Each year the bods that run Independent Bookshop Week commission an author to write an essay about books and reading, published as a little single: Philip Pullman, Robert MacFarlane, Julian Barnes, Anne Patchett and Mark Forsyth among them, and initially only available from independent bookshops. These little books have always been a couple of quid well spent.
This year, working with Bloomsbury, the essay has been published as a (slightly more expensive) little hardback entitled ‘Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise‘ by the fantastic children’s author Katherine Rundell. Isn’t the owl on the cover brilliant? Inside, Rundell passionately and eloquently argues her case:
“…children’s fiction recessitates distillation: at its best, it renders in their purest, most archetypal forms hope, hunger, joy, fear. Think of children’s books as literary vodka.”
We were lucky in Abingdon this week, as not only did Katherine Rundell come to Mostly Books to talk about her essay, but the event was a two-hander: Katherine being in conversation with Lucy Mangan, author of the fabulous memoir of childhood reading Bookworm (which I’ve finally read and will review separately). The bookshop was absolutely crammed for this super event!
Now I must admit, I’ve only read a bit of Rundell’s debut novel, Rooftoppers, which launched her career, and can’t remember it well – however it did win prizes – and now, having heard her talk, I’m desperate to read all of her books. My colleague Helen, who was also at the talk, loves Wolf Wilder. Her latest, The Good Thieves, is a noirish heist novel set in New York – ‘the story of a group of children who will do anything to right a wrong’.
The two authors had a fascinating conversation – nominally it was meant to be Lucy interviewing Katherine, but she turned the questions back on her interlocutor which was even more fun. Later, the floor was opened up to questions for both, and then book signing. Two fabulous ladies, who are both succeeding in their different ways to bring children’s literature alive again for adults.
When I got home, I immediately read Katherine’s essay from cover to cover, recognising many of the points she made that evening – including what she feels about that infamous Martin Amis quote on children’s literature which got a big groan in the bookshop. It’s a fab little book, so if you can, go get your copy from an indie bookshop pronto!