A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I don’t come from a big book reading family, although I know lots of writers do. Many talk about the stacks of dusty books in their childhood homes, their parents’ love of reading. But that isn’t where I come from. As a small kid I was a TV watcher and a slug collector. Although my parents valued education above everything else, they weirdly didn’t push books on us, partly, I think, because books just weren’t their thing, and partly because they were busy trying to keep four of us alive! So it wasn’t until I was around twelve and my English teacher gave me a copy of Paul Zindel’s THE PIGMAN that I became A Reader. That book changed my life. It was the first time I finished a book in school without being asked to, and I did that because I was compelled – because I was so worried about the characters I couldn’t stop until the end. I just couldn’t. And when it was over, I cried. Then I cried again when we read it aloud in class. And I cried even more when I reread it myself the following weekend. THE PIGMAN made me feel a way no other book had made me feel before: it showed me a world that wasn’t mine, yet one that spoke to me, that validated who I was and how my life felt. It changed everything. It said, “You’re OK.”
After that I was done for. No longer was a dabbler but a fully paid up member of Geek Club. I read all Paul Zindel’s books, then Judy Blume, Paula Danziger and Rosemary Wells. I convinced the school librarian to buy copies of any books I wanted that she didn’t have on her shelves and behind her back tucked a well-worn copy of FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC by Virginia Andrews into my school bag. I knew it was a racy novel. I knew the older kids were talking about it. The next day, I put it back on the librarian’s desk and told her what I done because I wasn’t ready. It was too weird and too frightening. And I think this is what kids are really good at: self-censoring; they know what they’re looking for and they know when they can’t handle it. Even now I’ll occasionally pick up a book, read a few chapters and think to myself, ‘No, no, not for me,’ and put it down again.
But I’m not sure I’d be picking up a book of any description if it hadn’t been for that English teacher. If it hadn’t been for Paul Zindel. If it hadn’t been for that wonderful old man, The Pigman.
Sarah Crossan writes novels for children and teens. Her debut novel in verse, The Weight of Water, was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal in 2013. Breathe was nominated for the Carnegie medal in 2014. Before writing full time, Sarah worked as an English teacher. She grew up in Ireland and England and then moved to New York, where she lived for seven years. She now lives in Hertfordshire with her family where she spends most of her day writing, sipping green tea and eating far too many biscuits.