs Fresle: My favourite book when I was growing up was “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis. It is about 4 children who travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it with the guidance of a mystical lion called Aslan.I enjoyed learning all about the main characters Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy and loved reading the wonderful descriptions in the book. I really felt like I was with them on their adventure. I still enjoy watching the film adaptation every Christmas and remember with fondness reading the book and the sequels.
Miss Ellis: The “Flambards” series, by KM Peyton. I loved these books as I had always been keen on pony stories and this is about horses but a bit more grown up! It is also has an historical setting – around about the time of the First World War which I found really interesting. I still love books set in times gone by today so maybe this was the start of all that! I think I was about 11 when I read these.