Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Shelf of Memories - by Bernadette Kelly

On Thursdays, we peek at other people’s books. If you would like to share your bookshelf with us, send your post, photo or a short a/v clip to:

My bookshelves tell a story. Well obviously they contain lots of stories, they do hold books after all. But, without a single word on a page, there are a whole lot of other stories in there as well. Every time I look at them, I am taken back to whatever was happening in my life when I read, or wrote, whatever book it is that attracts my eye.

Click to enlarge image

On the lower shelves, where the space allows for higher books, are the picture books. Now that my own children are older, I have given many beautiful picture books away for other children to enjoy, but there are some cherished titles I simply cannot part with.

One that is very special is Queenie, written by Corinne Fenton. A beautifully illustrated but very sad tale of a favourite Elephant from the Melbourne Zoo. The sight of Queenie on the shelf manages to conjure up not one, but many memories. Special times spent with my family at the zoo, memories of a trip to Africa where I was so fortunate to be up close to wild elephants free in their native land, and of course, wonderful times spent with the author, Corinne, a dear friend.

On the top shelf, my gaze comes to rest on the complete set of Harry Potter books. What delights! Every night, two young faces, aged around three and six, would light up eagerly when it was bedtime. There were no cries of outrage or pleas to stay up at my house. Bedtime was Harry Potter time. Each night I would read a chapter aloud. I changed my voice for every character and my kids loved it. By the time we had steamed through, Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkhaban, they were quite capable of reading the stories on their own, but we still read together every night. We took turns whose bed we would all huddle into, and those bedtimes were almost as magical as Harry and his friends.

On the very top of my bookshelf are copies of books I have written myself. They're actually not in a shelf at all, but instead sit between a beautiful pair of solid stone bookends in the shape of Horse's heads. The bookends were a cherished gift from my daughter a couple of years back.

Click to enlarge image

Fitting the theme of the bookends, they hold my pony stories. The complete set of eight Riding High books, the four individual Pony Patch books, and the Pony Patch Collection, plus the American hard cover editions.

When I wrote the first four Riding High books, my daughter was in year eight and my son in grade five. We were all involved in Pony Club and our spare time was mostly taken up with caring for our four horses, and training and competing in equestrian competitions. I was working part time as a literacy and numeracy tutor to a group of troubled teenagers.

Each Riding High novel was written in six weeks. Almost immediately after they were finished, the next four books of the series was contracted, and then came the Pony Patch stories. Life was very, very busy. I had publishing contracts for my first 'trade' books, I was enjoying my work, writing, and spending my leisure time with my two favourite people. A wonderful chapter in my life.

Many shelves are taken up with young adult novels, of which I have a lot. Individually, there are few of these stories that don't remind me in some way of my own experiences. They are each a little time capsule containing my memories of the wonderful rollercoaster that was adolescence.

Collectively, they remind me of my own wonderful children, now older young adults. The books take me back to their times as teenage years. The joys and heartbreak of school, friends, and life, and many a discussion about a story we had passed around to be read by each of us.

When I was a child, books were my comfort and my friends. They made pictures in my mind, they showed me the world, and gave me glimpses into both my past and my future. My bookshelf is a wonderful thing, for it holds not only the wonders of my and other author's imaginations, but it doubles as a storage centre for a lifetime of memories.

About the author

Bernadette Kelly grew up in country Victoria, and now lives on a country property, which she shares with three horses, Tuck, Jaspa and Cadence, a dog, Sniff, a cat, Solomina, and her son and daughter.

Now that her children are grown up and independant, her favourite thing to do (apart from reading and writing) is to travel to unusual places and see the world from the back of a horse. So far she has  ridden horses in Lord of the Rings country in New Zealand, suburban London, camped and ridden among lions, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests and zebras in Africa and with the gauchos in the wild and windswept Andes Mountains in Patagonia, Chile and Argentina.

When she was a child she loved to read anything and everything she could get her hands on. Some of her favourites were Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumby series, of which she feels very privileged to have the complete collection, signed by the author.

Lately she's been reading a lot of young adult books. A couple of recent favourites are The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, Other Brother by Simon French, Six by Karen Tayleur and Pan's Whisper by Sue Lawson.

Bernadette has  written over 30 fiction and non-fiction books, including the Riding High and The Pony Patch series, which are all about her favourite animals, horses. In 2010 she was awarded a fellowship from the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust. She loves to visit schools, doing workshops and talking to kids about her books and writing.

You can learn more about Bernadette and her books at


  1. Thanks Bernadette. What a wonderful journey through your bookshelf. Trekking in Argentina sounds brilliant. I know a couple of girls who wouldn't mind doing that.

    Harry Potter was a favourite bedtime read in our household too. I particularly enjoyed the first three and laboured a bit through number 5 (Harry was so moody!)and was very grateful to Stephen Fry for being so patient when it came to repeating the series over and over until my children could read the books themselves.

    Other treasured bedtime stories for us:

    The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
    the Tashi books by Barbara Feinberg and Anna Feinberg
    Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

    1. We Loved The Indian in the Cupboard, and I forgot to mention (how could I have?) Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights trilogy, which is another set on the shelf.

  2. Remembering Stephen Fry voice in the wonderful audiobooks of the Harry Potter series also reminds me of other audiobooks we've enjoyed on long car trips:

    Andy Griffiths Just MacBeth (narrated by Stig Wemyss)
    Stone Cold by Robert Swindells (narrated by Christian Rodska)
    Roald Dahl's 10 Puffin Classics (including Matilda read by Miriam Margoyles, Fantastic Mr Fox read by Hugh Laurie and The Witches read by Simon Callow)

    1. Also The Princess Bride by William Goldman, read by Rob Reiner (the director of the film of The Princess Bride).

  3. Ha, ha, ha. That's the sound of Shelter having the last laugh. -Stone Cold

    That book was amazing; it definetly fills up a boring drive.