Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Comfort Reading - Sally Nicholls
I've been wondering about doing some reviews for a while. About the sort of books you fall in love with, the sort you return to over and over again and read until the pages start falling out.
As a child, I had a lot of 'comfort books'. Noel Streatfield, Enid Blyton, Frances Hodgeson Burnett ... With a library consisting of three shelves in a little white-painted bookcase, my books suffered a lot of re-reading. Even now, my copies of 'Watership Down' and 'The Borrowers' are held together with glue and spit. And the book I read most as a young teenager now has a spine composed entirely of masking tape, with LORD OF THE RINGS printed across it in permanent marker.
As an adult, I've discovered two new 'comfort authors', who make me laugh no matter where I open their books, who I can read again and again until I know whole passages off my heart.
The first is Hilary McKay, in particular her Casson family books, in particular 'Saffy's Angel', which won a well-deserved Whitbread Award for Children's Fiction. The Cassons are a wonderfully anarchic family, with four children all named after paint colours, a mother who sleeps in a garden shed and a father who drops in every now and then from London, dripping expensive accessories. With the help of Saffy's friend Sarah and Cadmium's sexy driving instructor, the Cassons manage to get all around the world in search of love, family and a sense of belonging.
The second is Jaclyn Moriarty, and her three scrapbook books all set in two Australian secondary schools and composed entirely of letters, emails and other ephemera. 'Finding Cassie Crazy' is my favourite, but they're all brilliant. I lent one to a friend recently and she returned it saying, 'I was just like that as a teenager ... I thought I was the only one!' Her teenage girls are bright, spunky, rebellious, vulnerable, imaginative and slightly silly. They are perfectly capable of running away to join the circus one minute, and fighting to preserve their right to privacy and a fair trial the next.
Go and read them immediately.