A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Every Sunday I listen to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 and, like many writers I’m sure, indulge myself in the fantasy that I might one day be eminent enough for Kirsty Young to ask me, ‘And what book would you take?’ I have in fact gone to some trouble to ascertain that there is a single volume containing all six Jane Austen novels, and that is what I shall take. It’s in the rules; I’ve checked.
But for the purposes of this blog, I’m not going to cheat like that (even though I’d love to imagine that somewhere out there is a giant single-volume edition of all the Marlow books by Antonia Forest, or all K.M. Peyton’s books).
I’ve allowed myself a classic; a children’s book and a contemporary novel.
Jane Austen – Emma
I love all Jane Austen’s books, but Emma is, I think, her masterpiece. I love the wit, the intrigue, the way Austen makes us care about a character who is so often wrong-headed. For a writer, it’s brilliant to see how Austen puts all her clues so subtly in place. It’s one of those books you can read countless times and always find something new.
Laura Ingalls Wilder – The Long Winter
I’d hate to be on a desert island. I like being alone but I like to choose when and where. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s account of a harsh prairie winter would remind me of how much worse things could be. As a child, this was my least favourite Little House book; as an adult it’s the one I admire most. I’ll never forget the family twisting hay all day long in an effort to make enough warmth to survive, and no fictional Christmas – not even the March sisters’ – will come close to the joy of the Ingallses’ Christmas in May – a celebration of survival.
Kate Atkinson – A God In Ruins
I always enjoy Atkinson, but A God In Ruins was stunning! Like Emma, it’s a book which can teach a writer so much. I loved the humanity, the humour, the poignancy, the characterisation, the structure: it was so clever, and yet so accessible, and it said something very profound about storytelling and truth, which I can’t discuss here as it would be too much of a spoiler. As soon as I finished it I couldn’t wait to reread it. A desert island will be the perfect chance.
Now, if you ask me next week, I might choose three different books. But that’s part of the fun.