Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading

Books about childhood reading habits are my catnip (Francis Spufford's The Child That Books Built; The Book That Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge (note the very similar cover...) No sooner had I read a brief review of Lucy Mangan's Bookworm in The Week than I was on the Kindle, downloading it. Bang! No sooner had I downloaded it than I was gobbling it down. Bang! Day and a half, tops. Loved it. (Suzanne, I think you will love it too.)

If Lucy Mangan and I ever meet, we will become friends. I know this because we read and adored exactly the same books as children (albeit about a decade apart). Like me, she identified with clever Kate from The Family From One End Street; like me, she struggled to come to grips with Tolkein; like me, she worships at the altar of Antonia Forest, wished herself into Narnia, and inhaled Noel Streatfeild. The Railway Children -- check. What Katy Did at School -- check. Tom's Midnight bloody Garden -- double check! There was a bad moment when I thought she was going to hate Anne of Green Gables, but luckily, she saw the light on re-reading. Phew.

Our paths diverge when it came to teenage reading (she had more choices). And she doesn't seem to have read Susan Cooper or discovered When Marnie Was There. But otherwise we are totally simpatico. Which means that I really need to check out The Summer of My German Soldier and Fireweed, because if Lucy loved them, I'm pretty sure I will love them too.

One very minor quibble -- I think she has misremembered Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming as Dicey's Song, which is a different book in the same series. Otherwise, top marks. If you're ever in Melbourne, Lucy, come round for a cuppa. We've got lots to talk about.


  1. I second the recommendation for 'Fireweed', a much reread book from my childhood. So many of the books from my childhood were set during the Second World War, presumably because the children who'd lived through it had grown up to become writers by the time I became a reader. I also remember 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit', 'Dolphin Crossing' and 'Carrie's War', as well as many others whose titles I can't remember but scenes from which still stay with me.
    I haven't read 'Bookworm' yet but as I soon as I heard of it I thought I must get it. None of the reviews have mentioned AF at all, they all focus on Mangan's descriptions of Milly-Molly-Mandy and Narnia.

  2. Well I suppose not many of them probably know who Antonia Forest is :(
    I love Pink Rabbit and Carrie's War but I don't know Dolphin Crossing -- who wrote that? I learned so much history from those books! And most vividly the atmosphere of the wartime experience -- which must have been so vivid for the children living through it at the time, too.

  3. Dolphin Crossing is by Jill Paton Walsh.
    Another thing I remember from many of these books is that the endings were often ambivalent; as a child I was often left wondering about what had happened and why, which is maybe why I've remembered them so well.

  4. Ah! Obviously I need to delve into Jill Paton Walsh -- I don't think I've read any of her books.