In Jay Heale's delightful (and distinctly South African) book, Hooked on Books: Why and what to read to your child, she talks about the need for babies and children to handle a book in order for them to really fall in love with them:
"A child needs to be physically connected with the book as an object. You know how small children examine an object. They look at it, stroke it, sniff it, chew at it sometimes. A book is a 'thing' just as much as a spoon or a blanket or a favourite teddy bear."
If I think back to my childhood, one book stands out as being such a book, namely Die Abenteuer des starken Wanjas (The adventures of strong Vanya) by Otfried Preussler. I remember sitting enthralled on the carpet while our Grade 2 teacher read to us. Although mostly text and simple black and white line drawings, I remember this book as as infinitely colourful and was completely carried along on Wanja's adventures as overcame various challenges to become Tsar in the land beyond the White Mountains.
I was completely captured by this story and when I left Switzerland my Grade 2 teacher gave me a copy of this book to take with me. To be able to keep that story, its magic contained between the covers, was an incredibly empowering experience for me. I could carry that magic with me, hold it, touch it and through this process I fell in love with the book as object.
Although I may not have touched that book for years, I was always aware of it somehow; conscious of its presence there on the bookshelf. It filled a certain space in my mind. It was a kind of step.
Recently I pulled it out and reread it. Memories swirled up, rich and thick like sand in water. It was every bit as magical as the first time. This book really shaped me and I am forever grateful that it found its way into my hands.