Fellow children’s literature appreciators have all experienced the following, when stepping out of their echo chambers: the slight bewilderment of others when they learn that you read children’s literature. That bewildered expression often turns to aghast when you confess that you have studied it, or worse, that you read /study picturebooks. Yes, yes, those people exist. Look beyond your Twitter feed for a minute and the reality of it punches square in the face. Alternatively you could read this article, if you dare. Admittedly it might be outdated (2001) but the misplaced snobbiness of it will bemuse you, or anger you, depending how your day is going. Anyway, Katherine Rundell is here to save us from yet another awkward conversation, because this teeny tiny perfectly formed tome can easily be thrust into such people’s hands. She talks sense. A lot of sense. She writes beautifully ( this will come as no surprise to you if you are a children’s literature enthusiast), with real heart, about her own relationship with reading, stories and writing, about the importance of libraries, but also about the history of children’s literature, the importance of fairy tales (she writes of them that they are “a way of tracing our cultural evolution”, which is splendidly put) and of course what it is that makes children’s literature so special: its subversive nature, its cornucopia of hope, imagination and optimism, observing that “Children’s books say: the world is huge. They say: hope counts for something. They say: bravery will matter, love will matter.” (48) Life experiences might sometimes tell us otherwise, but in times of turmoil, it is worth being reminded of that. In the end, Rundell reminds us that stories are for everyone, and that what is important is that it talks to you, that you find yourself in them:
A perfect definition of the reading experience in a truly delightful and inspiring essay.
Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You are So Old and Wise is available exclusively in independent bookshops as part of Independent Bookshop Week, and will be on general release on 8th August.
Review copy kindly sent by the publisher on request