Early learning years...

# "But we always came back to the songs we were singing at any particular time..." # - Paul McCartney

My first "hardback" read
I've been thinking a lot recently about writing for a younger target audience than I've been accustomed to since deciding to embark on my adventures in scribbling around 10 years ago....  And it's led me to recall a handful of the very first books that influenced me as a very young reader (and I suppose a budding writer even then). I wonder how many of these you might know yourselves?

The first book I can remember was one called Tootles the Taxi - I recall that my copy of this small Ladybird hardback book was worn and scuffed at the edges and slightly creased on its covers by the time I’d stopped reading it because as a kid I just read and re-read the story so much.  It all began as a toddler when my mum would read it to me as a bedtime story – but really it was a collection of many stories of Tootles and his other vehicular friends (like a friendly steamroller and a smiling tram) and how they’d go about their daily duties, all told in rhyme on one page.  The accompanying pictures as well as the words stick in my mind as they were lusciously painted in that grand “holiday” poster style of yesteryear.

I wish I could find my old Goofy book!
A much lighter-hearted storybook I also have in my mind's eye was called Goofy the Signwriter (which possibly somehow subliminally influenced my old day job choice as a subtitler - another kind of sign-writer - years later...)  This was a small, thin softback book but had a colourful bright blue cover with our bundling hero Goofy elbow deep in paint pots (Incidentally, is he a dog or some other creature? And if he IS a dog, did he ever walk Pluto?!).  Goofy's always been my favourite Disney character and his misadventures in signwriting  were a perfect "light read" to escape into as a child.
"The Land of Counterpane"

A third "picture" book that I became attached to as a fledgling reader was one whose title escapes me as an adult (but with one other in this list - see below - forms a duo of "lost books" that I'd love to find!) but I do remember that it was all about a park warden named "Patrick" and the family of ducks who he looked after.  The story centred on the youngest of the duck family who had a fascination with Patrick's shiny shoes... Looking back, I think this tale of a curious young bird probably planted the seeds for my own stories about funny feathered friends to grow (to read the first adventure of "Kyle The Kittiwake" go to my Official Writing Website and look for a desk top object on the homepage picture there that looks like it might like to gobble up a bird...)

Another weird yet wonderful book that I remember was a "collected treasury of stories" picture book that held lots of stories and children's rhymes which I adored thumbing my way through, back and forwards, and dipping in and out of at my leisure as a young reader (something I still enjoy as an adult - why should books be linear, with pages going in order anyway?!)  It contained one of my all-time favourite short stories - "The Land of Counterpane" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

My first "adventure" book read
As a child, you don't generally read much in the way of horror stories, but I remember being frightened a lot by one particular read but it was also one of the most adventurous adventure stories I’d encountered too (and it’s still pretty good, even by today’s standards!) – it was a small but colourful book called Escape from Blood Castle published by Usborne Books and was one of those “puzzle”-style books that really attempted to make the child reader think and work out problems as they progressed through the story’s pages… I guess it’s where I got my first inspiration to attempt my own “game book” in adulthood (namely "Moon Crater: Adventures"!) The other thing I remember about this book was the tactile experience that comes with the enjoyment of reading a book - the glossy pages, the “plasticky” new smell of it – these kind of “sensory bookmarks” help to evoke memories of specific times and moments of the past for me, even to this day…

The holy grail of my quest to rediscover the lost books of my childhood is the second book I can’t even remember the name of but it’s one that I used to spend many a weekend morning thumbing my way through, escaping into the worlds of its pages and losing track of all time… It was one of those over-sized books that you could hold up in front of you and it would block out the rest of the real world as you read it and it was all about the adventures of a group of dinosaurs going on their holidays all over the world. From what I do remember about the book, it was like a “Where’s Wally” sort of picture book where each double-page spread saw the dinos pals in a different exotic location from skiing in the Alps to sunbathing on the beaches of Australia… I may have to get the “Book Sleuth” on the case to hunt down this particular missing gem of my childhood – I’d just love to discover what the name of it was, so if anyone reading this has any clue, answers on a postcard to the usual address, please (or simply email!)
My adventures with books 
were set to  continue...
(...and still do to this day!)

I think at some point in the future, I'll continue this trip down the memory superhighway of the books that have helped to shape my writer's mind today, moving onto the older young reader books I read into my teens (books like The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe) but I think for now, I've reminisced enough...  But in this modern age of e-reads and i-tunes, I can't help still having a soft spot for those colourful covers of those first reads of my yesteryear and the physical touch of a "real" book that they held above any modern ebook incarnation... I said at the beginning of this post that I'd been thinking about writing for a younger audience than I'd previously considered, and that's all because of my present small involvment with a writing website in my day job called "Signed Stories", which teaches kids of all ages and abilities the value of reading. It's really a wonderful site and has even been translated for the small screen here in the UK and is currently being shown on Mini-CITV, if you want to set your media recorders to catch it sometime...


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