I grew up with books for company, my childhood influenced by some amazing writers, and my imagination shaped by their magic.
These authors conjured up some vibrant characters who were my constant companions through rain and shine and I’d like to make a list to celebrate their contribution to my world. This is by no means an exhaustive list; in fact, it barely scratches the surface.
This list is compiled purely from my perspective, considering the cultural influences that shaped the environment I grew up in. The authors are listed in no particular order of preference, because it’s almost impossible to rank them- each one brings their unique flavor to the table which when mixed together forms a glorious hotpot of fantasy.
It was easy to figure out the authors to include in this list; the hard part was excluding some of my favorites in order to maintain exclusivity. It was difficult to leave out some gems like the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, The Railway Children, The Wind in the Willows, and some legends like The Brothers Grimm, but let’s save that for another time.
Roald Dahl is one of the first names that come to mind when you hear the words “children’s author”. Although he has penned several books for more serious readers over the years, he’s celebrated for the numerous colorful characters he brought to life on paper for children to enjoy.
As a child, I got to live vicariously through his quirky characters and what a ride that was!
I explored Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory with Charlie and his Grandpa in tow. I marveled at how truly fantastic Mr. Fox is and the lengths he went to in order to save his family. I rolled away with James in his Giant Peach, thankful to be away from his horrid aunts. I fell in love with the kindness of the BFG as he risked his life to take care of Sophie. And I sympathized with Matilda for having to put up with her horrid family and the monstrous Miss Trunchbull.
I go back to his books when I’m having a particularly dull day and his magic takes me away to another world even as an adult.
The unique way in which Mr. Lemony Snicket wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events had me enthralled from the very first page till the very last word. His books made me feel like I was in an important act, basking in the anticipatory thrill accompanying the feeling that I could cross the barrier into the adult world at any moment.
As I followed the miserable journey of the Baudelaire orphans on land and under water, on foot and in broken down cabs, I learned to appreciate the privilege of having parents who looked after me well enough to ensure that I did not fall into an evil villain’s clutches. I guess it was unlikely that a Count Olaf would ever plague my life or my sibling’s, as we never stood to inherit vast fortunes as far as I’m aware.
Violet inspired me to try my hand at new things. Klaus made me want to devour more books and get big round spectacles. Sunny showed me that even a baby can make her own meals with the unlikeliest ingredients in the pantry, thus proving that age is just a number when it comes to being self-reliant.
From his books, I also picked up on many fascinating words such as “xenophibia” and “verdant” at a very young age. Thus, began my life-long obsession with novel words.
J. K. Rowling:
Joanne Kathleen Rowling will forever be one of my favorite authors, and the magical world of Hogwarts is one I seek refuge in when I need a little cheering up.
I don’t think I need to explain this in detail, because which sane person hasn’t secretly waited for a letter of acceptance from Hogwarts?
J. K. Rowling filled my imagination with witches and wizards and spells and enchanted snowballs and pumpkin juice.
She made me believe that good will ultimately triumph over evil, but you have to learn to take a hit and still get up and keep fighting.
Enid Blyton is a beloved children’s author who has written a wide variety of books on a wide variety of topics.
Inquisitive sleuths, loyal dogs, dainty fairies, flopperty birds, talking Raggedy Ann dolls – you name it.
We may leave Kirrin Island and step into concrete realities after a certain age, but the delicious food Enid acquaints us with as we join the Famous Five on their adventures still lingers in my mouth more than a decade later.
It may be subtle, but there are many life lessons to be learned from Enid’s works. The fun, mischief, and drama at St. Clare’s and Mallory Towers subconsciously show us right from wrong with the help of different characters that are endearing and their relatable struggles.
The girls are all unique, with their own distinctive personalities, and you see how introspection makes them better human beings over the years. An example that comes to mind is when the brilliant Alicia from Mallory Towers who is generally scornful of the slow learners comes down with a case of the mumps and realizes how hard it is to have her brain work slowly. She immediately turns over into a new leaf and helps others who seem to be struggling to catch up on school work.
Between vivid imageries of picnic lunches and ginger beer and the mischief stirred up by Amelia Jane and Elizabeth Allen, Enid Blyton is an author you can go back to at any age.
Personally, I am of the opinion that every young girl needs Judy Blume in her life.
And her books are not just for young girls either. I remember my mother enjoying Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself so thoroughly that she read it a second time and then a third.
Judy Blume explores the simple complications that can turn a child’s world up-side down but are negligible to adults. As a child, I found it quite relatable, and I sought comfort in the knowledge that I was not alone- all adults seemed oblivious to the plights of children.
I waited for God to respond to Margaret’s earnest prayers in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I read Sally’s letters to her dad and feel sorry for her, thankful that my dad was right there to hug me when I needed it. I understood Peter’s frustration with his brother in SuperFudge,having a Fudge of my own at home. But the same way I loved my little brother, I couldn’t help loving how adorable Fudge and his buddy were.
With Judy, you get to explore new cultures, religions, and beliefs. You get to be a part of friendships and families that are so much more interesting than the ones you see around you every day, while gradually being introduced to topics that initiate healthy discussions and better equip you to face the world later on.
As you navigate the perils of childhood and wait to grow up already! Judy shows you that childhood needs to be enjoyed because adults have their own problems too, even if they don’t involve the mortification of having to wear socks with loafers or wash down spaghetti with milk. The message is clear: their problems are much bigger, so make the most of your pinafore days.
R. L. Stine is without doubt one of the best storytellers of his time and as a child, I had the best time reading his books.
There’s mystery in the least expected places. There’s excitement too as you guess what’s going to happen next, till he invariably proves you wrong. Is your new neighbor a vampire? Will your teacher eat you for dinner? Are you turning invisible? Why does your shadow have a mind of its own?
His imaginative monsters coupled with the small jump scares makes life infinitely more exciting as you try to imagine yourselves in the protagonist’s shoes and come up with ways to tackle the dire situations they face on Fear Street.
Mr. Stine is also quite descriptive with his words, making it easy for you imagine his compelling narrative. I believe it helps you develop the ability to tell a story and convey your feelings to the audience, be it fright or horror, very precisely.
We understand what the central character is going through, and we hold our breaths with them, our hearts pounding in unison as almost every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. Our breathing speeds up too when there’s an unexpected twist and I almost always worried at the scanty number of pages left for the main protagonist to break free from the clutches of evil and go about a normal life once more.
Sure, an expected shadow will make you quiver in your boots, but you let yourself be a bit scared anyway because you know no harm will really come to you. The thrill of exploring haunted mansions and creepy graveyards from under the safety of your favorite blanky is incomparable.
The Diary of a young Girl is a mut-read for young girls and boys. Anne Frank’s narrative helps children develop empathy, kindness, and broader perspectives.
It’s always hard to walk in another’s shoes and experience life through their eyes, but it’s relatively easier to do with Anne’s words guiding you.
While reading her diary, I put myself in her shoes. I pictured myself in Anne’s Secret Annex, cramped into a tiny attic with seven other members, surviving on dry beans, listening to the battle outside, never knowing if you’ll be alive the next second, unable to flush toilets for fear the noise might attract snoopy neighbors. How fearful it must be to live in a perpetual state of terror!
Despite knowing the outcome, one can’t help but wish it would all end happily for Anne: she’d be reunited with her family, with her loving father, kind mother, with darling Peter.
I knew how Anne’s story ended, but each time I read her diary the ending crushes me again. It strips away the hope I’d have built up for the Frank family as I shared their scanty meals in the darkness of that attic.
I lived with Anne, I dreamed with her, I hid with her, I tried being brave with her, I loved with her, and I mourned Peter long after she was gone.