‘So I say Thank You For The Books…’ is a new weekly feature and where each week someone, blogger or author, tells us who or what inspired their love of reading
This week I am excited to have a post from author L A Weatherly as part of her UK blog tour for newly released Angel, a brand new YA series!
I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t know how to read. Both of my parents were avid readers, and I grew up in a house full of books. Stories were what I ate, breathed, slept with. Books were always the one thing that I could have as many of as I wanted; it was an indulgence both my parents shared and thoroughly understood. From an early age, they bought me picture book after picture book. I remember being enchanted by The Wizard Comes to Town by Mercer Mayer, with its sly sense of humour and dark, detailed illustrations (with lots of deliciously creepy hidden things lurking in them; the illustrations really took on a life all their own!).
When I was around nine or ten, my parents got divorced. I spent most weekends at my father’s house, and have vivid memories of the two of us going to McCain Mall on Friday nights, in Little Rock, Arkansas, where I’m from. We’d have burgers at Leo’s restaurant (I loved Leo’s – there were bright red phones at every booth where you called in your order to the kitchen, which seemed to me the coolest thing ever) and then afterwards, my father would take me to Waldenbooks. Paperbacks in the children’s section were often only ninety-nine cents; I got a new one most weeks. Then Saturdays were spent curled up reading. Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, Louise Fitzhugh, M.E. Kerr, Norma Klein – riches galore.
I also loved it when the book club magazine arrived at school every month. I would greedily read the descriptions of all the books, ticking the ones I wanted, carefully adding up how much money I’d have to ask my parents for. While they were rightfully firm in other ways, I don’t recall them ever saying, ‘No, that’s too much money for you to spend on books.’ They might say this about a toy, or clothes for my cuddly Snoopy doll, but books were recognised as being entirely different, and they made no demarcations over age lines for this. Books were not a luxury, but a need, like the very air we breathed. I would be written a cheque, which I’d carefully carry into school along with my lunchbox and my order – and then there would be the long, anxious wait until the box full of treasure finally arrived. And the quiet, fervent hush that then fell over the classroom, as everyone sat devouring their new books, lost in different worlds.
Libraries also fed into my love of reading. The Little Rock Public Library, with its cavernous downtown branch, was a place I loved to wander – not so much the children’s section upstairs (with its grizzled and scary librarian who threatened that dire things would happen to ten-year-old-me if I didn’t return the book I’d lost – I avoided her for years!), but the downstairs non-fiction shelves. These were shadowy, ancient, a secret lair of books. The volumes it held were long-forgotten and musty, with that delicious old book smell. I hardly even cared what the books were about; I loved just handling them, feeling them. Opening them and inhaling that scent. The old library was torn down years ago, and the new, modern one is no doubt an improvement – but improvements lack magic, sometimes. The new library can never be the same to me whenever I go back to Little Rock to visit.
School libraries played a part, too. I went to a small private school growing up, and looking back, the library was tiny – but it opened into worlds upon worlds. And, I have to confess, my first crime occurred there (not to imply that there have been many!). When I was around seven, I fell madly in love with a book called The Diggingest Dog, by Al Perkins, about a dog who loves to dig and Just. Can’t. Stop. I checked it out every week without fail, and then one week, instead of checking it out, I slipped it into my school bag and took it home with me. At last! The Diggingest Dog was mine! I still remember the guilty pleasure of sitting reading it at the kitchen table, knowing that instead of just borrowing the book, I now owned it.
Except that of course I didn’t. The librarian, Mrs Mitchell (I still remember her name after 35 years – guilty conscience), came to my class and made an announcement soon after, saying that The Diggingest Dog seemed to have gone missing, and would everyone please check to see whether they had it, and return it if so? Looking back, I’m sure she knew exactly who the culprit was (hmm, let’s see, could it possibly be the girl who’s checked it out for over 12 weeks in a row now?), but she was kind enough to give me a chance to return it on my own – which naturally I did, slinking into the library one empty lunchtime and hastily shoving it back onto its rack.
That particular book was ruined for me after that (the way of a thief is never easy), but libraries still held their magic. And, the year after, Mrs Mitchell left and my mother took the job of school librarian. Now the library was suddenly my private domain; the place where I got to hang out when nobody else was allowed in. Teachers’ meetings were held every Monday afternoon after school, and the library was mine and mine alone then – a place to sit and read, and dream, surrounded by all the books that had become my friends. Whenever I was sick and had to stay home from school, my mother would bring me piles of books that I hadn’t read yet from the school library – sometimes they were books that no one else had read, either, newly arrived and before she’d even pasted the card pockets into them. Often they were Newbery Award winners, and I gulped them down along with the ice cream for my sore throat: It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville; Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field; Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray; Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt. It was worth being sick, just to be so deliciously pampered with stories.
In some ways my childhood wasn’t ideal, but in one perfect, shining way it was: it was filled with books. Books that allowed me to dream, to imagine, to travel to amazing faraway places without ever leaving my room. So, to both of my parents, for now and forever…thank you for the books. I don’t think that I’d be a writer now if it wasn’t for you. x
Thank you Lee for a fantastic post, I think this is my favourite ‘So I Say…’ post yet!
Lee’s Book Angel released in the UK on the 1st October
In a world where angels are beyond redemption, Alex thinks he’s found one that might deserve mercy. Alex is a ruthless assassin – of angels. Forget everything you’ve heard about them before. Angels are not benign celestial creatures, but fierce stalkers whose irresistible force allows them to feed off humans, draining them of their vitality until there is barely anything left. As far as Alex is concerned, the only good angel is a dead angel…until he meets Willow. She may look like a normal teenager but Willow is no ordinary girl. Half-angel, half-human, Willow may hold the key to defeating the evil angels. But as the hunter and the hunted embark on an epic and dangerous journey and Willow learns the dark and terrifying secrets of her past, Alex finds himself drawn to Willow…with devastating consequences. Eoin Colfer reinvented the fairy, Stephenie Meyer reinvented the vampire, L.A. Weatherly reinvents the angel! This is a heart-pounding, knuckle-whitening, paranormal romance action-adventure for fans of the “Twilight” series. This is the first in a devastating new trilogy.
Don’t forget to checkout the next stop on Monday at BookBabblers and to see the full schedule see my post here
You can also visit the Angel Website for news and a fantastic trailer at
http://www.usborne.com/angel/ and follow on twitter @Angel-Book and @LA_Weatherly
And come back next week for my review of Angel which I’m reading now and is fantastic!