Just as authors create books, books create authors — and these essays by thirty-one writers for young people offer a fascinating glimpse at the books that inspired them the most.
What if you could look inside your favorite authors’ heads and see the book that led them to become who they are today? What was the book that made them fall in love, or made them understand something for the first time? What was the book that made them feel challenged in ways they never knew they could be, emotionally, intellectually, or politically? What book made them readers, or made them writers, or made them laugh, think, or cry? Join thirty-one top children’s and young adult authors as they explore the books, stories, and experiences that changed them as readers — for good.
Some of the contributors include:
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About the Author
Alison Croggon was born in 1962 in South Africa to English parents. When she was four, her family returned to England, and then migrated to Australia when she was seven, where she has lived ever since. She is considered a major figure in the generation of Australian poets that emerged in the 1990s, but writes in many genres, including criticism, theater, and prose. Most recently, with the publication of the acclaimed series The Books Of Pellinor, she has become known as a writer of fantasy.
She has published seven collections of poetry, and her poems have been published widely in anthologies and magazines in Australia and elsewhere. Ash, a forty-page chapbook was published by Cusp Books in Los Angeles, and a new full collection was published by Salt Publishing in 2008. Attempts At Being was short-listed for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and also was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the U.S. In 2002, 2003, and 2005 she toured the U.K., where she participated in the Poetry International Festival at Royal Festival Hall in London and Soundeye International Poetry Festival in Cork.
The year 2002 saw the publication of Alison Croggon’s first fantasy novel for young adults, The Naming, which was nominated in two categories in the Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Australian Speculative Fiction in December 2002 and named one of the Notable Books of 2003 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Publication in the U.K. and the U.S. followed swiftly, with German editions published in 2007/08. The Naming was picked as one of the Top Ten Books for Teens in 2005 by Amazon.com. Alison Croggon maintains a writing blog on her website where readers can discover more about the Books of Pellinor’s creation and development.
Alison Croggon has written and had performed nine works for theater, including operas and plays, which have been produced at major international theater festivals in Australia. Many of her poems have been set to music by various composers, including Michael Smetanin, Christine McCombe, Margaret Legge-Wilkinson, and Andreé Greenwell.
She was the 2000 Australia Council writer in residence at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, U.K. She was poetry editor for Overland Extra (1992), Modern Writing (1992–1994) and Voices (1996) and is founding editor of the literary arts journal Masthead. She also has a passion for theater, and as well as running a respected theatre blog, Theatre Notes, she is the Melbourne theatre critic for the Australian, Australia’s only national daily newspaper.
I am an Aboriginal writer who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. I’ve wanted to write a novel since I was a kid. It took a lot longer to do it than I thought it would when I was six.
My mum and brothers are also writers, and they read everything I write before I send it to a publisher. Because we’re all writers and we want our work to be the best it can be, we’re really honest with one another. So sometimes I’ll give them something to read and they’ll tell me it’s rubbish. I’ll be like, “But what about this bit at the end? I thought that was good!” And they’re all, “Nope. Rubbish.” But then they'll suggest ways to improve the story, the same as I would for one of their stories, and we all write much better stories than we would if we didn’t have one another.
About My Work
The Tribe is a three book dystopian series set on a future Earth where the world was ripped apart by an environmental cataclysm known as the Reckoning. The survivors of the Reckoning live in an ecotopia where they strive to protect the Balance of the world, the inherent harmony between all life. But anyone born with an ability — Firestarters, who control fire; Rumblers, who can cause earthquakes; Boomers, who can make things explode — is viewed as a threat to the Balance. Any child or teenager found to have such a power is labeled an Illegal and locked away in detention centers by the government.
Except for the ones who run. . . .
Three Things You Didn't Know About Me
1. The name of my people — Palyku — is pronounced “Bailgu.”
2. I cannot sing. Unfortunately, this does not stop me from singing.
3. I teach law at the University of Western Australia. In addition to not being able to sing, I am not funny and never have been. This does not stop me from making jokes in lectures. Sometimes my students actually do laugh. This only encourages me.
Mal Peet (1947–2015) is the acclaimed author of the Carnegie Medal–winning novel Tamar as well as the Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book Life: An Exploded Diagram and three Paul Faustino novels: Keeper, The Penalty, and Exposure, a winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He is also the co-author of Cloud Tea Monkeys, Mysterious Traveler, and Night Sky Dragons, all of which he wrote with his wife, Elspeth Graham.
Mal Peet’s story in his own words . . .
As a child:
I grew up as a member of an emotionally impaired family on a council estate in a one-horse market town in north Norfolk. The three things that kept me sane were my bike, books, and soccer. The bike took me great distances. (Norfolk is, famously, flat, although there are hills that can sneak up on you). Books took me further away, often to islands: Treasure Island, the Coral Island, and wherever it was that the Swiss Family Robinson found themselves. I also loved comics, and originally wanted Keeper to be a graphic novel. As for soccer, by the time I was sixteen, I was playing at least three full matches a week – for my school, for my county, and for the town.
As an adult:
After university I had some lost years, like many of my peers. I tried teaching to start with. Then I quit and went on walkabout. I worked in a hospital mortuary. I worked at an abattoir; what with the heat and the carnage it was an authentic vision of Hell. I went to Devon because I liked the sound of it, and there worked on building sites. I went to Canada and worked with a road crew consisting of a variety of interesting characters, including mad Newfoundlanders and exiled Irishmen. I met a lovesick man in Ontario who wanted someone to drive with him to Vancouver, where his girlfriend was. That week-long drive across Canada was one of the best and worst things I have ever done.
As an artist:
Like many people (I suspect), I had no real interest in children’s literature until I had children of my own. It'll sound a bit evangelical, I suppose, but I truly believe that there are few things more important, useful, and protective than sharing stories with your children. After their bath, heaped into a big chair, doing the voices, discussing the pictures, softening your voice as the rhythm of their breathing deepens. . . . You start to understand why certain books work and others don't.
Table of Contents
Introduction Judith Ridge ix
Shaun Tan Asks, Why Do You Read? Shaun Tan 1
A Feverish Desire to Possess Randa Abdel-Fattah 3
Twelve Reasons Markus Zusak 11
A Short Leap Cathy Cassidy 15
"What Happens Next?" Will Kostakis 21
The Great Sense of Unease Mandy Hager 29
Hooked (and a Bit Unsettled) Shaun Tan 37
Thwack! Fiona Wood 45
Becoming Human Bernard Beckett 53
Looking Where I'm Standing Felicity Castagna 61
This World Is More Than What Can Be Seen Ambelin Kwaymullina 65
What the Doctor Recommended Queenie Chan 71
Of Magic and Memory Kate Constable 83
The Big Scooby-Doo Reveal Rachael Craw 91
Sweet Dreams and Social Fails Simmone Howell 99
Every Disgusting Detail Benjamin Law 105
Challenging the Machinations of Racism Jared Thomas 111
Invested with Enchantment Alison Croggon 119
It Looks Like a Comic Mal Peet 125
My First Reader Ursula Dubosarsky 131
In Folded Arms Cath Crowley 133
What Would Edith Do? Emily Maguire 139
Putting the World to Rights Catherine Mayo 147
Beyond the Influence Ted Dawe 155
A Sense of Resolution Simon French 161
Only White People Lived in Books Catherine Johnson 169
Set My Senses Alight Sue Lawson 175
Happy Endings Brigid Lowry 183
You'll Go Blind: A Cautionary Tale About the Power of Reading Julia Lawrinson 191
Ingenious Decisions Sue McPherson 197
James Remembering James Roy 205
Seeing Red Jaclyn Moriarty 213
About the Authors 221
About the Indigenous Literacy Foundation 231
Books Mentioned in the Collection 232
Writers Mentioned in the Collection 239
Copyright Acknowledgments 241