This is my favourite part of my parents' home - the reading nook - with my nephew the handsome Prince Oh demonstrating one way to use it. There are plenty of other ways, let me assure you. As a shopfront is one.
Prince Oh is just learning to read, and so we spent a delightful time together searching for 'Otter' (see it has its mouth open in an O) and 'Hedgehog' (see how the word is all spiky like a real hedgehog?) and other woodland animals in the pages of Lucie Atwell's Annual, one of my most favouritest books from my childhood. Later, of course, I read him the story, the two of us huggled together in my father's big old leather rocking chair with a tartan rug over our knees. I love my nephew!
The reason that the reading nook is my favourite part of the house is because there live so many of the wonderful friends of my childhood. There, cheek and jowl with my dear Dad's Ion Idriess titles you'll see Rabbie, along with Banjo and Henry. You'll find Anne and Dick and Julian and George (and Timmy). You'll see Nancy and Trixie, Pollyanna, Katy, and Jo with her sisters. Annette, Dani and Lucien join Heidi and Clara. Anne (with an E) is there with Rilla, and Norah with Jim and Wally. There's Laura and Mary and baby Carrie. There's the other Laura too - the one who got wisdom - on the same shelf as Meg and Pip and Judy and the others. Miranda, Irma, Marion, Rosamund and Sara can be found picnicking together. Bett-Bett is there, and Jerusha (aka Judy)is too. Oh what a lovely time we had together, Judy and I.
There are a smattering of boys too - John was the first sufferer of cerebral palsy that I came to know; Alan the first victim of polio. Josh from Ryan's Creek is there, and so is 'Storm Boy'.
Together these people make up my childhood. They are more than characters in the books that I read - these people were real - they were my friends. As I visit my parents' reading nook today I remember them all over again. It gives me incredible satisfaction to introduce these special childhood friends to my nephew, and to my daughter, and to have them become mutual friends. I take a proprietorial interest in them, as befits a group of people who were and who continue to be so important to me.
Childhood books are like this, aren't they? It is really important to decide who your children are going to have as their childhood friends. Are you going to introduce your kiddies to Laura and Katy and Pollyanna, or are you happy for them to associate with Hannah and Angelina and Harry? I am amazed at the quality of friends that my parents chose for me. Amazed, and oh so thankful for their good taste.
There are lots of other bookshelves in my parents' home. You'll find Scriptural books in the bedroom, cookery and gardening in the library. I love them all, but there are few bookshelves around that contain anywhere near the number of my own personal childhood friends as live on the shelves of that reading nook. I love them best of all.