Lu Fraser, author of the award winning The Littlest Yak, encourages you to turn left when looking for your literary love!
6th December 2021
One of the things I love most about libraries and bookshops are their front doors.
There’s a feeling I get when I stand in their entrances that I simply don’t get anywhere else (except, perhaps, at airports); there’s a faint flutter in my tummy – a mixture of excitement and anticipation – and, suddenly, I feel like I’m 7 years old again and about to go on the best holiday EVER!
It has something to do with the sense that anything might happen, I think (who knows where I might end up?!). When I walk into my local bookshop my feet instinctively turn right, towards the children’s section, and my heart actually skips a beat. I’m standing on the edge of the greatest adventure!
Now, it’s taken me a while to come to terms with this fact but…my daughter does not feel the same way. Her feet do not, under any circumstances, wish to turn right. At first, I was bemused, then I was horrified, then I was hugely sad – how was this possible? Why didn’t she love the books that I loved? Couldn’t she see how brilliant they were?! And that’s when the revelation came…her feet just needed to turn left. My daughter does love books – just not the same ones as me (if I take her to the Natural History section, her face lights up!). You see, that’s the thing about books – they’re as personal (and as divisive) as pizza toppings. To find the pleasure – the possibility of an adventure – you have to find the right book for you.
Now, although I love all sorts of books, it’s the ones in the children’s section that give me the greatest pleasure of all, so that’s what I choose to read… and that’s what I choose to write. Before there were actual, wide-eyed, wellie-wearing children in my life I didn’t think I could love children’s literature any more than I already did but…TA DA! I was wrong! Because the thing that makes children’s books so wonderfully unique is that they are, so often, a ‘team sport’, frequently requiring a (slightly more) grown-up person to unlock the hieroglyphs on the page. There you sit, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, you open the cover and…LEAP off the precipice together, into the adventure waiting on the pages below. Now the pleasure is doubled, tripled, quadrupled, even! It is a sharing of wonderous, magical proportions, frankly (before you even consider the lengthy list of documented benefits) and something you should continue to do long after those hieroglyphics make perfect sense and the children around you can read for themselves.
During the pandemic, when so much of our lives had been stripped of joy, my books remained steadfast, their happiness intact, untouched by the darkness of the world. I feel I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for the days when they bolstered me up and kept me going, unselfishly sharing their pleasure with me when I could find little of my own. Looking back now I also realise my books gave me so much more than just the pleasure of their printed words; in a time when we were all so isolated, the joy I found in them was something akin to seeing old friends – to being welcomed home after a long journey with open arms, knowing that the kettle was already on. A rare and precious thing indeed.
So read…READ!…and then read a bit more. Read anything with anyone, read anywhere, at any time, because the one thing I can guarantee you is this: when you find the right book it will gift back to you something so much greater than the price tag on the cover suggests.
It doesn’t matter if the book you love isn’t a best-seller, it doesn’t matter if your friends don’t read (or like) what you’re reading and it doesn’t matter if you choose to read something a bit different (I don’t think twice about reading a book that’s been notionally written for an 8 year old and I’m A LOT older than 8!).
I read indulgently, I read whatever takes my fancy, I read in the pursuit of happiness (because reading should be joyous, as far as I’m concerned) so find the book that makes your heart sing or makes you laugh out loud or makes you see the world in a different way.
Read for Good champions every bookish thing that matters to me and, far more importantly, every bookish thing that matters to thousands of children around the UK. Their Readathon is an ingenious way of encouraging a genuine love of books whilst simultaneously funding school libraries AND bringing light to children in hospital at some of their most difficult times. Read for Good changes lives in the most wonderful way.
Read anything and everything that gives you pleasure – genuine, I-can’t-put-this-book-down PLEASURE! And if you haven’t found your reading joy yet you’re just looking on the wrong shelf. Turn left…
Author and Read for Good Ambassador
The Littlest Yak, Lu’s debut book, was the winner of The Oscar’s Book Prize 2021, The Sainsbury’s Best Picture Book 2021 & the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book of the Year 2021. Lu kindly donated 30 copies of her book to Read for Good’s hospital programme.