Friday 3 February 2012

Books that I have loved through my life...

Books that I have loved through my life...

The folks of SCWBI UK were asked a question last week by SCBWI member and writing coach Bekki Hill, the question:  What’s your favourite book?

The question was then followed up with another question; What’s your favourite book today? This was in turn followed by a number of questions designed to get us to think. Why does our current favourite book appeal to us, at this moment in time, where we are in our lives and where we are with our writing?

Anyway this exercise got me thinking about my relationships with books through my life, so here is a blog, dedicated to just that, the books I’ve loved and that have shaped my life to date. I've also included some photo's of me at these ages for your amusement - pillar box red fringe - what was I thinking?

My childhood memories become more blurred the further I go back. I reckon my memories start to focus at around age five so that’s where I’ll start…

5-8 Years

I loved the following books, Rosie’s Walk, The Tiger who came to Tea, all the What-a-Mess books and The Owl who was afraid of the Dark – the first ever novel I read. No more Monsters for Me, was the reading book with which, whilst battling through, the light bulb eventually lit up in my brain and  I actually clicked what reading was all about. Oh, and not forgetting Please Mrs Butler, which I loved so much that my teacher gave me a copy when I moved up class.  

My most favourite book at this age however was an anthology of fairy tales, which has sadly been lost, (last seen in 1999 at University College Chichester) which included tales from: The Brothers Grimm, Han’s Christian Anderson and Charles Perrault. I can remember being infatuated with the tales, especially the sad fate of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and the ‘Girl in red Shoes’.  The book was also rich with ink and watercolour illustrations, that didn’t shy away from gore, depicting the bloody carnage after the girl in red shoes had axed offed her legs, for some reason this really appealed to me.

8-12 Years

This is the time of my life when I started to discover fantasy. I loved the Little Vampire books, plus the fantastic Worst Witch books (and the film with camp cameo from the fantastic Tim Curry!). It was now that I started loving both book and the TV/Film adaptations of them, whether I came to the book via the film or vice-versa. This is exactly how I discovered and came to love, Mr Murpurgo’s, Why the Whales Came, going out to buy the book the second the credits rolled at the end of the video. At this time I also discovered and fell in love with the beautifully illustrated Brambly Hedge books, which made me, want to illustrate.

Early Teens

What can I say? I’m a child of my generation, so it was Roald Dahl and Judy Bloom all the way… And as far as picture books goes anything Kit Williams. Of course, I loved Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and today I can still recollect the outcry that they caused upon publication. Many of my friend’s parents banned them reading it. ‘Red Riding Hood pulling a rifle from her knickers – well I never!’

Late Teens

Got to say it, you either do JRR Tolkien or you don’t, there are no half measures, and I did him big style, as you can probably tell. I loved the whole world; it was fantasy like no other I had ever experienced. Also ‘the Never Ending Story’ I loved the film when I was younger, but the book, with its coloured text was a great find. Then Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, another book I read because I loved the film as a kid. For the Romantic in me, the fabulous time travelling YA romance Playing Beatie Bow (written way before YA existed) now this I demand you go out and read straight away, it is just simply beautiful.


Well my twenties, was not a good decade for reading. I was either doing up houses or rearing small not very healthy children (they are all better now). There are no good excuses but it’s true, I just simply didn’t read very much. I did however rekindle my love of fairy tales, and gathered and read huge amounts of them.


I’m heading towards my 34th Birthday – and I think I’m regressing. Most of what I read for pleasure is YA, I love YA! Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is just fantastic. But I’m also loving books by Celia Rees and Meg Rossoff. Two of my most treasured books are; The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce, and The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, which both invoke the darkness of fairy tales juxtaposed perfectly with coming of age narratives. I’ve also discovered Manga – who would ever of thought that graphic novels could be so well – fantastic. The characters in Fruits Basket are as deep and real as any you'd find in a well written novel, and these beautifully illustrated tales, really make me cry and laugh, thanks Mum for making me read them!

So the answer to the first question? 

What’s my favourite book of all time? Well that has to be The Brothers Grimm’s Child and Household Tales, which is this year celebrating its 200 anniversary of its publication. Why? Well, without this book then most of my favourite books throughout my life simply would not exist.

Here's my beloved but battered first English translation of the Grimm's tales

My favourite book today? The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Why? I can’t really explain (I’ve tried but it just ain’t happening), but I do highly recommend you read it for yourself.

To find out what other fantastically talented SCBWI children’s writers have cited as their favourite books, check out Bekki Hills Blog; The Write Coach.


  1. Hi Sally
    Loved reading about your favourite books and especially seeing you've still got most of them!

  2. Wonderful post, Sally! Loved seeing the books - and you - through the years.

  3. Hi Amy, Thanks you so much. It was lovely writing it and re-visiting all these fantastic stories.

  4. Thanks Jan! I loved these books so much
    I couldn't bare to part with them, but I also thinks its a generation thing, being brought up in a recession and not having much, makes you precious about the things you do have!

  5. Whenever I go into someone's home for the first time, I'm always drawn to their book shelves. Lovely to see your collection, especially the ancient 'Grimm's'. My earliest memories of books are Peter Rabbit read by my mother, and sitting on my grandmother's knees and being read 1850's Punch Almanacks (which I now treasure) and ancient copies of the Illustrated London News.

    All best wishes

  6. Hi Peter, I do too, it's really fascinating seeing what people read. Peter Rabbit is great, the illustrations especially!