I wish I’d written… Linda Chapman on a book whose characters stay with the reader…
There are many books I wish I had written but if I had to choose just one it would be Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I love the skilful combination of magic and real-life, the brilliantly realised world, the fact the writing never gets in the way of the story and that when you get to the end the characters stay with you and seem completely real. I can still remember when I first picked it up, not having any real expectations because it was early days before the series really took off, starting to read it and then being completely caught up and unable to put it down. As an author, to know that you have turned even one child into a reader is a great feeling, but to know that so many millions of readers of all ages and nationalities have read your book, have
laughed, felt thrilled, gripped, excited, moved, cared passionately about your characters and wanted to read more of their adventures – well, I think it is an incredible achievement and I can only imagine how amazing it must feel. I think J K Rowling is a brilliant, utterly unpre- tentious writer and I am immensely grateful to her for the hours of pleasure all her books have given me – pleasure that my daughters are now just starting to share. It is wonderful to see them reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for themselves, too absorbed to look up when I call their names. I envy them the journey they have ahead as they follow the rest of Harry’s adventures and I look at the book in their hands and I think again, ‘oh yes, I wish I had written that’.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (978 0 7475 3274 3) by J K Rowling is published by Bloomsbury at £6.99. Linda Chapman’s latest book Loving Spirit (978 0 14 132832 4) is published by Puffin at £5.99.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Oscar Wilde, Penguin Classics, 978 0 14 043.606 8, £8.99 pbk
In Oscar Wilde’s play The Impor- tance of Being Earnest,
men woo two ladies under the same name: Ernest. At first it is only Jack Worthing, calling himself Ernest to win the hand of Gwendolen Fairfax. But then Algernon Moncrieff woos Cecily Cardew under the same name, pretending to be Jack’s brother. No sooner than Algernon and Cecily are engaged, and Gwendolen arrives on the scene, and mentions that she is engaged to Ernest Worthing. Cecily indignantly asserts that she is engaged to Ernest Worthing. When Algernon and Jack enter, the ladies discover that they are not engaged to the same person. But can Cecily and Gwendolen – both resolute to only marry a man named Ernest – consent to wed these men knowing their true identities?
In the end, Wilde’s play makes the two-fold point that the title suggests. Honesty goes a long way in avoiding confusion, and changing your name can win a girl’s heart.
Rebecca Au Black Beauty
Anna Sewell, Puffin Classics, 978 0 14 132103 5, £6.99 pbk
First published in 1877, the book Black Beauty, written by Anna Sewell, significant- ly influenced how people thought and acted toward horses. The story is told from the horse, Black Beauty’s perspective, and revolves around his life as he encounters various owners, homes, and vocations. He starts out at Farmer Grey’s but then moves to Birtwick Park, where he eagerly meets fellow horses Merrylegs and Ginger. With another owner, he is forced to wear bearing reins, which uncomfortably hold his neck up. Later, a drunken carriage driver nearly ruins Beauty by his obliviousness to Beauty’s loose shoe. But Beauty’s life ends hopefully. Joe Green, his friend and former stable boy, eventually becomes his groom and ensures that Black Beauty will not be sold again. Ultimately, by informing us about horse treatment and endearing us to Black Beauty, this book changes our attitude toward horses.
Chosen by 12- and 13-year-old members of the homeschool writing class at Owl Academy, Highland Park, New Jersey, USA.
The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster, HarperCollins ‘Essential Modern Classics’, 978 0 00 726348 6, £5.99 pbk
‘There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself – not just sometimes, but always.’ This opening line to The Phantom Tollbooth doesn’t sound prom- ising, but don’t let that fool you.
Milo is bored with everything in life. One day he returns home to find a package in his room which he opens and discovers a tollbooth. He jumps into his toy electric car and drives through. He finds himself in a strange land, where he meets Tock and the Humbug. While in the strange land, Milo learns the two wise princesses, Rhyme and Reason, have been banished and now there is no wisdom in the land. Milo, Tock and the Humbug travel to the Mountains of Ignorance, where demons reside, to save the princesses. Can they do it? In the end, Milo learns that life is never boring when he explores, observes, and learns about the world around him.
Thanks to class teacher Eunice Au and teacher assistant Annabelle Chan.
18 Books for Keeps No.185 November 2010 The End of the Beginning
Avi, ill. Tricia Tusa, Harcourt, 978 0 15 205532 5, £4.51 from Amazon
The End of the Beginning is a humorous, non- sensical book by award-winning author Avi.
Living in a tree, Avon the snail is dejected. Since Avon has read many books, he knows that in each story everyone becomes happy when an adventure ends. Therefore, the snail is inspired to embark on his own journey. He soon meets Edward, an ant, who joins him on his adventure around the tree.
The snail and ant help, or are helped, by various creatures along the way. They have numerous funny situations with themselves and others. Eventually, the friends find a ‘magical castle’, almost identical to Avon’s house, and settle in. Avon becomes extremely famous for his adventures.
Undeniably, this is a superb book as it will make anyone think and also laugh as Avon and Edward explain their logic to each other. The End of the Beginning is certainly an extraordinary book for young and old alike. Allissa Chan
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