A recent blog post and conversation on the tweeter was addressing the question of “what were some of your formative books your read when you were 10-15 years old?” I remember I was not really into reading until I was about 10, when my brother returned from college and gave me a copy of “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. Up until then I basically read comics (Asterix, Tin Tin), or magazines (“World”, “The Electric Company” and the Mexican magazine “Chispa”) and I thought there’s no way I’ll get through that. Especially since I was (and still am) a slow reader and the book was in English, which is my second language. Nevertheless I was totally blown away, so much so I had my brother send me the rest of the series which were hard to find in Mexico. After that I discovered an English-language bookstore in Mexico City and I would always want to go there to buy books. Whenever I visited the US I’d come back with a suitcase half-filled with books. I discovered the Great Brain series, which I loved and almost made me become a Mormon (until I realized that you didn’t need to be a Mormon to engage in the Great Brain’s shenanigans). I also liked those Chronicles of Prydain books, but they always fell a little flat compared to Narnia. The Phantom Tollbooth for sure. And all the books by this dude named Edward Eager (Knights Castle, Half Magic, etc.) I read all the Judy Blume books and I had all of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Also I read all of the Roald Dahl books I could find. As I got a bit older I got into Ray Bradbury and The Hobbit (I didn’t read the rest of the Lord of the Rings until high school).
One of the reasons I read so much in English, is that I think children’s literature in English was so much better than anything I could find in Spanish. Everything I had in Spanish seemed either antiquated/irrelevant or just plain bad. So much so that I don’t remember a single chapter book in Spanish I read as a kid, other than the whole Asterix series, which I love (although that was translated from French, but whatever). It wasn’t until high school that I discovered all the cool Latin American writers which occupied most of my reading during high-school: Borges, García Márquez, Cortázar, Bioy Casares, etc. I also discovered German writer Michael Ende (Neverending Story, Momo) and Vonnegut.
Now my kids are starting to read a lot. My son not so much yet. He can read well, but still doesn’t have the bug. My daughter, who is 8, is completely obsessed. She’s reading at a level far more advanced than I was at her age. She’s on her second iteration of the Harry Potter saga (which I’ve never read other than reading the first two books to her out loud). I tried to get her into some of the books I used to like and she did enjoy Narnia and Momo and Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH, but hasn’t shown much interest in others. But I think that the best thing is to just let her develop her own tastes, and she’s found all sorts of cool books in her school library by authors I don’t know but that seem pretty good. Books I would have liked to read as a kid (she really loved this Warriors series about some epic cat saga) and she loves graphic novels. I’m hesitant to introduce her to Asterix, because I would feel painfully rejected if she didn’t like those. She also appropriated all my Choose Your Own adventure books and has been going through them (I recently slipped on House of Danger, left on the bathroom floor). But most of all I’m glad she’s reading and enjoys it. And Im sure my son will follow soon once he becomes a bit more confident. Then we can all sit around and read. And maybe I’ll finally read Harry Potter. Or not.