I don’t do book reviews – at least, I thought I didn’t.
This is an awful confession for an author to make, but I’ve always found reading difficult and analysing books even more difficult. When I was doing O level English at boarding school, we were under constant pressure to read and analyse books. For me it took all the joy out of reading. In fact, it put me off reading for pleasure for a long time.
I loved animals, the countryside and farming, and I wanted to be a farmer, but our school careers teacher told me girls didn’t do farming! So I studied biology, geography and chemistry for A levels and biogeography at university, hoping to become a soil scientist. My favourite books at the time were all non-fiction –Small is Beautiful by E F Schumacher, Why Big, Fierce Animals Are Rare by Paul Colinvaux and The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, for instance.
It was only about fourteen years ago, when I began writing stories, that I decided I really ought to start reading some. . . Before long, it became apparent there were lots of brilliant books out there and I had a great deal of catching up to do!
Most of my fellow children’s authors are very well-read and a lot of them studied English or creative writing at university. When authors get together, there seem to be two main topics of conversation: chocolate and books. I can hold my own in any discussion about chocolate, but when the subject turns to books it’s rather like being at a dinner party where everyone’s discussing fine wine. Basically, I know what I like, but it takes a lot of courage to join in the conversation for fear of making a fool of myself.
HOWEVER, I’ve just read this book called Knitbone Pepper by Claire Barker, and I feel compelled to say:
A) I love it.
B) I can’t imagine anyone not loving it.
For a start, the book itself is a lovely thing, which is rare in this era of mass market paperbacks. Usborne has lavished care and attention to detail on every aspect of this stunning hardback, from the feel, size and look of it to the fantastic illustrations by Ross Collins. There’s even a classy ribbon in case you don’t quite manage to read the whole thing in one sitting and therefore need a book mark. Oh, and for me the finishing touch is the embossed spider in the margin, which will make perfect sense when you read it.
It’s hard to write about the story without giving things away that are best discovered as you read, so I’ll just say it’s warm, witty, well-written and wonderful.
Here’s a book that’s designed to be a cherished present rather than a stocking filler. Yes, it’s 9.99, but it’s worth every penny.