A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I grew up in an incy wincy ex-council house. It had two rooms downstairs – kitchen and living/dining area – and four upstairs – a larger bedroom that belonged to my parents, a tiny one for my brother, the medium one shared by me and my older sister, and finally the bathroom. That was it: six rooms, and five people. And two dogs, and a cat. And three gerbils and a canary. And a budgie. We had a rabbit once, too, I think. Anyway, it was snug.
Our kitchen was so compact that it was crowded if two people tried to make a cup of tea in it at once, and there was certainly no room for any kind of chair, let alone one you could sit in for a long period to read. When the television was on in the living room – which it nearly always was – the sound of it basically filled the entire downstairs, making it very hard to concentrate on anything else, especially if people were also talking over it – which they usually were. And this was before iPods, which give you the ability to put a barrier of music up between you and the noises around you. We had a Walkman, a portable tape-player, but it was shared between all three of us children, and my sister as the oldest basically got it 90% of the time. Neither was there anywhere private and quiet for me to read in my room, since my sister basically claimed 90% of our shared bedroom as well. I had a tiny space just big enough to sit in cross-legged – generally referred to as Zoë’s corner – behind our bunk beds, where I pinned up my pictures and hid my little treasures, but there was no light in it, and other than that the only part that was mine was the actual bunk itself. I had the top one, and there was roughly a foot of space between the tip of my nose and the low ceiling when I was lying on it. Not really comfy to read in/on.
But I had to read. I really, really had to. So I made what everyone called Book Nooks. These were basically just odd nooks and crannies in the house where I might be found, unexpectedly, shoehorned in, with my face buried in a book.
The bathroom had a wide windowsill. I cleared it off by putting all the toiletries that were normally stacked on it in the sink, then opened the window and squashed myself in with one leg hanging out. A great, quiet place to read, with a nice view – until someone needed the toilet and turfed me out.
I claimed the third step down on the narrow staircase, propped my legs up on the bannister, snugged my back against the wall, and read. Not as quiet, and no view, sadly, but people were usually willing to step over me and I trained them not to talk to me when they did, so it was OK.
The table and chairs that filled the back half of our living room were a bit oversized for the space. But that meant I could lie flat on my back under the table with my feet up on the seat of one of the chairs, and all the wooden legs did seem to block out some of the noise of TV and voices.
Our garden was small, dark, and damp. None of us really wanted to be in it. So instead I would take our dogs for a walk on the wild scrubland five minutes away, and, once I was nice and deep in the coppice-y bit, I’d climb up and sit in a the V made by the branches of a huge hawthorn bush and read there. The dogs would run off and come back and run off and come back quite happily for forty minutes or so before I had to take them home and wash off the mud and comb out the burrs from their fur.
As an adult I can sit – or lie! – wherever I want to read, and I do enjoy sprawling out on the sofa with appropriate mood music playing from my iPod dock, and lying in bed with a book and a mug of tea on a Sunday morning. But I think the Book Nook habit is hard to break. I feel most happy reading when I’m tucked away. I refuse to squash myself onto a windowsill anymore – even if my back side would fit these days – so my favourite place to read has become the bath. I can, and do, stay in there for hours, replenishing the hot water as necessary, until my skin has taken on the white, wrinkly quality of a deep-sea fish.
So those were and are my favourite places to read. What about you?
YA novelist Zoë Marriott lives on the bleak and windy East coast of Britain, in a house crowded with books, cats, and an eccentric sprocker named Finn (also known as the Devil Hound). Her folk and fairytale inspired fantasy novels are critically acclaimed and have been nominated for many awards, even winning a few, including a USBBY Outstanding International Book listing for The Swan Kingdom and a Junior Library Guild Selection and the prestigious Sasakawa Prize for Shadows on the Moon.
BOOKS: THE SWAN KINDGOM | DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES | SHADOWS ON THE MOON | FROSTFIRE | THE NIGHT ITSELF | DARKNESS HIDDEN