So it’s been one year, WordPress tells me, since I started writing about the 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up! I’m pretty proud that I have stuck it out for a year, and am still blogging (relatively) regularly. In one of those coincidences that you can read far to much into, I recently read Philippa Pearce’s A Dog So Small – one year ago I was reading another book by Philippa Pearce: Tom’s Midnight Garden. I feel like I’ve come full circle.
Tom’s Midnight Garden would be one of the favourite books I’ve read from the list so far, along with The View from Saturday, The Little White Horse, 45 & 47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened, Just William, The Little Bookroom, The Iron Giant … even though I feel like I’ve only dipped into the list that is 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, I have enjoyed pretty much every single book, and loved so many of them. Picking a favourite would be far too hard, but Tom’s Midnight Garden would be up there in the top 10. This is why I was excited to read another book by Philippa Pearce – A Dog So Small – as I was sure I would enjoy it a lot since I liked her other work.
It wasn’t that I disliked A Dog So Small. It was fun, and cute, and sweet. But it wasn’t amazing. Not in the same way Tom’s Midnight Garden was. It didn’t captivate me the way that Tom’s Midnight Garden did. Maybe I built it up a bit too much in my head, or compared it too much to Tom. But I was a bit disappointed. And I felt guilty, like I was being disloyal to Philippa Pearce by not being enamoured with it.
I am quite a loyal reader. I tend to read all the books in a series once I start it, and am very loyal to authors I like, reading everything I can get my hands on, and defending their lesser known (or lesser loved) books to the end. I was prepared to have this sort of loyalty for Philippa Pearce.
This sort of reminds me of another author that I absolutely adore – Garth Nix. I love the Abhorsen trilogy, and love his Keys to the Kingdom series. In fact, when the last book of Keys to the Kingdom came out, I bought the book literally as it was being unpacked from its boxes. So you can imagine how excited I was when the first book in his new series co-written with Sean Williams came out… But, to my absolute horror and guilt, I found the book appalling. Just terrible. I actually felt like maybe there was something wrong with me – how could I not like a Garth Nix book? I persevered to the end, out of loyalty, but couldn’t bring myself to read the second book.
My reaction to A Dog So Small was nowhere near so severe – It’s a perfectly nice little book. But it’s no Tom’s Midnight Garden.
Is it okay to love one book by an author, and not really like another? Can an author really write two books so different that you adore one and can’t stand the other? Books are so strange. You really can never predict where they will go, and whether you will enjoy the journey.