"For a long time I used to go to bed early. But now I go to bed late. I am not sleeping at night and I wake up in the dark. And my mind is thinking and spinning."Under the age of about 10, I read very little. Only when my mum read to me, or when I found a really special book I truly enjoyed, did I read. These occasions were quite sparse over the years. The Secret Garden and Pollyanna were books read to me, and sometimes I would be sucked into the gruesome tales of the Goosebumps stories if I should come across them in the school library. I was always partial to the ones that had multiple twists and endings in a single story, this way you could read the book over and over and never have the same plot. However, the series of books that genuinely touched me, and stayed close to my heart were Clarice Bean by Lauren Child.
Unfortunately, there were times as a young child when I was quite lonely. Floating between friends who never seemed as if they honestly enjoyed your company was somewhat disheartening for an 8/9 year old. It wasn't as if I was a horrible child who bullied everyone else on the playground, or the kid that never washed and people generally avoided. I just knew there wasn't anyone who I was completely fond of, and could genuinely call my best friend. What I did know, and what was quite sad, was that if Clarice Bean had been a real person then for almost certain we would have been the best of friends. I was sure that Clarice was a girl after my own heart, and that we would have got on like a house on fire.
However, Clarice was a fictional character and only existed in my imagination and in the pages of books. They were fantastic novels too. Not only was the language hilariously witty that now having matured quite a bit I realise I missed a fair chunk of the observational humour, and the font and illustrations were so funky and chic, but the stories themselves were so relatable particularly as a young girl just like Clarice. There were only three of the novels, and a lot more of the short picture books, but with the novels Clarice grew older. Towards the last book the illustrations disappeared and the content was more mature, so you not only felt that you'd grown up with Clarice but that you'd reached the stages of a more sophisticated reading.
It was particularly in the last book when I really realised that I was actually quite lonely, and that Clarice Bean would be the perfect best friend. In this book 'Don't Look Now' Clarice's best friend Betty Moody leaves to go to America, and Clarice is completely distraught. She seems so lonely and upset that whilst reading it I noticed that I felt quite similar to her. Clarice also seeks solace in her favourite book character, Ruby Redfort, and fantasises about meeting her, so basically I mirrored exactly what she did. And not intentionally. I can remember crying in some parts of the book because I felt so desperately sad for her, and so wished that she could be real and we could stop each other from feeling lonely.
I thought Clarice was a hoot, I was in awe of her. She had an older brother and a cool name and she just seemed the type of girl I wanted to be. She would be the type of friend who would always make you laugh, and always know all the cool things that you didn't and she would just be wonderful. I adored Clarice Tuesday Bean, and I adored the books. And I shall read them to my daughters, and hope that they should already have their own Clarices but that they would be real.