A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
As a kid, I read everywhere. In bed, under the bed, in the airing cupboard, on top of a closet (where I should not have been), up a tree (where I probably should not have been either), in the bath, while eating, while eating in the bath, while eating on top of the closet where I should not have been. I read ferociously, and cared about the people I read about as though they were completely real. I still remember sobbing brokenly onto the kitchen table as I finished Diana Wynne Jones’s Dogsbody aged seven, an experience that set me up for a lifetime of sobbing brokenly at books.
Aged eight, we moved into a house that had an attic room with a little bay window that was set perfectly at floor-level. It stuck out of the front of the house like the child-sized capsule of a spaceship and I used to crouch inside it, breathing in dusty carpet, and read for hours. That was the place where I discovered the Famous Five, Swallows and Amazons and the Sally Lockheart books, series long enough to fill up my holidays. I was inspired by Titty and Roger and George and Timmy to go fishing for shrimp in the stream next to my house (I caught hundreds, and to my parents’ distress they all lived in a bowl in my room) and to dig up what I hoped was a mammoth bone from the mud at the end of the garden (it sadly turned out to belong to a cow). I even tried to extract opium from the poppies in my garden (Philip Pullman has a lot to answer for).
I was lucky to have a father who understood my desperate need for books. Once or twice a year he’d drive me to Hay-on-Wye, give me £20 and tell me to have fun. Being around so many printed words drove me slightly demented, and I usually ended up with a pile of books taller than I was. That’s where I found Dracula, Dorothy Sayers, Death on the Nile and On The Road. In Hay-on-Wye, anything was possible, and it felt like every story in the world was there, ready to be discovered. That’s what books meant to me as a child – they were travel, possibility, excitement and friendship. They taught me the sort of person I was, and the sort of person I wanted to be (or didn’t, in some cases). They told me what it was like to sail the seven seas, and prospect for gold, and catch cold-blooded murderers using only your little grey cells. I still sort of half-believe that those things actually happened to me, and that’s why the single greatest thing any reader of my books can tell me is that they feel like they’re going on Hazel and Daisy’s adventures with them. It makes me so proud that I’m now helping to create reading memories – it’s a huge and amazing honour. I hope my childhood self would approve.