How Children’s Literature Ruined My Life


This is a picture of the sky. It is very lovely. It bears very little relation to what I’m about to tell you but, I feel, it’s time to tell the truth. And so I start with a sweetener. The beauty. The glory. The light that stretches down to your fingertips. The joy of the infinite sunset.

And now the sadness. 

It is time, my friends, to confess something to you. A sordid truth. My hidden shame.

Children’s Literature has ruined my life.

Every day, I’m shuffling suffering from at least one of the following:

(You know what? I’m in love that I could carry on this list forever. God I love books. My life without them would not be the same. They have made me what and who I am.

And I would not have it any other way :-)


Read Your Way Around the UK (England’s done!)

Do you remember that whole mad ‘can you read your way around the UK’ idea? We got England completed! Thank you so much if you’ve been a part of this!

You can view the current state of the spreadsheet if you click on the below image. Which, coincidentally, is all the England titles and authors word-cloud-i-fied. You can also see a map of all the books in England here!

(And here’s to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland!)


Children’s Literature and Bereavement

What I’m doing in this post is doing something that I hold very close to my heart. You may be aware that I have a couple of reading lists that I host on this blog. They cover topics that I’ve got a particular interest in or strength of knowledge or topics that I want to research further. They are lists that are constantly growing as I add to them anything I find that comes under their respective headings, titles that I’ve read or heard about or been recommended. And they’re editable by anyone, so please do feel free to add anything you think I’ve missed.

Here’s my one on gifted and talented characters in children’s literature.

Here’s my list of  titles in children’s literature that reference menstruation.

It’s now time to add a third. I’ve always had a strong interest in the healing power of books – the bibliotherapy side of literature. I’m fascinated by the way that books help us to cope with the shadowy, inevitable darknesses of life. (Here’s a heartbreaking and wondrous Storify about the healing power of YA literature, for example)

So, because of that, and because of many other reasons to personal to elaborate at this point, my third list is one on bereavement in children’s literature.

What I want this list to be is simple. I want it to cover titles that explicitly address loss. That deal with the process of grieving – of sadness. I don’t endorse these books in any way. I do not guarantee them, nor explicitly recommend them. I am not a professional counsellor in any way and that needs to be noted due to the topic of the list.

But what I do hope is that at some point, when questions are being asked that you may not know how to answer or even if you can, that one of these books may be able to help.


I read a lot of children’s literature but I don’t read that many that feature periods. Menstruation. That time of the month. Call it what you will, but it’s not an unusual phenomenon. I was reminded of the scarcity of periods in children’s literature after reading this blog post from 2010.

The thing that struck me after reading that was that I don’t think much has changed. I mean, I certainly remember discovering Runaways and swooning with love that it actually mentioned periods. It made that series instantly so much more real to me. And feeling like that was – and is – a rare occurrence  Were it not for Judy Blume and Paula Danziger, I’d be struggling to name authors and titles who acknowledge menstruation. Lord knows it certainly doesn’t occur in my great love of girlsown where the girls magically grow up in a sort of splendid glass-housed isolation.

When puberty came, with its lumps and bumps and hairs, me and my friends found solace in Just Seventeen (and were we from today, I think we’d be weeping with joy over Tumblr). And now that I think of it, we also found a lot of solace in Lady Chatterley’s Lover but that was for, um, slightly different reasons…!

But I digress. I’m looking for recommendations of titles to read – children’s books, picture books, comics whatever. Let me know if you’ve got any ideas where I should start. And I promise to collate the titles together as a reading list which I’ll archive somewhere (here! - Menstruation in Children’s Literature)

PS – I’ll also be updating my list of books featuring gifted and talented characters in the near future – additions always welcome :)

2012 rewind! The best books I’ve read this year

I’m very lucky in that I have access to an amazing children’s literature library. It’s one of those places that make you skip along the shelves and want to just stroke the spine of every book on the shelf. Even the ones that have been there a little too long, those ones who have gone pale in the sun, have a peculiar appeal. It’s an addictive place to visit. It’s a place that has sourced my best reads of this year. And it’s a place that I know is going to continue to inspire me next year.

So here’s to the best reads of 2012! You’ll see not all of these books were published in 2012, but they are the best books I read this year.  I spent 2012 surrounded by books I liked, and books I loved. And some of those books bordered on utter perfection.

In no particular order, we have:

My David Almond phase with a look at the incredible My Name is Mina and My Dad’s A Birdman. These two books defined the end of the year for me and have had a massive impact on me.

The other author who appears twice on my best of 2012 is Sita Brahmachari (who, if you get to hear speak, is ridiculously charming and coped very well with my geeking out in front of her – sorry Sita ;) ) and her books Artichoke Hearts and Jasmine Skies. Magical, evocative books both.

Patrick Ness’ multi-award winning piece of perfection A Monster Calls appears on my list and to be honest, is in a class of its own. The pairing of Patrick Ness’ spare, elegant text with Jim Kay’s illustrations is world-class.

Another award winning book that’s on my best of 2012 is The Unforgotten Coat by my book Yoda Frank Cottrell Boyce. A gorgeous, sharply heart-breaking, and beautifully produced book.

Then there’s the newcomer (to me!) Guy Bass with his reminder that good things come in small packages. The adorable Stitch Head was superb, moving, and a reminder of all that can be good in children’s books.

I came back to my other book Yoda – Michelle Magorian — and rediscovered her beyond perfect A Little Love Song. Magorian is so superbly gifted, and this book is a gift. She’s one of those effortlessly heartbreaking (and rather amazing) writers.

And finally, I read an amazing picture book and a graphic novel. Alex T Smith dazzled me with the epic and hysterical glory of Claude on Holiday. If you’ve not discovered Claude and Sir Bobblysock, hop to it because you won’t be disappointed. Graphic novel wise, I read a lot of good stuff but loved discovering the work of Gareth Hinds and his magisterial version of Beowulf in particular.

And here’s to 2013! :D