Bradley Beaulieu, author of The Winds of Khalakovo and co-author of Strata (with Stephen Gaskell), tells us this:
Unfortunately, I came from one of those households that didn’t read books much. I don’t recall any being read to me when I was very young. The first ones that I do recall—and I read them myself—were the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. I can’t remember what particular books I read first. The Tower Treasure? Perhaps. The Secret of the Old Clock? Could be. Since this is a bit of revisionist history, I’ll choose The Sinister Signpost as my first book, if only for the silly yet somehow cool cover.
This brings up an important question: If you could choose your first and most formative bedtime story, which one would you pick?
Sarah Prineas remembers this:
When I was a kid my dad worked very long hours, but now and then he was home when I went to bed, he would tell me this same story. I haven’t thought of it in years, but he probably told it to me hundreds of times. Next time I see him, I’ll ask him to tell it again. It was an adventure that culminated with me being captured by a witch and imprisoned in a dark cellar. I called out in this tiny voice, “I want my daddy! I want my daddy!” And then my best friend at the time, Johnny Schomp, rode up on his horse (accompanied by riding music) and rescued me, and took me to my dad. The end!
Sarah’s newest novel Winterling just arrived at a bookstore near you. Here’s Jenn Reese on why you should all read it.
Rachel Swirsky, like Kelly Link, remembers Goodnight Moon. Maybe it was the background painting of the bunny catching a merbunny with carrot-bait that turned them into such magnificent writers of unrealisms.
Rachel also remembers Merilee Heyer’s The Forbidden Door and Audrey Wood’s King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. Both books are richly illustrated. Here’s a video clip of someone reading King Bidgood, and they do the voices. Here’s Marilee Heyer’s website, where you can marvel at her art.
Jane Yolen vividly remembers two children’s books: The Story of Ferdinand (which has withstood the test of time) and The Pleasant Pirate (not so much).
Her son and occasional co-author Adam Stemple claims to have repressed all bedtime story memories. According to his mother they sang many a ballad and folksong together. As a direct result, Adam often played “highwayman” on the playground, accosting peers and siblings with “Stand and deliver, for I am a bold deceiver!“
In honor of All Hallow’s Read, I give you Neil Gaiman‘s answer to my favorite question.
The very first bedtime stories I remember being told were by my father, who used to tell us stories about a couple of squirrels—small grey squirrels who lived in the trees near us and had adventures and who would fight evil foxes. They were called Squibby and Squirky. And I remembering the worst part of that was when we moved. “But they lived in our tree, outside our old house. We’re hundreds of miles away. How can you tell stories about them?”
Neil also practiced the “reading by the hallway light,” trick at a very young age. This is a close cousin to the “flashlight under the blankets” trick, but the advantage of the hallway light is that you are not actually breaking the the “lights out” rule within the confines of your own bedroom. The disadvantage, of course, is that the hallway light tends to be dim. It leaves you squinting at your book. This may or may not lead to perfect night vision in adulthood.
I was a really early reader, which was kind of useful. I would be in bed with the door open just enough to read by, after I’m not meant to be up at all, with these strange English comics. I don’t even remember the title. Whatever these things they were, these English comics for three year olds, they were about woodland animals having adventures with jam. Lot of woodland animals in England, in stories, lots of little little happy hedgehogs making jam. By the end of it there was jam everywhere. Could’ve been blood, I suppose.
You can hear him deliver this answer here, towards the very end of a rather long video. The whole thing is worth watching, of course. Dave McKean is in it. (I’ll post about his answer another time.)