But that's kind of beside the point. My mother was (and is) of the opinion that a love of reading should be cultivated at a young age, and nurtured through those "difficult" middle grade years. In an effort to do this, she started reading to myself and my four siblings at the dinner table.
Every night when dinner was over, and the dishes had been cleared away, my mom would read a chapter of a book. The first book she read to us was "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis, the first in the Chronicles of Narnia series. I must have been 12 or 13 and I was entranced by the book. It let my imagination take flight, and took me to places I'd never known existed. Here's a picture of the edition she read to us from:
It's the 70's version. Kind of harkens back to the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. There's something a little Paul and Ringoish about Peter and Edmund.
I'd always been a fan of fantasy to some degree. In addition to my love of "Where the Wild Things Are" when I was younger, I also loved "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "The Phantom Tollbooth", among others. But on some level, I connected more deeply with this book.
Mom read the whole book over the course of a couple of weeks. Then, she moved on to book 2 of the Chronicles, "Prince Caspian". She read one or two more, but by the time she'd finished with book two, I'd raced far ahead. In no time, I'd devoured all seven books of the Chronicles and was looking for more.
That's when my mom suggested I check out "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. That was well and truly it. I was hooked. From there it was on to "The Lord of the Rings". Things haven't been the same since.
This started me on my way. I knew what I was going to do. I was going to write fantasy novels for children. I started right away. I made the mistake of trying to write an 8th book of the Chronicles of Narnia--not a good idea. Then, I started a fantasy epic of my own inspiration, complete with a map and everything.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I don't think anything has survived from that ill fated manuscript. After that I bided my time. Something else grabbed my writing attention around this time and on into high school and college--comedy. But that's a story for another day.