Thursday 23 January 2014

Returning to the joy of our childhood books

Children's books are, quite simply wonderful.

They're full of innocence and adventure, they introduce the young to reading and the 'old' will always have a favourite to fondly remember and encourage others to read. I particularly love them when I'm having a bad day as - depending on my mood - two particularly good pick me ups are The Secret Garden and Treasure Island.

But just because you see me reading a children's book doesn't mean I need cheering up, they can be a joy at any time and I despair of so-called grown ups who aren't mature enough to understand the pleasure to be found in a great children's read.

My latest children's book crept up on me quite by chance during a visit to Book-ish in Crickhowell, south Wales. I certainly hadn't intended my time in this bookshop to end up being a self-indulgent hour of children's stories, but as we all know, things seldom turn out as planned.

The visit had begun as most do at this time of year, running through the rain, avoiding puddles and then trying not to drip too much as I entered the beautifully arranged bookshop. But as I slowly dried off and began to explore it was impossible to not be influenced by the beautiful children's section taking up roughly half of the shop.

Dedicated to books and gifts, the front half of the room offers a selection of fun for reading adults and big kids, and I could've happily browsed in this area for some time. Indeed, I was there long enough to choose a new diary for 2014 and drool over the beautiful collection of Vintage books on display (a publisher I particularly enjoy).

But the children's section was calling. A children's book was playing on my mind, and hearing Mrs Book-ish (Emma) and the lady behind the counter talking, I simply had to ask for their advice in identifying the story (my misguided hunt for the book can be read here).

We already know I'm not shy when it comes to talking books, and booksellers are generally very friendly souls, so it didn't take long for me to have enlisted their help as I recalled what little information my memory had (I now know badly) retained.

And once a book conversation has been started it's impossible to stop at one, and so we continued. I can't remember all the children's books we talked about, but favourites were compared as we chatted in the middle of a wonderful children's section filled with books, toys and fictional characters to inspire young minds.

All of which left me craving the joy of a new children's adventure to immerse myself in. My experience in this age group is mostly of the classics, and so to choose a modern children's author to live up to my favourites was too tall an order for me to fill. Cue further children's book talk as I looked for a recommendation.

Thankfully, Mrs Book-ish was able to come up with the goods, recommending Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Not an author I've wanted to try before, I bought the book partly out of curiosity about his popularity and partly because of how much I'd enjoyed our bookish discussion - I was clearly in the company of someone who loves their books.

Did I make a good purchase? Definitely.

Whether or not this book will make it onto my rainy day list I can't say until I've finished reading, but the fact I'm struggling to put it down leaves me reassured that tomorrow's adults will be able to look back on their own generation of children's books with as fond memories as we did that rainy day in Book-ish.

23 High Street, Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1BD
Tel: 01873 811256

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