Featured in "New Books" page from by Sheila K. McKullagh
(E J Arnold & Son, Ltd., 1974)
There are books that implanted themselves in my memory as a child, showing me images—the Eye over Mordor, the elephant swallowed by the snake in The Little Prince—I could never forget, or introducing me to characters that became my friends.
But there’s one book—or series of books, I should say—that did much more than that. My mother taught me to read when I was three, and the reading scheme she used was called Tim and the Hidden People (I don’t know if it is, or was, available in America, but anyone who did read it will remember it).
The result of my mother’s starting early was that I could read before I could remember; and my earliest memories are, yes, of my dad coming home from work, as I laid elbows-down on the carpet watching TV—but also of Tim being given the key that showed him Tobias, the talking cat; of Captain Jory; of the Smugglers; and the view from the window of Tim’s Yard, where he lived with his aunt.
Lots of other people learned to read with these books, and loved them, and now trade them on Ebay for upwards of $100 a piece (for 32-page books!). They are, remarkably for books intended for such a young audience, incredibly dark and frightening, full of vivid images of cats, broomsticks, witches, caves, pirates, and funfairs. I would say, though, that my feelings for them go beyond love. They’re twisted up in myself, Tim and Tobias—I met them before I met any of my oldest friends, and I saw their world before I saw much beyond the door of the house I lived in until I was four. They’re not just the books of my childhood—they ARE my childhood. I grew up in England, yes, but I also grew up in the land of the Hidden People.
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