Books I Grew up on is a blog series featuring guest bloggers who discuss reading in their childhoods: the books they loved, the paths they found to developing a love for reading, and how reading helped them become who they are today! Today’s Books I Grew up on guest blogger is illustrator and designer Michelle Christensen.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up overseas, in Beijing, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Taiwan.
What was it like growing up there?
It was very different from a typical American childhood. I moved every 2-4 years all over the world. I always knew it was different, and an experience, and I never took it for granted. I knew it would be a huge influence to my life as an adult. I felt incredibly inspired by Asia. Beijing is so different now than it was in the 90s when we lived there. It was more third world, much more controlled and communist. It was kind of romantic to be there during a time when it was less of the norm to see a foreigner around. I have such distinct memories of the coal dust in the air, and the sweet potatoes in the winter time, and the constant grey skies. The hum of a language I didn’t understand around me at all times.
What role did books have in your childhood?
How did you first develop a love for reading?
My parents – my dad. We always read growing up because we didn’t really have TV. And we didn’t have iPhones to distract us either!
What was your favorite book as a child? Why?
I had so many. I loved historical novels, books about strong women, independent women, or coming of age books like Walk Two Moons. I loved intricate fairy tale books like George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. I loved children’s books by Steven Kellogg and Anita Lobel. Mostly I was attracted to books that were layered, detailed, and had good story-lines and personalities, and of course, good illustrations. I also loved scary stories, there was a part of me that was always a little attracted to darkness, but I never delved too deeply into it. I knew I was too sensitive for some of those stories.
What is your favorite children’s book now? Why?
I love Princess Furball illustrated by Anita Lobel. It is absolutely fantastic. It has wonderful characters, illustrations, and a beautiful classic story.
What advice would you give to young readers?
I would say– get away from your electronics for a few hours a day and read. Be creative. Go outside. Play. Write stories. You have no idea how those habits will mold your future. We have so much creative potential as human beings. It is so often wasted.