The 4th March 2021 is World Book Day, the yearly event that celebrates a love of books. The charity’s mission is to ensure that every child has a book of their own so they can discover the joys of reading, and it was an event I loved taking part in when I was at school. As a child, I loved reading. It was one of my favourite things to do, and at the ripe old age of 28 I still take enormous pride (I don’t have much else going on for me by means of successes so I have to take pride in what I can) in the fact that I was regularly at the highest level in my classes for reading, often the first to get their hands on the next level Biff and Chip book.
When I was really young, my Mum would read to me before bed, and as I got older, I’d read to her, eventually burying my bespectacled little head into a book whenever I could. I was that kid in the pub who would happily sit there with a pint of coke and a packet of crisps, provided I had a book to read. Anyone who was a child in the 90s/early 00s here in the UK will relate, it was the done thing to go with your parents to the pub. Also, my Mum worked in a pub for a few years so I’d often join her during the school holidays collecting glasses 10% of the time and then sat in a little corner with my book the rest of it. Anyway, I’m going off topic.
I loved reading in general as a kid but without a doubt, the books I picked up most often throughout my childhood and early teens were those by Jacqueline Wilson. The world has certainly been graced with some amazing children’s writers, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter and so on, but for me, Jacqueline Wilson was the one who’s books I read over and over again. I was genuinely disappointed when I got a bit too old to be reading her books, and as an adult I’ve probably missed out on so many more gems of hers.
For those who aren’t familiar, Jacqueline Wilson is an award winning author who’s very well known for her children’s books that often deal with controversial themes, such as mental illness, adoption, death and divorce, while still being presented at an appropriate level for younger readers, often told through the eyes of children. You’ve got the likes of The Suitcase Kid, which is all about a young girl living between two houses and families following the divorce of her parents; Lola Rose, a story about a young girl and her little brother who, with their mum, run away and start a new life after escaping their abusive father; and of course, the iconic The Story of Tracy Beaker, which looks at life in a children’s care home. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I remember my Mum presenting me with a few of her books one day when I was a child – specifically, Glubbslyme, The Mum Minder, and The Illustrated Mum – I instantly got stuck in and that was it. A combination of loveable characters, engaging storylines and the amazing drawings of illustrator Nick Sharratt had me hooked.
Over the years I developed quite a collection of Jacqueline Wilson books, most of which I read multiple times rather than branching out on other things – don’t get me wrong, I still read other stuff, but her books were the ones I went back to the most. What I loved about her books was the fact they were so different from anything else I’d read. A lot of the books we read in school focused on that traditional nuclear family set up – mum, dad, kids – and everything was all rosy and lovely. With JW’s books, it wasn’t like that. Many of her stories featured single parent families and as it was just me and my Mum growing up, that was something I could relate to more than anything else. These books dealt with real topics too, things you wouldn’t always expect children to have to deal with, whereas in reality, many do.
I mentioned in my World Book Day post last year that Lola Rose and The Illustrated Mum were probably my most favourite books by Jacqueline Wilson. They both had themes of the bond between mothers and daughters in unthinkable circumstances, and they were both incredibly difficult to put down. I loved them both so much that I still have the original copies that I was given as a child – Lola Rose even having a message in the front from my Mum, who had bought it for me as a present for doing so well in my SATS. They’re both in a bit of a state as the below image shows, but I guess that shows how many times they’ve been read over the years:.
Jacqueline Wilson’s characters were from all walks of life and backgrounds – some of of her most memorable included Ellie from the Girls in Love series, a typical teenage girl struggling with self-esteem and navigating friendships and relationships; Marigold, the title character in The Illustrated Mum who was covered in tattoos and suffered with bipolar disorder, and of course, Tracy Beaker, a ten year old girl living in a children’s residential home who desperately dreams of the day her mother (whom she insists is a Hollywood actress) comes to pick her up. The Story of Tracy Beaker was undoubtedly one of JW’s most successful books so it was no surprise it was followed by a number of sequels along with a TV adaptation on CBBC (again with a number of spin-offs) which became a show I watched pretty much whenever it was on. I won’t lie, after seeing the response to the recent TV adaptation of My Mum Tracy Beaker, which focuses on a now adult Tracy and her ten year old daughter, I’ve been tempted to binge the whole show from the start again.
Many of the Jacqueline Wilson books I read as a kid I can still remember vividly to this day, and I think in a way, my love of her books are what spurred my reading interests as an adult – I love books with themes around mental health in particular, be it fiction or nonfiction. I genuinely miss reading her books but of course, it would be a bit weird if I just sat reading piles of children’s novels, so I’ll stick to just fondly remembering them for now. Having said that though, if I have a child and they come home from school with one of her books in their hand, I will undoubtedly be sneaking a read.
What are your favourite Jacqueline Wilson books? Which author from your childhood inspired you the most? Let me know in the comments!