With Amber Wilde
Meet the Wildes
Amber and Kirsty Wilde are a same-sex family and are mothers to five lovely little characters aged six and under; one set of twins born in 2014 and then a second set born in 2016, and the baby who joined them in November 2018. Kirsty is a stay-at-home mother, Amber works as a Personal Assistant and they all live together in the sleepy seaside town of Folkestone, England. Meet the Wildes is an award-winning modern love story about their lives as an alternative family, primarily written and recorded by Amber. This Autumn, Amber took advantage of some precious time away from her daily schedule to revisit some classic old books from her childhood and introduce to the little ones all the exciting new stories there are out there to discover!
What stories meant a lot to you as a child?
As a child I always had my nose in a book. I was quite an awkward child and teenager growing up in a home that was frequently chaotic, and reading was my escapism; I loved to imagine myself in my favourite stories. The characters that I most identified with were often imperfect: passionate, rule-breaking Jinny from the Shantih series, the eponymous maligned young Jane Eyre, Philip Pullman’s Lyra. Through books I realised my childhood ambitions; I gentled wild horses and felt the joy of pony ownership, adventured in far-away places with loyal friends, loved and lost and broke and learned. Roald Dahl was an early favourite – most children know a cruel adult, and his stories of brave and clever children triumphing over sharp-tongued and unkind adults resonated with me. So was C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, though I never quite recovered from what he did to Susan! I loved Enid Blyton’s stories of friendship and adventure, pony stories that were older than I was – and Jilly Cooper’s equestrian series, which was a bit of an eye-opener to say the least, as was good old Judy Blume! Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series was another old favourite, and I’m counting down the years until I can introduce my sons to brave, stoic Will and to Cornish mythology.
Why do books remain so important to you as a family, even to this day?
Story time is our quiet time; it balances us. When the children are wild I pick up a book and start reading and before long, I have a quiet crowd gathered around me. It’s something that we are all able to share and bond over, and it fascinates me to observe the way that the stories that we read shape their understanding of the world, from the language that they use – “absolute nincompoop!” – to how they relate to each other. They often surprise me with the depth of their contextual understanding of what we’re reading and the way that they apply it to the real world; after finishing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of my sons, who has only just turned six, has developed a delightfully cutting habit of announcing “I want a squirrel, Daddy!” whenever one of his siblings makes a particularly unrealistic demand.
Do you follow a routine when it comes to books and bedtime – what’s their current favourite story?
We are really dreadful at following routines, but they would eat me alive if I didn’t read to them at bedtime! For months now the big four have insisted upon sleeping together, top-and-tailing in the beds, so that I can read to them all at the same time. Usually the girls, who are only four, fall asleep whilst I am still reading, but the boys would sit up all night to listen if I let them! We’ve just finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it was the first time that I had read the story as a parent and the poignance of sharing one of my favourite books with my own children actually brought me to tears, which they found hilarious! That said, the boys and I were all crying by the end – they hadn’t anticipated Aslan’s death and the horror of it broke them both, whereas I was able, with grim-faced determination, to hold my own sniffles at bay until the relief of the moment that he sprang back to life.
Do they have a favourite author or story series?
They are enormous Roald Dahl fans at the moment! They particularly enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, and the Grasshopper – ‘the pest’ – is their favourite character. They absolutely adore naughtiness and the absurd. When they read to us, they often choose Dr Seuss – the Sneetches have been favourites since they were all small.
Are family visits to the library a feature of your life or are they just a childhood memory for you?
Actually, we didn’t visit the library as children – I had my own study filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves at home, and my parents didn’t have much time for this sort of outing. We haven’t visited the library with the children either; I’m chronically disorganised but also have a horror of being late for anything, and as the children tend to love their books quite roughly, we haven’t felt brave enough to try it.
Are your books mainly passed down, bought on recommendation or do you like to take a chance?
We have a beautiful independent children’s toy and book store in town, and we tend to buy from there. Otherwise, I tend to share my own childhood favourites with them – I’ve looked forward to those moments for most of my life.
Through books I realised my childhood ambitions; I adventured in far-away places with loyal friends, loved and lost and broke and learned.
Who is their favourite ever story character?
They adore the naughty Grasshopper from James and the Giant Peach, Blyton’s hard-of-hearing Saucepan Man, Dr Seuss’s easily-influenced Sneetches.
How influential are the books they currently read and how do you think this helps to shape them as individuals?
The boys, who are six, are incredibly influenced by the stories that we read; we notice it in everything from the words that they choose to use and the characters that they emulate in play, to how they choose to relate their own experiences to the experiences of the characters in the stories that they read. They are developing into rather avid bookworms themselves, though they insist on reading out loud and are only happy if they have an audience! The effect on the little girls, aged four, four and two, is definitely less noticeable at present, although the four year olds are very eager to join their brothers as fluent readers and are eagerly practicing their ‘SATP’ and sounding out words in the picture books that we read.
And a personal question for you… If you could take one book to a deserted island, which would it be?
Probably A. S. Byatt’s Possession. It’s been my favourite book for about a decade and I’ve taken something new from it at every life stage. Beward the epilogue – it’s beautiful and unexpectedly painful all at once.
With thanks to Amber Wilde x