Remember that book?
Do you remember that book? The one with the story that grabbed your attention and wouldn’t let go? The one with the characters who came to life and invited you into their world so you could share their adventures? The one you didn’t want to finish in case you never found another book like it again?
The book that started you reading for pleasure.
I remember mine as clearly as if I had found it yesterday. It was 1977 (or thereabouts), and my family was on holiday at my granddad’s caravan in North Wales. The weather, as you might expect, wasn’t up to much and so I spent a good part of the holiday sitting inside, listening to the rain patter on the metal roof, and reading.
At that age (around 10 or 11), I was into mystery books. I’d read and enjoyed much of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series – but the adventures, while fun to read – didn’t have any real connection with my own life. I wasn’t zipping off to stay with my Aunt and Uncle for the summer. I didn’t nip round to the kitchen to have Cook pack me up a smashing picnic with great slabs of meat pie. And at no point did I ever stop my bicycle at a dairy which sold wizard ice creams.
I was sitting in a rain-soaked caravan near Rhyl with a glass of weak orange squash, a rapidly melting Club biscuit and a tattered library book.
Then, during a brief break in the bad weather, I ran to the small campsite shop to buy some sweets, and spotted a book on the wire rack near the door: Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot by Robert Arthur. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? And I admit that it was the unusual title that first attracted my attention, so I bought the book with my pocket money and hurried back to my corner of the caravan to read.
Wow! Just wow! Here was a mystery like no other. A race against the clock to find a piece of buried art – with the only clues to its whereabouts being held by a handful of parrots! And the three heroes – Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews – had been hired by the famous film director, Alfred Hitchcock, to solve the case! WOW!
OK, these characters still weren’t exactly like me – but they were a whole lot closer than Julian, Dick or Timmy the dog would ever be. They solved mysteries using research, logic and reason. AND their secret hideout was a caravan (albeit one buried beneath scrap metal in Jupiter’s uncle’s scrap yard).
I’m getting goose bumps now as I remember how I devoured that book, and then tracked down every other title in the series as soon as I got back home. In fact, I’ve got my web browser open at a site which has a copy in stock right now, and I’m going to click ‘Buy’ as soon as I’ve finished writing this article. 35 years later, and the book is still having that effect on me.
Tell us about your book in the comments below.