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Guest Post: How Childhood Books Can Change your Life by Dan Hanks

ABOUT DAN: Dan is a writer, editor, and vastly overqualified archaeologist who has lived everywhere from London to Hertfordshire to Manchester to Sydney, which explains the panic in his eyes anytime someone asks “where are you from?”. Thankfully he is now settled in the rolling green hills of the Peak District with his human family and fluffy sidekicks Indy and Maverick, where he writes books, screenplays and comics.

Find Dan online: Website, Twitter

Order Swashbucklers: Amazon, 


Reading is a very simple act, and yet it has the power to change things.

Even us.

Not many people think too hard about that, and probably with good reason. Reading can be a bit of a chore when we’re growing up. The education system’s insistence on quantity of reading time, not quality, makes sure of this for so many kids. And unless you were the kind of child (like us) who naturally loved to lose themselves in a book, the very idea of words placed in a certain order being exciting or life-changing doesn’t really make any sense.

They’re just words. What exactly can they do to us (or for us)? What promise or danger awaits us in those carefully curated sentences?

Of course, you and I know their true power. For these words form stories and create worlds for us to play in. They show us what life is really like through the guises of an adventure or experience. They provoke in us emotions we might not otherwise have felt, helping us gain insight into other lives and experience other perspectives. They can spin our lives in fantastic or horrifying new directions when placed in just the right (or wrong) order.

And nowhere is this more powerful than with the books we read as children.

Enid Blyton’s books were the backbone of my childhood. The Enchanted Wood continues to delight me to this day. That simple story taught me magic is real and it exists in nature. That - if you pay attention - you can hear the trees whispering to each other, and find all kinds of wondrous beings off the beaten path. It alerted me to the idea of there being other worlds. Not only those hiding in the shadow of ours, but those found way beyond our own, perhaps obscured in the clouds at the top of a tree.

The books didn’t specify all that outright. Instead, they spoke to me on a whole other level—with the kind of clarity that only the best children’s authors have—and caused me to simply know these things. A knowledge that was conveyed through a rather harmless adventure into a forest where a giant slippery slide and shockingly exciting toffee sweets existed.

The simple stories of our childhoods convey so much more than is written in words on their pages. The Enchanted Wood series taught me about the magic of nature. The Famous Five taught me about adventure and companionship, about doing the right thing even when you’re scared and don’t have the help you might normally rely on.

And there was another book I used to read at school (and would love to get copies of, but they are out of print and SO expensive on eBay): Tim and the Hidden People. A middle grade series whose name alone provokes a range of emotions in me that speak to the knowledge of there being other worlds out there, in the English countryside, in the dark, under the moonlight. I last properly read those books over 35 years ago and still they affect me when I’m out hiking in the wilderness or pass a black cat slinking around in the twilight or see something just a little out of the ordinary in the corner of my eye.

And that’s the thing… these childhood books never leave you. Not if you gave yourself over to them when you were young and impressionable. The feelings and emotions contained within them—or more accurately within you, unlocked by those books you loved—were branded forever on your soul. They shaped who you thought you were and thus who you would become.

Those books did that with me. It’s quite something to still feel so powerfully about books I read as a child. To feel their guiding hand in the way I think and feel and act, even today. It is no exaggeration to say that they changed me, by ensuring I lived a certain way, with a certain secret knowledge about the world gleaned from their pages.

Being an author and getting to write books that people will read is a privilege in many ways. However, I think one of my favourite parts about the process is being able to take all the beautiful moments and emotions I got from those books as a child and pay homage to them in my own work. To create my own variation on those very important moments, both in a way to honour them and to somehow keep their meaning alive long after I’m gone.

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