1 November 2018 Susannah

Childhood Reading

Lucy Mangan - The Waterstones Interview

Every so often you read a book that makes you just long to sit down with its author and have a lengthy chat. That’s how I felt when I finished reading Lucy Mangan’s wonderful Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading.

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading

I wanted to sit with Lucy for a week, discussing her choice of favourites, sometimes disagreeing with her and at other times feeling that she was expressing my own feelings so beautifully. (The image above is from her visit to Waterstones bookstore where she talks to fellow bookworm and bookseller Martha Greengrass.)

Her book is a very personal one, giving delightful glimpses of her rather eccentric family throughout. Lucy is definitely a kindred spirit – like her, I wondered why people thought I should ‘go out and play’ when I was so utterly happy with a book; like her, I was enraptured by The Railway Children, A Little Princess, Charlotte’s Web and Milly-Molly-Mandy. I shared Lucy’s boredom with Babar the Elephant, and like her, was never really gripped by Tolkien.

But if I ever get to sit down and chat with Lucy, I will have to disagree with her on some things – how could she possibly NOT weep when Beth died in Little Women, why did Anne of Green Gables not instantly charm her and did she ever read the rest of the series, and why did she skip over the romance Katy has with a handsome naval captain in What Katy Did at School (in my view, those were the best bits!)? I feel sad that Lucy never got to know some of the Australian books that were a big part of my own childhood reading – Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians series, Mary Grant Bruce’s Billabong books, and May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Lucy Mangan explores what she learned from her reading, how it promoted empathy, how easy it was to find more books by favourite authors in 1980s Britain, and questions decisions made by librarians and teachers in banning Enid Blyton or trying to simplify vocabularies for young readers. She gives her readers so much to think about and chew over afterwards!

This is a book that will take you back down the memory lane of reading, yet it will also tell you fascinating bits of information about the authors of famous books for children and how they came to be written. It is quirky, personal, funny and a sheer joy to read. I felt slightly bereft when it ended and am so glad I own a copy, so that I can dip into it again soon. Thank you, Lucy Mangan!

Have you read Lucy Mangan’s book? As a child, were you told to ‘go out and play’? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

   Lucy Mangan talks to fellow bookworm and bookseller Martha Greengrass about her memoir.

   Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan
   The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit (original illustrations by C. E. Brock)
   A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Illustrated by Eva Evgeniya)
   Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
   The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley
   Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
   Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
   What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge
   Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
   A Little Bush Maid (The Billabong books) by Mary Grant Bruce

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.


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Featured image credit- Lucy Mangan, The Waterstones Interview, https://youtu.be/_OIUXM-s9vM8
Body image credit- Lucy Mangan, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28501495-bookworm

Comments (4)

  1. Margaret Debenham

    I remember reading the Katy books, and Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, but I confess they have left no lasting impression. I did love the Billabong books – I still have the full set in one of my (many) bookcases, the only childhood books that I still possess – and I enjoyed the Heidi books at the time, but by far my favourites were the Famous Five. I found them enthralling, and each one had to be read in a single sitting because I just had to know the answer to the mystery! (The Secret Seven were rather a bore compared to the Five.) I wonder what I would think of them now? (I no longer have them because my mother unilaterally decided I’d grown out of them and passed them on to my younger cousins.)

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it interesting the way children react so differently to the same books. The Famous Five left me cold, but I cannot imagine my childhood without Anne of Green Gables. I read all the Anne books over and over again. I think I only read one Heidi book, and preferred the Secret Seven to the Famous Five. It’s a good thing we are all so different! So long as we are finding pleasure in books, it does not matter which ones.

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