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Lucy Mangan leads readers through a long distance reading journey with map, compass and excellent orienteering skills

Oh heavens, I didn’t want to get to Journey’s End, I really didn’t. This is an utterly delicious romp up hill and down dale through a childhood’s (Lucy’s) adventures between the covers of books.

Now Lucy was born in the 70s. She is not of my generation, so some of her childhood reads were certainly books I had never heard of, never mind read, but I just didn’t care, and chomped up, with equal delight, travels through books known and unknown. She also details experiences (as an adult I assume) with the whole history of childhood reading, indeed the production, the when and the why, of books written for children, whether, as in the high Victorian era, to morally educate and save young souls from temptation, or, – revolutionary, to entertain, to open up worlds, to surrender to with blazing delight.

IF you are a lifelong reader, IF you fell upon being read to with feverish delight and anticipation, but BURNED to take control of this for yourself, IF you still half regret the loss of that falling-in-love with reading, a kind of entrance into Paradise, DO NOT WAIT A MOMENT LONGER – you must have this book, you must read it, like you must draw breath.

This is an utterly joyous journey through the literature of childhood, from the earliest days of putting strange shaped squiggles together and suddenly grasping that c a t (for example) meant something – well, I guess that moment is equal to the moment serious greybeards first began to decode hieroglyphs.

Magic, that’s what

But Mangan is not only a wonderful chronicler of literature for children (the academic analysis) she is brilliantly right there within the experience of the exposure at the time of a child’s reading. She writes with as much joy and gusto as she reads

Pointless to describe the waystations on her journey, but this book is as much to be filed in Humour (she is one gloriously witty woman) as it is in Biography or factual tome about the history of children’s literature

Rarely has a book simultaneously made me laugh out loud so much whilst also educating me

Suffice it to say, Mangan had me, firmly following her guided tour, from this, early comment

Was your first crush on Dickon instead of Johnny Depp? Do you still get the urge to tap the back of a wardrobe if you find yourself alone in a strange bedroom

To which I could only shout YES! YES! Even if Johnny Depp was not yet a crushable entity when I first ‘crushed’ Dickon

Photograph by Romain Veillon from his book Ask the Dust

I was delighted to be offered this as a review copy as a digital ARC, and, have discovered to my delight that Mangan has written other books. WHICH I SHALL BE BUYING.

My only cavil (and I don’t know whether this was purely ‘digital ARC challenge’ or not) is that the author’s delightful habit of footnote and footnote within footnote asides does not work well in the digital format. It would work perfectly on a printed page, where the visual signs of long footnotes can happily spill over several pages without reader confusion.

Bookworm UK
Bookworm USA

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