Bookface Book Challenge – Primary Years


Bookface book challenge: “Ten books that have stayed with you in some way.” 

I’ve extended the challenge to lots of books ‘that have stayed with me in some way’ plus useless cliff-note-style biographical notes. Here are my primary years.

*The Bible – New Testament – In Ireland state schools are predominantly Catholic, and if your parents didn’t make you go to church all the time (which they did); you basically had mass in school all day long masquerading as some sort of democratic education. I know the Bible very, very well. Indoctrination by osmosis was hard at work here.

*Primary School Spelling Books by Folens – I really did treat these like novels. I used to carry them around the house with me and randomly sit down somewhere to read them. Surprising no one ever tripped over me.

*Foclóir Póca by An Gúm – I used to drive my poor mother mad. “What’s this word in Irish?” “What’s that word in Irish?” I was swiftly directed to the foclóir so she could actually make the dinner. We only spoke English in our house, which I hated. I used to badger my mam all the time to go out and take Irish classes so we could speak Irish at home – lucky she never gave me a slap.

*The BFG by Roald Dahl – My long-suffering mother read this to my younger brother Justin and I when we were 8 and 6. And every night we’d make her keep going to the end of the chapter by begging and whining, even though it was long past our bedtime. At the end of each chapter she’d be so funny going: “Oh my god, another chapter! Will this book ever end? Good night.” We laughed much more at her than the book. I think it was the last of all the Roald Dahl books she had to read to us.

*Bunty for Girls – I had a million of these comics. My best friend Maria and I collected them every Friday. We were obsessed. I do often wonder now, why it never occurred to us then, to collect a different magazine to each other and swap them. The Four Marys was the best comic strip.

*Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien – I don’t know how anyone could not love this book – it’s brilliant. I remember picking up a skinny little book to read in our Primary School library, and the Principal, Miss Wynne, said to me: “You can do better than that, Lauren. Go back and pick a bigger book.” I picked this one. Great advice.

*The Childrens’ Encyclopaedia Brittanica – I was the only person in the house who ever read them. Fact. These were also how I learnt about Constantinople/Byzantium. Places have names that change over time. Blew my wee mind. I wanted to travel to Constantinople very badly. I thought on it like The Bermuda Triangle.

*Book of Birds – There was a book of birds my big sister Deborah had pilfered from my grandad Foley: Paddy. She treated it like her prized possession. I was not allowed to touch it. Of course, every time she was out of the bedroom I used to sneak over and look at all the amazing birds. I’d almost be standing in the built-in wardrobe reading it; incase she came back in and caught me. But, there was a picture of a very ugly bird on the back that scared the bejeezus out of me. I was forever turning him over so he was underneath and couldn’t fly out of the book – to attack me in my sleep. Gave me freaking nightmares that bird.

*Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – I loved this book, and cried twice. First book I read on my own to make me cry. Those poor work horses. I ponder nowadays if it was Trotskyism in thinly veiled disguise.

*Roll of Thunder! Hear my Cry! by Mildred D. Taylor and Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – In 1989, my parents went to Madison, Wisconsin for some Credit Union thing. And a woman my mother met there bought me these two books. I thought it was so fancy to get gifts from someone I didn’t know. She’d written me a lovely note in the Laura Ingalls Wilder book about how all the girls my age in Wisconsin read this book. I wanted to grow up to be a prairie woman or a black woman.

 *All books by Judy Blume and Paula Danzinger – These books meant a lot to pre-teen girls. It was the early 90s and the term pre-teen hadn’t even been invented yet. They were out of date when we read them – 80s fashion, music, and pop-culture. But, we loved them. They taught us about religion, periods, puberty, body confidence, being a friend, dating, not dating and more than kissing. These books were very important to all the girls I knew. They were unifying. And should never, ever go out of print. These books were how I became friends with my best friend in secondary – Lindsay. We had both already read them. Loved them. Loved reading. We were instant best friends, and still are.

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