Prof. Brown mentioned books such as P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series as works that shaped her in her formative years.
She describes her reading journey in her school years as one in which she sought out characters she could relate to, or “literary worlds which shadowed aspects of [her] life”, which included Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. However, Prof. Brown also said, “Together with my search for worlds that reflected mine, I [searched] for worlds that were, in some ways, quite overtly alien.” She elaborated on this statement by speaking about the influence that fantasy and science fiction novels had on her. In this discussion she mentioned books such as Ursula K. le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and A Wizard of Earthsea, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series.
Prof. Brown then shifted the discussion to books she had read during her time at university. During this stage of her life, she noted that some of the joys of reading about fairy tales with happy endings were “pulled out from under [her]”. To further describe this, she paraphrased Joseph Conrad’s words in Heart of Darkness: “‘The horror, the horror’ – not at the dark places of the earth, but at the dark places of the human soul.” She went on to say that this may be why it is sometimes difficult for students to adapt from their own selective reading to prescribed reading, which often deals with heavier subject matter.
To conclude her talk, Prof. Brown urged attendees to encourage children to read in the spirit of National Book Week, in order to help them explore different worlds and shape themselves in the process.