How long is it since you read a children’s book for pleasure? Not to a child, even if you enjoyed it too, but for yourself? Katherine Rundell’s powerful manifesto on the value of children’s books for readers of all ages, has struck a chord across the nation. After reading it, you may well find yourself reaching for a children’s book as your next planned read.
Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell is firmly at the centre of Independent Bookshop Week celebrations. Currently available only in independent books shops like Booka, this 63-page book will challenge everything you think you knew about children’s literature. Multi-award winning Rundell, paused her incredibly successful run of children’s books to produce this remarkable essay to coincide with Independent Bookshop Week and is touring the UK for book signings. We are thrilled that on Wednesday 19th June, Booka will be one of the stops on her nationwide tour.
Before you even read one word, Rundell’s book is a treat. In size and shape, it resembles one of the Beatrix Potter books, but is bright terracotta red. A (wise and old?) owl peers out at you from the cover, and his eyebrows certainly deserve a second look. It looks like a children’s book, feels like a children’s book, but it is written for you.
No less of a delight awaits you inside. Left undisturbed, you could read the whole book in thirty minutes. Want to learn about the surprising history of the children’s book? You will. Have the endings of potentially unread children’s classics ruined for you? Certainly. Watch out if you haven’t finished Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass! Thoroughly modern issues (Brexit, Trump, underfunded libraries, lack of diversity in children’s literature) sit alongside concerns that are timeless. It is quite possible that as you are reading it, you will suddenly remember a much-loved story you haven’t thought about in decades.
No one in their right mind would deny that reading is good for children; adults too benefit from the solace reading provides in our busy lives. But Rundell’s argument, that adults who make a point of reading children’s books rediscover something lost, is quite exceptional. Each two or three-page chapter adds weight to her theory. Many of us will have experienced the thrill of rereading a childhood favourite. But it can produce guilt, especially if we have a pile of unread ‘adult’ books to be getting on with. For anyone who has ever felt like this, Rundell provides an undeniable truth; it is not only acceptable to read children’s books, but quite necessary.
If you are ready to take up a new children’s book, rather than an old favourite, you need look no further than Rundell’s own latest bestseller The Good Thieves. As she explains in her essay: “What I try for when I write … is to put down in as few words as I can the things that I most urgently and desperately want children to know and adults to remember (p4).” If The Good Thieves were judged by these standards, she has excelled. Her characters are diverse and complex, excellent role models for any child, or indeed any adult reader. The plot is unpredictable, fantastic without being implausible; the language is playful, funny and vivid. And surely, we are never too old to enjoy pictures in our stories? The ink sketches by the talented Matt Saunders dramatically enhance the bold New York landscape evoked by Rundell. The Good Thieves is a few hours of pure escapism, but the story will make a lasting impression.
We are really excited to be welcoming Katherine Rundell to Booka as part of our Independent Bookshop Week. She is joined by Nicolette Jones, the Sunday Times Children’s Book editor. These two women will no doubt have plenty more to say on the subject of children’s literature and will be taking your questions. There may still be tickets available and if you would like to come you can read more about the event and book online here. The £6 ticket includes a signed copy of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise. If you can’t make it to the event, the book is still a must read. You can reserve a copy here, which will be signed on the night, or pick up a copy in store.
There are still lots of events to look forward to this week. Kirsty Wark is joining us at the Wynnstay Hotel on Tuesday 18th June to talk about her new book The House by the Loch. Local author Alison Layland is launching her new book Riverflow on Wednesday 19th June. This is a free event at 7pm and everyone is welcome. The next book in the Slough House spy thriller series, Joe Country will be discussed by author Mick Herron on the 20th June at 7pm, and rounding off the week, Ed Docx hosts a workshop for aspiring writers on Friday 21th June at 2pm. Attendees will also get a copy of Ed’s book Let Go My Hand. In addition to our author events, our visitors have really enjoyed getting down their thoughts on our resident typewriter, here in Booka for this week only, as well as joining us for a cake and a browse, as always.
Finally, if you haven’t entered our tagline competition, there is still time! We are looking for a great tagline for our blog in no more than 10 words! Email your ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org by the 22nd of June. A £10 Booka voucher will be given to the winner.
We really hope that we will be able to see you at Booka this Independent Bookshop Week, maybe in the children’s section! If you’re not nearby, we hope we have inspired you to visit your own local independent bookshop and enjoy celebrating this wonderful week of books.