I've reached that time of life where I walk into the kitchen and then stand there wondering what I went in there to do, so I suppose I can't trust my memory too much, but I recall that the first book to make an impact on me was as follows :
At the age of eight I, along with a few other school children, were told we were now old enough to use the school library. This sounded a frighteningly responsible thing to be allowed to do, but I presume we were selected because we were the quieter ones who were less likely to scribble on the pages.
Accordingly we were led to the headmistress's room. Here, two shelves of fusty, tatty and battered books resided. One by one, we were led to the shelves and each child was allowed to pick one. Luckily, I was near the back, so by the time it was my turn I knew what to do. I grabbed the nearest book without looking and returned to my place. We then got stern warnings about what would happen if we lost or damaged, or added damage, to our books, and how our parents would have to pay for replacements.
Being responsible, I carried my book home and put it somewhere safe so it wouldn't get lost. A week went by and the time to return it arrived. Again we were led back to the headmistress's room where the headmistress deigned to speak to us. I was asked if I'd liked my book. I gulped and considered my feet. It hadn't occurred to me that I was supposed to do anything with it other than keep it safe. I mumbled an answer then picked the same book again. This time I read it.
The book was Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson. It was a beautiful book. More years than I care to recall later I still feel warm inside if I think about those roundy creatures the Moomins, and I still keep my shell and stone collection safe. But back then it was the first proper book I'd ever read.
I took the book out again and again and read it every week. After a month or so, the headmistress noticed that I was only ever taking out the one book. She tried to make me take out another. I refused and I clearly remember a blubbing experience, which she expertly curtailed when she explained that there were other Moomin books I could read and they were just as good.
Reading a different book rather than the same one repeatedly was a strange idea. I considered the merits of continuing blubbing against trying something new. Luckily, I came down in favour of being dry… And a lifetime of enjoyment from reading began.
So, what was the first book that captured your imagination? Or if you can't remember that, what was your favorite childhood book?