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Gavin G. Smith is an author. He writes Science Fiction novels, like Veteran, War in Heaven, and his latest book; The Age of Scorpio, (none of which are suitable for children).

His books are informed and influenced by what he reads himself, and what he read as a child.

Gavin has agreed to be the first to launch a new strand on this website, which is about grown ups talking about their favourite childhood books.

One of the things that helps children to love books, is to spend time around grown ups who love books. If they see an adult actively choosing to spend their precious leisure time reading, it influences them to do the same. It seems so simple to say this, but it is something adults often miss.

Parents and teachers are the people who shape our lives when we are small. If we never see them reading for fun, why should we do it ourselves? It seems hypocritical for adults to bang on about how important reading is and then never read anything themselves.  Children are not stupid. They figure out that it can’t be that important, because if it were, the important people in their lives would definitely be doing it.

So adults need to read for fun, to inspire children to do the same. Adults also need to talk about books with enthusiasm, so that children are given permission to do the same.  If adults can talk about children’s books, so much the better, and if an adult can talk about how important books were to them when they were a child, that’s the icing on the cake.

Here’s Gavin to talk about his favourite childhood books:

I actually came to reading quite late. I was considered quite a slow reader until at the age of nine a book caught my attention (I’m not going to say what book because I’ll get lots of flack for it). Then I didn’t look back, though now, as an adult, as I watch my eldest niece read classics like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, the Hobbit, it occurs to me how much I missed out on.

I am going to talk about two kids’ books. One I actually read as a kid and another that I only really discovered as an adult, though I have a feeling that I read it when I was younger. These are the two books that whenever friends and family have children I make sure they have copies of because I feel they are important and I’ll get to why later.

The first in the Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (and parents if you absolutely must let your children watch Disney then make sure you’ve at least read them the book first). This is the story of Wart, a hapless orphan living with relatives in a faux medieval Britain. He is taken under the wing of Merlin, the wizard, who shows him a fantastical magical landscape whilst teaching him a number of important lessons because (Spoiler Alert!) Wart is of course no other than the once and future King Arthur.

The second book is Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak. The hero of the book, Max, lives free and wild romping about in his wolf suit. (Another spoiler alert.) This of course gets him into trouble with the authorities, or mum, as she’s known in the book. Exiled to his bedroom he managed to escape on a boat to the land of the Wild Things. The monstrous inhabitants of this wild land are so impressed with Max’s wayward behaviour that they make him their king. As king he decrees there should be a wild rumpus! (Any kids reading this need to be aware that wild rumpusing is important and that your parents want you to do it as often and as loudly as possible.)

Now, as an adult, and a writer, I look back and ask why, out of all the thousands of books I’ve read, many of them kid’s books (Asterix & Obelix, Harry Potter, Keil Randor: The Last Legionnaire!), that these two stand out. To a degree I don’t think I should analyse them, I should just enjoy them and encourage the children I know to do the same. It doesn’t matter why they’re good. They’re just good. But if I had to pick a reason, I think it’s the same reason that I enjoy and write genre fiction (Science Fiction and Fantasy). It is because they engender a sense of wonder. I will take wonder, I will take a trip to strange new lands, I will take meeting strange new creatures, I’ll take magic over all the clever, worthy, and important novels in the world. I wonder if that means I am still a child?

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