A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Giving books for presents is fraught with danger. Receiving them, ditto. Books are my favourite things, and everyone knows it, yet very few people in my life know, unerringly, what I would like. When I feel that book-shaped package I have to brace myself – chances are I won’t like it, and if I do, chances are I’ve already bought it for myself. (The best thing is when you and your friend buy each other the same book because you know each other so well. In those cases I may have very carefully read it first. Shhh.)
When you’re a writer, and your friends are writers, it’s even harder. It’s lovely when people give your books to their friends, and on my to-buy list this year I have several books by writer friends, chosen because I like the book and think the recipient will too, but also with that undercurrent of, well, if she doesn’t like it at least it’s another book sold for so-and-so.
Writing a blog post about what three books I’d give someone for Christmas is the hardest of all. If I’m honest, and if I pick recently published books, I’ll offend all but three of my writer friends. I know how happy I am when people put my books on such lists, and how sad I am when they don’t, and the whole thing is just an extreme sport for the emotions. I could choose books by people I don’t know, but what’s the fun in that?
So here is my list. All the writers are dead, but they have all written books that deserve to be read and reread, and rediscovered by a new generation.
The most detailed, leisurely description of an awakening consciousness (that of the delightful Nicola Marlow) in any juvenile series I know. Part school story series, part family saga, this sequence encompasses family and adventure stories, and even two books featuring historical Marlows. Esoteric and literary, the books aren’t to everyone’s taste, but those who love them tend to be passionate devotees.
More and more, this is the children’s classic I return to. Its combination of grit and glamour, realism and romance; its flawed, diverse characters – the adults as vital as the children; its portrait of 1930s London; above all its attitude of positivity and determination, make it one of the most important books in my life, and one I’d give to any young girl reader now, hoping it would be the first step on a journey through all Noel Streatfeild’s books.
When my granny was alive, I used to buy her the new Maeve Binchy, if there was one, for Christmas. They were always big, generous hardbacks, and I associate them now with curling up for an afternoon’s comfort reading by the fire. Light A Penny Candle was one of the first adult books I read, and one of the first Irish books. I’d give it to anyone needing a comfort read – and that’s all of us, sometimes.