Feeling Challenged

On Friday I visited Vermont Secondary College as an Ambassador for the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge. It made me realise how much I’ve been at the desk because I loved talking to the Year Seven kids about what they were reading. I came home and ordered in a bunch of titles from the library. One of the best things about going out to schools is finding out what the kids are reading and what they really like. And I really do like plugging the Reading Challenge so it’s never a hard gig. I like talking about books in general much more than my own work.

That’s me with Kirstie Marshall, the Labor MP for Forest Hill at Vermont S.C. We made a good double act.

I spent the weekend weighed down with a non-fiction book called ‘Bare Branches’ by Valerie Hudson and Andrea Den Boer. It’s about the impact on society of surplus male populations. Fascinating and scary stuff and important to read. But, shallowly, I want to find a book that will let me fall inside its pages. Elwyn, my 19-year-old son, spent the weekend engrossed in the new Harry Potter. He works in a bookstore so he got it at a discounted price. I didn’t enjoy the last Potter but I’m always hopeful that Rowling will revert to the form of the early books and sweep me off my feet. It’s good to be challenged by a book but sometimes it’s nice to feel that familiar lift as you lose yourself in a ripping yarn.

First blog, first books

This blog is dedicated to books. Magic Casements was a bookshop in the 1960s at 29 Carpenter Street, Middle Brighton. I bought my first book there as a kid. I still have a stack of books that have a little red ‘Magic Casements’ sticker inside the cover. In essence, those books worked exactly like magic casments for me. They opened up windows into other worlds. I wish I could remember the name of the old lady who ran the shop and patiently counted out all the coins I would tip onto her desk in payment of my latest, longed-for acquisition.

One of those first purchases, though not the very first, was a book called ‘The Young Florence Nightingale’ by Lettice Cooper.

On the inside slip cover of the book it reads ‘I don’t want a happy life. I want to do things,’ said young Florence Nightingale. Which is probably why I parted with two months worth of pocket money to buy that book. Because when I was a kid I wanted a big life and I wanted to do things. Now the thing I do is write books for young people. The books I read as a kid were important to me in ways I’m only coming to understand now.

So this blog is going to be about books I love, books I treasure, and books I discover. Perhaps it will be about writing too, but somedays writing can feel like a secret vice – dark and troublesome – so I’ll wait for a good writing day before posting a blog about that mysterious process. Books can be trusted. I’m not so sure about writers. (Yes, I get the irony.)

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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