I would have to say that Roald Dahl had the greatest influence over my imagination as a kid. I don’t know whether I was already kinda screwy before I read Dahl but I certainly was after. Dahl’s unique (odd) view of the world had a great impact on me, as it has had on millions of other kids. The Twits, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Matilda were a shock to my conservative little soul and I loved it.
But, enough of that rot, I want to discover which children’s book author had the most influence over your imagination.
I have taken the liberty of choosing ten of the most influential authors, just to get the party started…
You may vote below…
(or leave me a more detailed answer in the comments section below)
MY VIEW: I remember having a picture book version of The Magic Faraway Tree. When I was in my mid-twenties I found a copy and opened it. A shiver went down my spine. I recalled that Moon-Face had frightened the life out of me. Lasting effect on my imagination? An irrational fear of Bert Newton.
The Magic Faraway Tree: Come on an amazing adventure to the Enchanted Wood where you can climb the Faraway Tree and meet Moon-Face, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy.There’s always a new land at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please? There’ll be adventures waiting, whatever happens!This work features funny, magical adventures that will delight children again and again.
MY VIEW: I am too old for Harry Potter to have made a lasting impression on my imagination. When I tried to read Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone as an adult, it hurt. However, the joy Harry has brought to millions of children who would most probably not have become readers without him, delights me.
Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone: Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who’s parents have been killed in a ‘car crash’. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day.
Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher’s Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?
MY VIEW: I’m fairly sure I would have been read The Tale of Peter Rabbit but have no memory of it. The only lasting effect it had on my imagination, I believe, is a dislike of rabbit stew.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in 1902, was her first book, expanded from an illustrated letter she had sent to a young friend who was ill.
One hundred years later the classic tale of naughty Peter Rabbit’s escape from Mr. McGregor’s garden still brings to children all over the world the pleasure that it gave to its very first reader.
MY VIEW: I remember the Goosebumps series because they were popular with kids when I was in my early twenties. If I ever had to mind kids I would be asked to read Night of the Living Dummy, or Say Cheese or Die, or The Cuckoo Clock of Doom! at bedtime. I wondered how the little buggers could get to sleep so easily after such horrible stories. It didn’t seem to bother them, but then they didn’t have to sit up late all alone in a strange house waiting for the parents to come home having just read a horror story. Damn you, Mr Stine! You made a grown man pee his pants!
Night of the Living Dummy: When twins Lindy and Kris find a ventriloquist’s dummy in a Dumpster, Lindy decides to ‘rescue’ it, and she names it Slappy.
But Kris is green with envy. It’s not fair. Why does Lindy get to have all the fun and all the attention?
Kris decides to get a dummy of her own. She’ll show Lindy.
Then weird things begin to happen. Nasty things. Evil things.
It can’t be the dummy causing all the trouble. Can it?
MY VIEW: I never really warmed to Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as a child. I don’t think it was because of their nudie rudie habits. Anyhoo, one day I opened an old copy of the book and found a picture of the Banksia Men. Nasty little creatures. Once seen never forgotten. Shudder.
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Quintessentially Australian, these delightful tales have never been out of print; indeed the fantasy world of May Gibbs has been a source of continual fascination for generations of children. May’s is a world filled with fears and excitement and adventures both extraordinary and everyday. A world peopled with small creatures, where the real mixes tantalizingly with the imaginary and provides a window to the magic we all believe exists in the bush.
MY VIEW: I must admit to being a little confused by my parents glee when they saw me reading George’s Marvellous Medicine. I didn’t read much, to be sure, so me reading anything was a moment worthy of celebration. But had they read Roald Dahl themselves? I didn’t think so. If they had they probably would have stopped me. Roald Dahl was telling me to do things my parents would most certainly prohibit.
George’s Marvellous Medicine: Young George mixes a medicine to make his nasty grandmother more likeable, and once she drinks it she grows to immense proportions. George’s father wants the formula to breed a race of super-size livestock, but George can’t duplicate the recipe. His fourth try is a potion that shrinks the drinker to nothing – and greedy Grandma drinks it with expected results!
MY VIEW: Dr Seuss books are so engaging and strange that I still have difficulty closing one once opened. The illustrations make the word ‘unique’ seem insufficient. It feels to me that Dr Seuss has managed to discover a way of communicating with a part of our psyche that is so primal that it becomes impossible to rationalise our response effectively. He is fascinating and frightening, funny and bizarre. I will never know what life is like without early exposure to Dr Seuss but I feel certain it would be much duller.
GREEN EGGS AND HAM: When Sam-I-am persits in pestering a grumpy grouch to eat a plate of green eggs and ham, perseverance wins the day, teaching us all that we cannot know what we like until we have tried it!
With his unique combination of hilarious stories, zany pictures and riotous rhymes, Dr. Seuss has been delighting young children and helping them learn to read for over fifty years. Creator of the wonderfully anarchic Cat in the Hat, and ranked among the world’s top ten favourite children’s authors, Seuss is firmly established as a global best-seller, with nearly half a billion books sold worldwide.
MY VIEW: After reading Where The Wild Things Are every time I was really, really naughty I thought of Max. I too wanted to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I hated the idea of being punished for doing stuff that was fun. I don’t think the moral of the story ever reached me at all, now that I come to think about it. The rebellion was the fun bit. Damn the consequences.
Where The Wild Things Are: Originally published in 1963, it has become a much-loved favourite children’s best-seller, and an acknowledged classic of 20th century children’s picture books.
Maurice Sendak said: “Max, the hero of my book, discharges his anger against his mother, and returns to the real world sleepy, hungry, and at peace with himself… from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustration as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things”
Winnie-the-Pooh: “You’re the Best Bear in All the World” said Christopher Robin.
“Am I?” said Pooh hopefully.
Meet the world’s favourite bear in this delightful collection, in which Pooh gets into a tight place, nearly catches a woozle, and discovers the wrong sort of honey – amongst other things.
MY VIEW: I doubt there is a child whose imagination was not stirred on being read The Ugly Duckling. Andersen’s stories manage to penetrate deep into our emotional heart and give us strength to face the absurdities, cruelties and irregularities of life.
For two hundred years, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling has been a childhood favourite all over the world.
Now Robert Ingpen brings his spectacular adaptation to new generations of readers. Born bigger and different than the other hatchlings, the ugly duckling is ridiculed by his brothers and sisters, rejected by the other ducks, and eventually shunned by his own mother. The little bird leaves his home, embarking on a brave journey through hecklers, hunters, and cruel seasons-only to discover that the beauty he was seeking was inside him all along.
A beautifully told and brilliantly illustrated edition of this classic, essential story every child should embrace.
I MUST ADD….
MY VIEW: I don’t think there ever was a time when my imagination was not inhabited by the Mad Hatter, Alice, the Cheshire Cat, children tumbling down rabbit holes, sitting at strange tea parties, stepping through the looking glass… I don’t know when I came to know of these things or who brought them to me, all I do know is that my world and the worlds of Lewis Carroll’s making are united, forever.
On an ordinary summer’s afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute . . .
Now you may vote…
(or leave me a more detailed answer in the comments section below)
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.