Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by British journalist and author Lucy Mangan is an autobiography with a special focus on the books that she read as a child, and is now reading to her own young son. Lucy Mangan grew up in England in the 70’s and 80’s learning to understand the world with the help of Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, and Enid Blyton, and journeys to Narnia, the places Where The Wild Things Are, and Wonderland. Parents, teachers and librarians will enjoy this book for its enthusiasm for reading, and for the portraits of authors like Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak, and CS Lewis, and of course their writing.
We learn for example that
“the Hungry Caterpillar’s life began when (the author) was using a hole punch on a stack of papers at his home. The little circles made him think of a bookworm and he created a story, using different-sized pages – a familiar device in Germany, where his family had moved when he was six – called A Week with Willi the Worm.”
Mangan tells us that Where the Wild Things Are was inspired by Maurice Sendak’s memory of visits by older relatives who
“couldn’t speak English and grabbed and twisted your face, and they though this was an affectionate thing to do’. He and his siblings formulated the theory that, as their mother’s cooking was so terrible, the relatives could well be planning to eat them instead.”
Bookworm is full of anecdotes like this that not only bring to life the books that Magan rad but their authors too: Roald Dahl, like his character Willi Wonka, loved chocolate and would pass around a red plastic box of Mars and KitKat at the end of every meal: Mary Norton, author of The Borrowers, was very short-sighted and spent her own life “with her nose squashed up to things”; the whole Narnia series stemmed from a picture C.S. Lewis saw as a child of a deer ‘carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood’. He carried this image in his mind for 25 years before starting on the story.
These stories arepowerful ammunition in the battle to encourage more reading, in ourselves let alone others. Enjoy!