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.
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.)