Bev Brenna is a professor, a hiker, a long distance cyclist, and a terrific writer. Her most recent intermediate novel is Fox Magic, a story about hope and transformation for twelve-year-old Chance Devlin after her two friends have taken their lives.
What was your favourite picture book? What was special about it?
I liked One Kitten is Not Too Many by Dorothy Levenson because at an early age I learned to read it by memorizing the gently repetitive text. Then I felt like a “real” reader until a family member said, “Oh, that’s all very well, but you know you’re not really reading it.” Also, in the storyline, the kids “won.” Yay kids!
I read and re-read Penrod by Boothe Tarkington. It is the story of a bad boy and I relished the idea that I, too, could be bad. If only the stars would align.
What was your favourite chapter book? What was special about it?
Mouse Mountain by Fred Lindsay was my favourite, because it was one of three novels I was repeatedly read aloud at bedtime by my all suffering mother (“Oh no, not that one again!” she’d moan). I liked it because the protagonist was an adult, and the other characters were talking animals including a mosquito. My mother gave the mosquito a high, squealy voice when she read his part. Perhaps my interest in mosquitoes was hatched then and there.
Did you ever reread your favourite chapter book once you became an adult? Did it stand the test of time?
I re-read lots chapter books I read as a kid, and consider the “chronotopic” movement (see Bakhtin’s definition of this, from his applied work on Einstein’s theory of relativity) through time and space as I read them. When I read Anne of Green Gables, for example, I remember exactly how it was to be a nine-year-old reader. I’m also interested in how I now gravitate towards different characters during adult re-readings, in contrast to the subjects I focused on when I was a kid. Current readings of Anne see me relying heavily on Marilla and Matthew. Old is interested in old! Maybe readers really do like to “read up.”
Did you read comic books? Which was your favourite?
I read comics voraciously but do not recall any of them. I treated them a bit like candy. And in those days, perhaps they didn’t have the same substance that many comics do today.
Did you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I preferred fiction simply because that was what I had the most access to, I think. Also, the non-fiction of my childhood was very text heavy. Today’s non-fiction for kids is often glorious!
I read the Anne series out of love, and the Nancy Drew series out of greed—trying to have a higher stack on my bedroom floor than my friend’s stack. Beating my friend turned out to be easy, however, as when my sister moved out, I fell heir to her dozen ancient Nancy Drew books. At that point, I stopped competing and turned to other things. Many really great series’ books—such as most of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books—I didn’t discover until I became a teacher. My own kids enjoyed the “Redwall” series—that was a lengthy and joyous find!
Did you have a local library? What do you remember about it?
The children’s books in our local Saskatoon library seemed limitless. I knew I could never read them all, but I dragged in a big basket every Saturday, and I really tried! And…I’m still trying!