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ReaderClaraI’ve been asked about the first book I ever read…

I’d love to name something especially significant, that marked me with an enduring love for books – but frankly, I don’t remember for sure. I was very, very young – all of three – when my family, craving relief from my constant badgering for stories, stories and more stories, thought it would be nice to make me at least a little autonomous on the matter, and taught me to read. I think I hazily remember some picture book with an adventure of Gyro Gearloose, of all things, but really, it’s been more decades ago than I care to count.

On the other hand, I remember perfectly my first book without pictures: Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. I was six, and about to start primary school – time, I decided, to take the plunge and read “real” books by myself. Why the choice should fall on London, I don’t know. It was an old edition, likely a relic of my uncle’s childhood. Because I was a bit of a tomboy back then, and loved both dogs and mountain stories, Buck’s story must have seemed like a good fit. Reader Wild

I remember reading it in the garden – and heartily disliking it. This poor, poor dog, wrenched from his pleasant life, sold, beaten, ill-treated, forced to become a tooth-and-claw creature, saved by a new kind master only to lose him and become a wolf… The thought of our own dog ever having to go through all this cruel and harrowing experiences was enough to give me nightmares – and truly, I have to wonder whoever decided The Call of the Wild was a children’s book…

Now, had I told my parents at some point, they would have told me to leave it aside, and given me something else to read. That I felt compelled to finish it and never say a word is to blame on my own stubbornness. In time (a good deal of time, in truth) I came to realise that books don’t have to be an ordeal – but the fact remains that my first “real” book was not a happy experience. I shudder to think how it could have turned me off reading for good…

I don’t remember what came after London. Certainly something I liked better, because after that I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book going. Still, you see why I say I’d like to have a different story for my First Book? It should have been a wonderful beginning – and instead it’s lucky that it wasn’t an unpleasant end.

What about you, O Readers – and your First Book, ?