When I was a kid I lived in a house that was jam-packed with books.
My dad was a big book lover and had bookshelves, bookcases and book-boxes in every room of the house – the kitchen, the living-cum-dining room, the bedrooms, the loo – and each bookshelf, bookcase and book-box were crammed full of books. There were books about the First World War, books about the Second World War, books about Native American tribes, old Beano and Dandy annuals, Dale Carnegie self-help books for budding entrepreneurs – my father had what you might call an eclectic palette when it came to reading.
My sister and I would build forts out of the books. We’d build steps, so we could reach the books on the higher shelves. When we were fighting, which was quite often, we’d build a dividing wall made out of books down the centre of our living room, so we wouldn’t have to look at each other. But most of all, we would read them.
I started to read before I learned to read – the first of my dad’s books that hooked me were the Beano annuals; before I went to school and learned how to read words, I would sit with a pile of annuals and read the stories from panel to panel, gazing at every detail of the pictures. Soon Dad was bringing home Asterix and Tintin books for me to gaze at. I didn’t have much of a clue as to what was actually happening, but I made up my own stories to fit the sequential pictures as I went along. Soon I began copying the pictures and making my own comics.
Although we lived in a tiny terraced house in Windy Arbour, we somehow crammed in my mum, dad and sister, as well as my granny, my great-granny and my grand-aunt. To this day I have no idea where they all slept. My great-granny, Nanny Gigg, used to joke that if she wanted to scratch her nose she had to open a window, so her elbow wouldn’t break through the glass. My greats- and grands- were, to a woman, all fantastic readers and storytellers, and myself and my sister were sent to sleep each night with either olden-day schoolchildren tales (Nanny Gigg), horror stories (granny Lizzie Bunn) or tips for upcoming horse races (great-aunt Georgie). They passed on a love of books to my sister and I much the same way as they had passed it on my dad decades before.
I have done my best to pass on my love of books to my own kids, and in this respect, I am ably abetted by my wife who reads three times as much as I do. My own house is not as jam-packed with books as my father’s was, but it’s getting there.
One day, I hope my own kids will pass on the love of reading to their children. And in this world of Netflix and Kindles and tablets and FitBits, they can rest assured that I will be there for future family members, just like my greats- and grands- were for me!
But if my kids are reading this, give it a few years yet, eh chaps?
Alan Nolan is a comic book writer, graphic designer and artist. He is the author and illustrator of Sam Hannigan’s Woof Week, Conor’s Caveman, Fintan’s Fifteen, The Big Break Detectives Casebook and the Murder Can Be Fatal mysteries for young readers. Sam Hannigan and the Last Dodo, and Alan’s World Book Day 2019 adventure, Sam Hannigan’s Rock Star Granny, will both be published in March 2019. Born in Dublin, he studied at the National College of Art and Design. He lives in County Wicklow with his family.