Jane Sullivan: Storytime – Growing up with Reading

Ventura 2019

On one level, Storytime is an exploration of children’s literature. On another it is a journey of self-discovery for author Jane Sullivan, both the child self and the now adult self.

Jane Sullivan is a literary journalist, writing Tuning Pages for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald as well as contributing the odd feature, essay and interview to various publications including Australian Book Review. She is also the author of two novels.

Barbie speaks with Jane Sullivan about Storytime

Storytime was such a deep pleasure to read, not least because Jane Sullivan and I seem to have read and loved so many of the same books, though for me not all were read as a child but rather as a young beginning teacher in the seventies.

All the major names in (English) children’s fiction feature, along with some which people may not know. I was delighted to see favourites of mine like Alice, both in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, the Moomintroll series, Winnie the Pooh,  Enid Blighton’s smashing adventures, The Wind in the Willows and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (Alan Garner). All of these coloured my early reading and/or early teaching years and transported me to other worlds as only such stories can.

Jane Sullivan first sat with these books and tried to recall everything from her childhood reading. She then went back and re-read them as an adult and registered what she had remembered and what she had clearly forgotten or muddled or not understood. In doing so she examines what sort of child she was, why she read and loved certain things – did they fill a need or two and what needs were they?

She tries out a series of hypotheses about what she was looking for, what ingredients are essential for a good children’s book. With each book she rethinks her list.

The analysis of each book brings with it both background on the writer and insight into the reading process – not just young Jane’s and adult Jane’s but our own. Did books make Jane Sullivan who she is today or was she drawn to books that played out who she has always been, I wonder.

An excellent reference list is provided and will prove helpful to people who would like to revisit their childhood or dip into thing s new to them. The list includes articles and essays.

I loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who grew up with his or her nose in a book and will continue to do so.

Lack of female protagonists or depictions of sandwich making, squealing girly wimps and other now politically incorrect or simply no longer acceptable ways of thinking/ glitches of the times aside, the books in this collection show no signs of declining in popularity.

We will continue to forgive them their foibles for the joy they brought us and their capacity to straddle time even into the cyber age.