A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Some of my earliest memories are of going to the library. I don’t remember being read to as a child, but I do remember collecting huge piles of plastic-backed picture books. Well, I say I remember it, I don’t really. Or not clearly. I get snippets that then dart tantalisingly out of reach. The smell of the books. The atmosphere in the children’s building. The excitement of getting to choose whichever books I wanted and then actually take them home.
I was a rubbish teenager. When I think about my teen years, I picture myself in my room reading a book, on the sofa feverishly writing in my diary (what I was actually writing was more along the lines of George Michael fan fiction) or in the library. The teen books lived on L-shaped shelves that cut that corner of the library off from the rest of the room. At least I think it did. I certainly don’t remember seeing or speaking to anyone else as I made my way through every book they had.
I remember The Summer House Loon by Anne Fine, The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes, The Pigman by Paul Zindel, Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan. And, of course, Judy Blume’s Forever, which wasn’t shelved – it was kept under the counter, you had to ask for it by name.
I moved away from the town I grew up in when I was 18 and even though my family still lives there, I hadn’t been back to the library until last year when I took my two sons on a sort of ‘How We Used to Live’ tour. I actually got butterflies as I walked through the library doors, but it had all changed, of course. The L-shaped shelving had gone and the whole place was, inevitably, much smaller than I remembered (although since I’m only 4’11” I can’t be much taller now than I was then).
I must admit to being slightly disappointed that they didn’t have any of my books, but it was lovely to be back all the same. And then a few weeks ago, a friend from home told me that her 11-year-old daughter had got my second novel from the library. That library. My library. I don’t mind saying I had a little cry. To think that something I’d written was on the shelf in the library I’d loved so much as a child.
I think about my teen self and how much comfort she got from the books she found there. And it makes me go a bit dizzy to think that one of my books may do the same for someone today. I wish I could go back and tell me…