The Book that Made Me (ed by Judith Ridge, Walker Books)
The Book that Made Me is a collection of mini-essays by 32 authors, many of them children’s and YA authors and most Australian or New Zealanders. The authors were asked to write about a book that had a formative influence on who they had become as writers or people. As in any anthology, some of the essays are stronger than others. Some personal highlights were Randa Abdel-Fattah’s teenage discovery of a heroine like herself in Looking for Alibrandi, Jaclyn Moriarty’s discovery of a model for her own frightening childhood rage in the heroine of The Magic Finger, and Queenie Chan’s hybrid essay/graphic novel about her introduction to the manga Black Jack. As an anthology, The Book that Made Me is a little too diffuse to work as well as it could. The essays are so different in tone, content and structure (there are personal narratives, broad surveys of influential childhood authors, earnest recommendations of books or life philosophies, a listicle and a poem, among other things), and they are so short and numerous that the reading experience is quite a stop-start one. The target demographic is also not very clear. The book might appeal most to adult readers who remember the children’s and YA classics of the seventies, eighties and nineties. It might also speak to aspiring teen writers.
Jarrah Moore is a primary literacy editor at Cengage Learning Australia