I love to read but what exactly made me fall in love with reading? Was it a particular character or a location? Was it a book or was it a magazine, a comic, what?
It took me some time but I finally remembered. In elementary school, I had a magazine subscription for Donald Duck. It was a reward for learning how to read faster than they had expected. The school issued magazines were all educational and boring.
One of the many stories in the Dutch version of Donald Duck were the adventures of Douwe Dabbert. The first one that appeared was about a spoiled princess. You can imagine the issues Douwe had to deal with as her mentor and teacher.
What drew me in was not so much her tricks and bluntness. It was the drawings by Piet Wijn. The details in her dress, facial expressions, and the way Wijn used a page. The main action was of course drawn in detail but the background was selectively left less detailed. It fascinated me. In school, I was always told to use the full page, you know, not waste paper.
What clinched the deal for me was Douwe Dabbert’s knapsack. He had inherited it from his grandfather who knew some magic. The knapsack always contained what Douwe would need precisely at that moment. It became a game for me as a child to see if I could guess what was in the knapsack.
As the story evolved over many magazines, of course the spoiled princess changed. Her facial expressions relaxed, she found her courage and even appreciation for the responsibilities of being a King’s heir. She also turned out to be less of an air-headed barbie doll than you would have expected in the beginning.
Reading this adventure made me curious. I wanted to see more of the drawings, the story, the changes in all the characters, and of course, that knapsack. It got to the point where I made one myself from an old walking stick and a scarf. And, I added my abracadabra!
I walked around the house and the apartment building thinking that at any time now, it would magically produce what I needed. Well, all it did was set off alarm bells in my parents who were convinced that I was running away. And explaining that Douwe had a knapsack too and that it always worked for him? That didn’t work for me.
I don’t remember much of the lecture I got about the dangers outside. I do remember that from then on, when the magazine came (always on Fridays) in the mail, I’d run to the mailbox but not before I told my parents (or older siblings) that I was just getting the mail.
I hope that your first book love didn’t get you in too much trouble.
P.S.: the story of the Verwende Princess first appeared in installments in the Donald Duck magazine in the Netherlands. Later, all the installments were released as a comic. Sadly, I don’t have the magazines anymore but, when this comic came out, I bought it.