Monday, 7 February 2011

Reading Allowed; Sue Purkiss

It's not absolutely definite yet, but it looks as though my local library, Cheddar, has been given a reprieve and will not now close. Eleven others in Somerset probably will, though; and so on Saturday our Love Our Library day was part celebration and part protest. There was coffee, there was cake, there were stickers and balloons, there was a colouring competition - but mostly there were lots of people, adults and children, there to raise a few cheers, to talk and to take out books: to make the point that libraries MATTER.

I was there with another local author, Michael Malaghan, writer of Greek Ransome, an action packed adventure story involving Greek legends, archaeology and nail-biting chases. We quite quickly saw that our audience was on the young side for most of our books, though I did read a bit of Emily's Surprising Voyage. Then we asked them to choose books for us to read. I was lucky enough to be handed Where The Wild Things Are.

It's a lovely book to read out loud. Every word counts, has the right weight in the right place. The buzz of chatter quickly faded as I began to read, and soon all the children were sitting perfectly still, eyes wide, lost in the world of Max, the monsters and the magical island.

I had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago, reading bits of Warrior King out to secondary school pupils. I'd been asked in to talk about Alfred the Great and the Anglo-Saxons, because they were studying them in history. Again, there was that hush, as we all entered a different world, a different time. That's one of the things reading does for you; it gives you a free pass to an infinite number of other minds and other worlds.

Long before there were printed books or Kindles, there were libraries. The great library at Alexandria, one of the marvels of the ancient world, was created 300 years BC, and was filled with papyrus scrolls. Hundreds of years later, it took a conquering army to destroy it. Now, it seems that all you need is a few politicians and the occasional meaningless soundbite.

In modern Alexandria, and in other cities in Egypt, the voice of the people is making itself heard. In a much, much smaller way, so it is here. It feels as if it just might be something of a turning point.

1 comment:

Penny Dolan said...

A mix of interesting library thoughts, especially the moment when the power of the words grips an audience, whether the words come from Sendak or Sue!

Well done to everyone involved with the efforts with Cheddar and the other Somerset libraries.