M & B cropped up a couple of times in the last few days. First because it’s their 100th birthday this year, which isn’t bad going. Then I read a piece about using pulped romances to build motorways.
Is it children’s literature, though? Well, it was considered as such when I was at university, reading Literature. (You know these foreigners. They do have weird ideas.) My course had a small section in its children’s literature bit that had us read a Mills & Boon type book, on the grounds that many readers of these books are very young. Having a mis-spent childhood with Barbara Cartland (serialised in a weekly magazine), I could only agree.
I wouldn’t put one into the hands of a child, though, even if Daughter did once come home with one found in her classroom in junior school. (A mistake, they said.) Some are very bad, but some are actually not that dreadful. And it can be reassuring to know what you’re going to get.
How much influence did she have, the Retired Children’s Librarian? Hmm. Well, she was an adult who read children’s books for a living. And as a family friend she provided me with reading material throughout my childhood. Good books for Christmases and birthdays, and the occasional book left behind after a visit. She also had the good sense to give me LPs once I got to my mid-teens, so she knew when to give up, and it wasn’t even as though I had stopped being a reader.
She, too, was heavily into crime. Still is, now that retirement means she doesn’t have to keep up with all the trends in children’s books. She would come and stay for her holidays, well equipped with crime fiction for the duration. And then she’d leave some behind for me. I used to think it was her being generous. Now I’m beginning to wonder if it was a sneaky plot to get me reading certain books? I particularly remember Craig Rice. Very funny.
The shoe is on the other foot now. I was so enthusiastic about Harry Potter nine years ago, that she bought the first book when it had been translated. I believe she read half of it before chucking it across the room in disgust. And can I get the woman to try Philip Pullman? No, I can’t. Knowing that the Retired Children’s Librarian is not keen on fantasy, I invested in Sally Lockhart and I Was A Rat. Not wanting to do things by half measures, I got them personally signed by Philip. She still doesn’t read them! Sally Lockhart is crime, and everything she likes in a book. Why??
Never mind. The Retired Children’s Librarian has an excellent memory, and it’s still possible to ask detailed questions about books and she’ll remember. I will have forgotten it by next week. So, I wonder if it’s coincidence or influence that I’m a children’s books and crime fanatic, too? What’s more, as I was thinking about books to recommend to less enthusiastic young readers recently, I suddenly remembered, that about thirty years ago the Retired Children’s Librarian wrote a book about that very subject. Coincidence, again.
Just wish I could get her onto the internet. Anything to stop her watching more Midsomer Murders.