World Book Day 2023
Happy World Book Day! We’ve been thinking a lot about childhood this year – our sister company Orphans Press was founded in 1873 (they celebrate their 150th birthday this summer) to support the Leominster Orphan Homes. This year, we chatted with our authors about the books that shaped their youth.
I was a bookish boy and it’s so hard to choose the best from a shortlist that includes Stig of the Dump, The Wind in the Willows, Swallows and Amazons and The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. However, if pushed I would go for Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. I constantly return to this story of a young English boy living in a Gypsy caravan with his father who fixes cars by day and poaches pheasants by night. They take on a sadistic teacher, local bureaucrats and a greedy landowner and emerge as winners. Sheer bliss. It was a real privilege to spend a term as a teacher in a local school and share my enthusiasm for the book with a new generation of young boys.
Averil Douglas Opperman
Can’t pick a favourite! Too many books are vying for selection. As children we were read Hans Christian Anderson which we loved; and Grimms Fairytales which I found terrifying. Then Enid Blyton whose stories were exciting and fun. Next came Paul Gallico and his delightful stories – The Small Miracle, The Snow Goose, Jennie. And finally I got lost in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The idea of climbing through a wall and discovering an abandoned secret garden to this day fills me with joy.
What a lucky little girl I was. My mom and Gran taught me to read when I was very young (3!). For my fifth and each subsequent birthday my Grandma Nonnie sent me a Newberry medal winning book. I received King of the Wind for my 7th birthday. It is a story of triumph and hope in the face of adversity. It lit my life up like a sunburst.
My favourite childhood book is An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden. It is about a group of working class children who play in the streets and ruined bomb sites of south London and what happens when Lovejoy Mason, an isolated, neglected girl, discovers a packet of cornflower seeds and grows a garden. Lovejoy is tough and tenacious, with an instinctive appreciation of beauty; her world is vivid and real; and the book celebrates the transformative power of nature and spoke to this kid growing up in south London in the 1950s.
the first books I remember were the ‘Katy’ trilogy. I must have been about six. They were: What Katy Did, What Katy Did Next and What Katy Did at School. They were written by American author ‘Susan Coolidge’ a pseudonym. Published in 1873. They were wildly popular with post war children. As a family we got all our books at the public library, so I’d read 3 or 4 a week.
For a little girl in the depths of Cheshire, the lives of little American girls was riveting. For example, details of illnesses weren’t hidden: someone had asthma, and Katy was in a wheelchair for a time. In those days we saw many more people with disabilities they were born with, for which there were no cures or solutions back then.
My favourite childhood book would have to be The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. My grandmother would read it to my sisters and I when we were very little before we went to bed. We’d spend time with her in the school holidays and after a day in the garden helping her shell peas or preparing the walnuts for pickling it rounded off the day perfectly. I wouldn’t want to see a rabbit feasting the in veg patch today. However, thanks to this book I have to admit I have a soft spot for rabbits and long to one day see one darting back through the hedge in a blue jacket.
As a young teen my grandmother would give me copies of The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton to read. As the first was published in 1947 I used to love the idea of reading the actual book my mother had read at my age. I’d always look to see if she had written her name in the front.