14th February this year isn’t just about celebrating loving relationships with people, it’s also about celebrating love of books! International Book Giving Day is about getting books into the hands of as many children as possible with the hope of sparking a life-long interest in reading. With that in mind, we asked the Accuracy Matters team what books they’d give to a child to read if they’d never read a book before.
This is an impossible ask! If somebody had never read a book before I would ease them in gently with one of the wonderful Julia Donaldson books, probably The Gruffalo. For me it has all the essential elements of a riveting read: adventure, suspense and resolution. It is also very poetic and the rhymes are highly memorable. Phrases are stuck in my head even now, years after my children grew out of the books.
I would give The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I was absolutely spellbound by the story (and Jules Feiffer’s illustrations) as a child and it’s a deliciously good re-read as an adult. I chuckled as they came by the Half Bakery, producing half-baked ideas (“They’re very tasty but they don’t always agree with you”), and of course I wanted to live in Dictionopolis where words and letters are bought and sold. The lovely storytelling and fabulous wordplay make up a very special book.
Mr Magnolia. My daughter has had this since she was really little. At first we loved it for the illustrations, then as she got older it was the rhyming – and now she’s just learned to read it by herself, it’s still one of her favourites.
My second choice would be The Story Orchestra, four seasons in one day. This book is great as it’s not only well written and beautifully illustrated, it’s also got excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Again this is great from when they are little as they enjoy pressing the musical buttons and is still a firm favourite now my daughter can read to herself.
When I was 8 years old, I received a copy of The Miracle Worker – Helen Keller’s autobiography – through a school book club. It was probably an abridged version for school kids. Nevertheless, this book was a revelation on a few levels: people could write their own life stories and you could read about them; Helen Keller was an amazing person with a strong and resilient character and intelligence; and that there could be a type of language other than spoken English. The fact that a few weeks later, the old black and white film starring Patty Duke as Helen Keller was screened on TV reinforced this story as an inspirational one for life. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get into reading because people’s life stories can be intriguing, inspiring and teach you so much about life, about making choices, surviving, and of course having empathy for others. Highly recommended!
Asterix the Gaul. The stories are great and the large format makes for a cinematic experience. When you’re a bit older you can revisit them to enjoy yet more levels of humour. They were translated from the original French by Anthea Bell, whose son Oliver Kamm is a scourge of the sticklocracy.
For me, there is no other choice but The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. Most people love the Famous Five and I’m not disparaging those books but there’s something about the Faraway Tree books which will always hold magic for me. When I was a teacher, I read the first book to my class and even though the book was written many decades ago, the children were still hooked! In this time of lockdowns and school closures, there’s something wonderful about being able to escape into many different worlds – I put in a vote to meet you all in Birthday Land!
What book would you share? Let us know!