Thursday, 20 November 2008

What's in your inspiration?

A recent article in the Times featured children's books that inspired various people who write for that newspaper. As always with such things you get the impression that some are only putting something down because they 'ought to' - they are the ones who you know secretly read lots of Enid Blyton. To be fair, someone does admit to Blyton-inspiration, but only chooses that unfairly derided author's most obscure titles.

A good example of a suspicious selection is the very first entry in the article. After saying that his inspiration was Winnie the Pooh, he tells us that the book is okay as a child but really it's best appreciated by adults. While I agree that its subtly is wasted on children (my mother thought it was too pretentious and I didn't come across it until I was at university), it makes you wonder why Daniel Finkelstein put it down as the work that most inspired him as a child. It's hard not to imagine the editor yelling 'Someone's got to have bloody Winnie the Pooh!'

However, suspicions aside it's a great exercise. For me it was, without doubt, Alan Garner's books. They aged as I aged - he brought out books for older and older children just as I reached the right age and he kept my later childhood alive with his brilliant writing. It helped that he had been a pupil at the same school that I was attending and regularly came in to give talks to star struck readers. For what it's worth, my favourite is The Owl Service, but they're all brilliant.


  1. I led a C.S. Lewis faction at junior school. We were at war with the Enid Blyton lot - but they usually won at reading time. We were woefully outnumbered.

  2. Garner was more a secondary school thing for me. My junior favourites were 101 Dalmations (the book*) and Tom's Midnight Garden.

    * As we were up in't North, and our teacher who read 101D to us was also from Rochdale, we totally lost one of the jokes. One of the dogs says 'suit soots you' instead of 'soot suits you.' But with the local accent this came out as 'sooot sooots you' - so was totally wasted.

  3. I read everything and anything when I was a child (still do). I loved Enid Blyton, C S Lewis (I read the Narnia books again with my children a couple of years ago and was amazed that I missed the Christian references first time round--this time they almost put me off), and Alan Garner--who I now consider one of the very best. I love the Owl Service, and the Wierdstone: brilliant stuff.