Books I Wish I’d Had as a Child

Posted 8th September 2020 by Sia in Top Ten Tuesdays / 0 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog!

Today’s TTT is ‘books for my younger self’ – books I wish mini!Sia had had, and that I’m so happy exist now!

Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher

Summer is a perfectly ordinary 11 year old girl with a perfectly ordinary, needy, over-protective single mother. She always does what she is told and has become very good at listening and consoling her mother’s fears, but finds the experience increasingly exhausting. Summer loves her mother and would never dream of running away, but wonders deep down if it wouldn’t be nice to escape for just a little while and do something adventurous… maybe?

Along comes the crone Baba Yaga in her magical walking house, who spies Summer through the alley gate and offers to provide her heart’s desire. Summer has no idea what this might be, but with the lighting of a frog-shaped beeswax candle she finds herself transported to the strange world of Orcus with nothing but a weasel in her pocket.

Like any girl of her age, she's read lots of fantasy books about people thrust into strange lands; but they usually seemed to have had some idea what they were supposed to do there.

Join Summer as she attempts to follow glimpses of turquoise across Orcus with the help of a weasel, a wolf with a house problem, and an aristocratic hoopoe with a penchant for trouble. Along the way she just might figure out what she is looking for, save a wondrous thing, and realize that some of the talents which she takes for granted are mighty useful indeed.

“It’s Wes Craven meets L. Frank Baum, or Narnia for those of us who thought Narnia smiled without showing enough of its teeth.” ~KB Spangler, Digital Divide

Like all of Kingfisher’s books, Summer in Orcus is simultaneously whimsical and very, very deep and meaningful. This is an adventure story where the heroine’s weapons are compassion and having had to grow up too fast, and it’s the perfect story for everyone who thinks they can’t be heroes because they’re not big and strong. There’s different kinds of strength, folx.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1) by Catherynne M. Valente

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

Besides being another fantastic story of a girl having an incredible adventure, I think baby!Sia would have been utterly charmed with the way Catherynne Valente writes, and with how she recreates mythology and magic all her own. There was also definitely a time I needed all the examples of girls being good instead of nice that I could get, and this is in many ways the epitome of that.

Half-Witch by John Schoffstall

In Lizbet Lenz’s world, the sun goes around the earth, God speaks directly to his worshippers, goblins haunt cellars and witches lurk in forests. Disaster strikes when Lizbet's charming scoundrel father is thrown into a dungeon by the tyrant Hengest Wolftrow. To free him, Lizbet must cross the Montagnes du Monde, globe-girdling mountains that reach to the sky, a journey no one has ever survived, and retrieve a mysterious book.

Lizbet is desperate, and the only one who can help her is the unpleasant and sarcastic witch girl Strix. As the two girls journey over the mountains and into the lands of wonder beyond, on the run from goblins, powerful witches, and human criminals, Lizbet discovers, to her horror, that Strix's magic is turning Lizbet into a witch, too. Meanwhile, a revolution in Heaven is brewing.

Half-Witch is about many things, but one of the core themes is definitely a good, polite young girl learning to be fierce and strange instead of meek and nice and convenient. That was something I had to figure out on my own – something I still struggle with, some days – and baby!Sia would have been very grateful to follow Lizbet’s and Strix’s story.

I suspect she would have been taking notes.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak. 'Who do you think you are? This is my family.'

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; she keeps waking up with leaves in her hair, and her sister seems terrified of her. When it all gets too much and she starts to cry, her tears are like cobwebs...

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late...

Cuckoo Song is a book that says sometimes your parents are wrong – sometimes they’re even the ones who hurt you – and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Even if you are strange. It also reinvents some of my favourite folklore, and has a very strong found-family theme running throughout. Frances Hardinge writes amazing books that have just as much to offer to adults as they do to kids, so I do recommend this, for any grown-ups who might be checking out this list.

The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

A dinosaur detective in the land of unwanted ideas battles trauma, anxiety, and the first serial killer of imaginary friends.

Most ideas fade away when we're done with them. Some we love enough to become Real. But what about the ones we love, and walk away from? Tippy the triceratops was once a little girl's imaginary friend, a dinosaur detective who could help her make sense of the world. But when her father died, Tippy fell into the Stillreal, the underbelly of the Imagination, where discarded ideas go when they're too Real to disappear. Now, he passes time doing detective work for other unwanted ideas - until Tippy runs into the Teatime Man, a nightmare monster who can do the impossible: kill an idea permanently. Now Tippy must overcome his own trauma and solve the case, before there's nothing left but imaginary corpses.

File Unders: Fantasy [ Fuzzy Fiends - Death to Imagination - Hardboiled but Sweet - Not Barney ]

Besides being an incredible, and incredibly fun story, Imaginary Corpse also beautifully handles issues like trauma, nonbinary pronouns and identities, and how it’s okay to be different, whatever flavour of different you are. Baby!Sia didn’t have words for any of that, and I know for a fact she’d also have loved the sheer wonder Tyler Hayes puts into the creative experience, the relationship between creator and created, and the beauty of the human imagination (which is literally the setting!!!)

The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence, #1) by K.D. Edwards

Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment's missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.

With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam's relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune's Court.

In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family's death and the torments of his past?

I got lucky as a young teenager – I discovered Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, a hugely sex-positive epic fantasy that normalises queerness. But even there, the beautiful land of Terre d’Ange was the exception – the rest of the world wasn’t nearly so sexually free, or queer.

The Last Sun is set in a world where queerness is so normal it’s the default. I cried when I read it as an adult, and I know baby!Sia would have treasured it just as much – the idea of a world where there’s magic enough to take your breath away, and queerness isn’t even noteworthy… That still hits me hard.

All that aside, it’s also a bloody epic read. You know. If you were wondering.

Mr. Big Empty by Gregory Ashe

Vie Eliot arrives in the small town of Vehpese, Wyoming with little more than the clothes--and scars--on his back. Determined to make a new life for himself after escaping his abusive mother, he finds that living with his estranged father brings its own problems.

Then Samantha Oates, the girl with blue hair, goes missing, and Vie might be the only one who can find her. His ability to read emotions and gain insight into other people’s darkest secrets makes him the perfect investigator, with only one small problem: he wants nothing to do with his gift.

When the killer begins contacting Vie through a series of strange cards, though, Vie is forced to hone his ability, because Samantha was not the killer’s only target.

And, as Vie learns, he is not the only psychic in town.

The Hollow Folk books are about being broken, and being a hero anyway. About being good even when you think that’s impossible. About finding a way past your scars to care, and let other people care about you.

They’re also about love and queerness and X-Men-worthy superpowers, so, you know. There’s a lot to love here.

Little Brother (Little Brother, #1) by Cory Doctorow
Published on: 29th April 2008

Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: "M1k3y" will take down the DHS himself.

I grew up in a super conservative home, and spent a long time very brainwashed by right-wing opinions. Like most of Cory Doctorow’s works, Little Brother blows that nonsense sky-high. I read it for the first time in my early 20s, but damn, I’d love to go back in time and whack my kid-self over the head with it!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

This beautiful book is, in essence, about a young woman who, rather than be caged, writes her own door out of the world. I’d love to jump through a wormhole and hand this to my younger self, with a ‘See? Don’t stop writing. You’ll make it out.’

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

From the bestselling author of Utopia for Realists

It's a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. And its roots sink deep into Western thought: from Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Pinker, the tacit assumption is that humans are bad.

Humankind makes the case for a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. When we think the worst of others, it brings out the worst in our politics and economics too.

In this major new history, internationally bestselling author Rutger Bregman shows how believing in human kindness and altruism can be a new way to think – and act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society.

It is time for a new view of human nature.

As someone who struggled with depression for a very long time – and who had a relatively rough time as a teenager – I think I would have appreciated a book that uses science and history to prove that actually, humans as a whole are basically good. I for sure appreciated it now – I just finished reading it, and I honestly think this is going to be one of the most important books of the decade. Please read it, if you haven’t already!

So that got a little heavy, but I stand by my list! What books would YOU send back in time to your kid-self?


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