This past week, we moved into a lovely unit almost as big as our old home of thirty-two years. However, the available space for books certainly isn’t as big. In my husband’s old study, there was a wall of built-in bookshelves which we, of course, could not remove. So our current task is to try to fit all our books into the bookshelves we could bring with us—or perhaps buy bigger ones!
Now my husband did cull his books severely before moving and I too dispensed with some at least. While doing so, I came across a number of books that had originally belonged to our children, so I decided to see if they wanted to hang onto these themselves.
Despite being a writer of novels and memoir and thus a firm believer in the power of story, I suspected they would say no, for various reasons. However, when I showed our elder daughter some middle grade and young adult novels with her name in them, I did not have to remind her how much she loved reading them.
‘Oh look, there’s Charlotte’s Web and all my Little House on the Prairie books!’ she said, her voice filled with nostalgia. ‘And I remember those Enid Blyton ones as well! There’s Mr Pinkwhistle’s Party—and there’s The Rat-A-Tat Mystery!’
As for our younger daughter, she clearly remembered her Laura in Littleland books and one called The Computer That Ate my Brother! Oh and, of course, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
But it was our big, burly, mathematician son whose reaction surprised me the most. He had already reclaimed his beloved Narnia books some time back, but in our clean-up, I discovered a book he had been awarded for coming first in his Year Four primary school class. It was a non-fiction book entitled Why Is it?, with answers to all sorts of questions about how and why things work in our world. Yet each entry in the book was so engaging to read and contained such interesting information that one could be forgiven for thinking it was all ‘made up’.
‘Oh, I remember this book—I’m definitely keeping it!’ our son told us, as he handled it almost reverently.
Yes, these books and many more have lived on in our children’s hearts and minds over all these years. But ... ahem ... for better or worse, could it also be that our children have taken on board a little of their parents’ attitude to books? You see, in packing for our move, I myself have still been unable to part with various novels from my own growing-up years—the Anne books by L M Montgomery, as well as her Emily books and Pat of Silver Bush; What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School and What Katy Did Next; Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys; Heidi—and many others. Those stories still grip my heart, just as they did as a child.
So, whether we write for children or adults, let’s work hard to create stories that are powerful and memorable, that fire our readers’ imaginations, that touch hearts and impact lives. Then perhaps one day, by God’s grace, the time may even come when our readers will want to hang onto those stories of ours too!
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, ‘Soul Friend’ and ‘Becoming Me’. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.