I’d never understood the appeal of fantasy. I’d read just a handful of fantasy books in my life, and pretty much all of them left me rolling my eyes and scoffing, “as if that would ever happen!” Sure, I enjoyed the storylines and that feeling of adventure, but I couldn’t see how the addition of a goblin or a wizard was adding anything to the story. When I critiqued an early version of my friend’s brilliant and now published novel Game Bird, I (embarrassingly) wrote in the margin in red pen, ‘It’s a great story… but could be better if you just took out the dragons.’ I’m glad he completely disregarded that one!
When I came to The Hobbit in my 100 Book Challenge I didn’t have high hopes. And then everything changed…
I have a confession to make. I got caught up in the COVID-19 panic-buying that happened in late March. But mine wasn’t toilet paper or hand sanitiser: it was books.
I remember the day clearly. We’d had dinner, I’d put the kids to bed. I thought I’d check my phone one last time before heading upstairs (never a good idea) and saw that all museums, art galleries and LIBRARIES would be closed… indefinitely.
Our little 3-year-old has grown so much in the year since I posted Top 10 books loved by my (other) 2 year old. She’s understanding much more complicated storylines, and has an amazing attention span when she’s curled up listening to her favourites books.
She’s started recognising words and sounding out letters (watching her older brother go through kindergarten last year has definitely helped her with that!) and I’m pretty sure she’ll be reading by herself before my next post next year. Her favourite books were hard to pick – there’s been so many in the last 12 months – but the below selection have really stood out.
1. Harry in a Hurry by Timothy Knapman
The 3-year-old still loves rabbits as much as she did when she was two, and I bought this book for her when I was away travelling with work. Harry the hare races around on his scooter so fast that he misses the destruction he’s leaving behind… until he crashes into a pond and is rescued by the super. slow. tortoise. Tom (who takes all afternoon just to blow his nose).
It was an intriguing title that sounded light and fun, and I thought it might be just what I needed after 5 weeks of the dense emotional roller-coaster of Love in the Time of Cholera. It didn’t disappoint: I enjoyed reading every word.
In the book, teenage Christopher tries to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog. As we read on, it’s clear that he sees the world in a unique way – through numbers and facts – and that he struggles with most human interactions.
I started reading this one in February 2020, coincidentally at the exact same time that our lives were flipped upside down because of COVID-19. ‘Love in the time of COVID’ became my private little joke as I made my way through this first (of two) García Márquez books listed in my 100 book challenge.
Just when I thought reading with my son snuggled in bed was never going to happen again, it returns! The world’s recent events have meant slower mornings for us. After a quick trip downstairs to put on Bluey for the 3-year-old, I slip back in bed to read. And lately, the 6-year-old – and his favourite chapter book – have been joining me.
And that’s because he can now read! Just over a year of school and he can read entire books by himself. Last year, I was reading the chapter books, and this year it’s all him.
1. The 117-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
This time last year we were only just introduced to these books. A year on and we’ve read every one of the series twice – the first time with me reading a chapter aloud every night, the second time my 6-year-old reading them to himself before bed (and sometimes staying up way too late to get to The Last Chapter).
‘It’s a bit like an adult version of Peter Rabbit. But the rabbits are real.’
‘You’re not really selling it to me…’
There I was, trying to describe to my work colleagues the latest book from my 100 book challenge. And I expect I’ll have just as much difficulty here…
I thoroughly enjoyed this one too!
As I progress through this 100 Book Challenge I’m loving books more and more. Am I becoming the more discerning reader? Perhaps. I find I’m worrying less about how many pages I have to go and I simply enjoy the ride.
Far from the Madding Crowd was full of love- and hate-able characters, countryside that felt like home (my parents were born in England and so many of my family’s stories involve adventures in the south), and short, engaging chapters where there’s always something happening.
Earlier this year, I found out that my short story Yellow by the Flames was to be published in the Mudgee Valley Writers anthology ‘More Than Words’. I then received an invitation to the book launch and quickly made the decision: me and the family were going to Mudgee!
The kids had never been further west than Singleton, so it was about time we showed them what it was like to be inland, away from the coast in a world of farms, coal mines and good old country towns.