Geraldine McCaughrean

What books did you read when you were a child?
Horsey books. Anything with horses on the cover. Rosemary Sutcliffe’s novels set in the past became my major portal to other worlds. It’s probably why I like writing historical novels.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
Since my period as the Silver Brumby, I mostly liked anyone with a sword. But I’ll opt for Titus Groan (from Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake) escaping from the hideous nastiness of Gormenghast Castle into a bigger, brighter world of freedom.

What is the best thing about reading?
Stepping inside the tiny dimensions of a book and entering a vast world peopled with interesting characters. Some of whom will become as close as friends. Others will take you on an adventure and deliver you safe home again. Time alters, too, when you are reading a book. That’s why it’s horribly easy to miss your station if you are reading on a train.

What is your all-time favourite book?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Tell stories – anecdotes, recollections, bits of history. They will grasp the idea that events and feelings can be put into words. Theatre also ‘communicates’ on so many levels.

Audio books are even better than printed ones – there’s no need to ‘decipher’ words and they can infuse a much richer, more complex vocabulary.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My mother was a crossword fanatic, wore out dictionaries, and overflowed with mellifluous quotations. So home was awash with words. We three children were encouraged to form a ‘club’ each summer holiday and make things. One year it was poetry. Another stories. My brother got a book published at 14….

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Picture books are joyful, because they are shared at an age when children want to share. Subsequently, some simply don’t like reading – don’t see the point. Be seen reading. If you don’t, they won’t.

Never suggest books are ‘good for you’ (like greens).

In a bookshop never suggest ‘trying something more challenging’. Then reading starts to seem like a mountainside – you just think you’re getting somewhere when the going gets harder.

Geraldine McCaughrean has written more than 160 books, published in 61 countries and and her work has been translated into over 45 languages. Probably best known for her official sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet, she is also a three-time recipient of the Whitbread/Costa Children's Book Award and a Carnegie Medal winner.

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