I appeared at the Biggest Book Show on Earth this week. The authors were each asked to speak for 15 minutes on ‘Why I Can’t Live Without Books’.
Me wearing the wings. Photo a selfie courtesy of Shoo Rayner, fellow writer and illustrator, on the left!
Books allow us to step into other people’s shoes, and see how it feels to live other people’s lives. Books help us to empathise. Books allow us to meet larger-than-life characters, go to unfamiliar places, and witness extraordinary events. And they allow us to experience things that would never be possible in our real lives – things like flying!
As a child, all my favourite books had some flying in them. One of the first was Enid Blyton’s wonderful The Wishing Chair. How thrilling it was to read about the wooden chair that grew wings whenever Mollie and Peter least expected it – and carried them off to fantastical places.
And who could forget that flight across Narnia on the back of the winged horse, Fledge, in The Magician’s Nephew by C S Lewis?
Then there was the flying carpet in Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet. When the carpet grew threadbare and there was risk of falling through it, flying became even more exciting – and I cried when this book was finished.
But the most fantastical flying object must be the peach in Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. James harnesses hundreds of seagulls to lift the peach out of the water and fly it across the Atlantic.
Flying has found its way into most of my own books too – be it by magic carpet, wings – or more unusual vehicles, like Elinor’s bedroom in The Flying Bedroom.
Clearly, I have not lost my longing to leave the ground. Who has? Flying is really about freedom - about being light, about being able to leave your worries on the ground and about gaining a whole new perspective on the world – rather like books themselves.