World Book Day is with us once again: an annual celebration of books and reading marked in over a hundred countries across the globe. Its purpose is to celebrate the all-conquering power of stories, reach new readers and spark a lifelong love of books.
To mark the occasion, and in a nod to our ‘Every Book Matters’ motto, we asked our team to cast their minds back to the stories that made a difference and name the first book that really mattered to them…
Biggest Word Book Ever! by Richard Scarry
Richard Scarry wasn’t messing about: this thing is massive. Two foot high and, as the marketing slogan told us: ‘tall as a toddler’. Scarry was a remarkable author and illustrator, whose joyful creations have resonated with millions. The world of Busytown, populated by legends such as Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm, fuelled my imagination and kept me entertained (and mercifully quiet) for hours at a time.
It became my first great obsession. I would fall asleep under this book on a regular basis, propping it up like a giant tent and camping out on the bedroom floor. My mum sent me this photo a few months back, and it brought back hugely happy memories and a desperate desire to mix up my current sleeping arrangements.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The book is about a boy on a quest to find the greatest treasure of the world and travels far and wide to find it, only to realise the treasure he was looking for was right in front of him…
I read this book when I was going through a self-discovery phrase and exploring my spirituality, and the impact it left on me made me grateful for the people around me, my career and thankful for my own privilege of what I’ve been able to do in my life. The message of the book resonated with me so well, that I went on to read other books by Paulo Coelho, and when a friend of mine was going through some troubles, I gave them my copy of The Alchemist as I realised, they needed it more than I did.
Eleanor Marie Rose
My Favourite Fairy Tales
My Favourite Fairy Tales was my GO-TO! The one I distinctively remember. I memorised ‘Snow White’ off by heart. In fact, I still have my copy here now, hiding in my memory box under my bed.
Janet and John
I could have chosen quite a number of books! However, taking the question literally, I would have to say the first book that mattered was the one by which I learned to read. And that would be Book 1 of the Janet and John series (showing my age here!), which all kids used in the first year of junior school. There were five in the series, and they would be considered very politically incorrect these days, but they fulfilled the purpose in the 1950s and 60s for which they were designed.
Sophie by Dick King-Smith
The Sophie books were the first to really matter to me. Her hair was so thick and untamed it looked like she’d walked through a hedge backwards, and I had unmanageably thick hair (this is pre hair serum) so this was normally my look too. Whenever I was right, my mum would say “She’s right y’know, said Andrew” which is a catchphrase from the books, and absolutely hasn’t in any way driven my need to be right all the time as an adult…
I Love You, Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester Clark
This was my favourite story growing up! It’s filled with beautiful bright illustrations and is a story all about the importance of friendship! I still have my original copy and I’ll be reading it to my new little niece or nephew after they arrive this year!
As a child I adored Shirley Hughes’ books – and as a mum I take great joy in reading them to my 3 year-old daughter. Although her stories are rooted in the day-to-day and ordinary, there’s a sense of drama that’s captivating: whether that’s losing a precious toy or getting locked inside the house. She really understood a young child’s world and never condescended or moralised.
My mum wrote to her when my brother and I were small and she was kind enough to reply with a wonderful illustration of Alfie and Annie Rose that hangs in my daughter’s room.