Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

What books did you read when you were a child?
Nick: I recently found a ‘book review’ notebook I did when I was about 9 years old (I was a cool kid!), which included Elidor by Alan Garner (9/10 – ‘mysterious, brilliant’), William The Bold by Richmal Crompton (5/10 - ‘drags on too much’), and Murder At The Vicarage by Agatha Christie (10/10 - ‘The best author I’ve come across’.)

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
Nick: Biggles, W. E. Johns’ famous pilot character, because I’d love to not be scared of flying.
Mark: Danny in Danny the Champion of the World. I loved the idea of living in that old caravan when I was young.

What is the best thing about reading?
Nick: Going on epic quests and perilous adventures without actually being in danger. I’m a total coward and don’t enjoy travelling!
Mark: Your imagination can help conjure up more spectacular things than Hollywood ever could.

What is your all time favourite book?
Nick: It’s a tie between The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C Clarke. I guess I like space.
Mark: Tough one… but Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books are pretty special.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Nick: Show an interest in whatever they’re interested in (even if it’s football and you have no interest in football!) because we all like to talk about stuff that excites us, don’t we? I still talk to my dad about birdwatching and I have no idea if he’s genuinely interested or not!

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
Nick: A huge part. Our house was full of books. I’m currently trying to rebuild my dad’s lost collection of vintage sci-fi paperbacks because I have such strong memories of marvelling at the covers. My parents helped me type up my first play when I was at school. And they never told me it wasn’t a good idea to pursue writing as a career (even if that’s what they were thinking)! Our second book Defender of the Realm: Dark Age is dedicated to our parents for that reason.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Nick: We visit the library and the local bookshops all the time. I read aloud to my boys every night. Best ever experience was the Mr Gum books – all of us in tears of laughter. Currently it’s The Hobbit, which I’ve somehow never read – it’s amazing!

Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler are an Emmy-winning and BAFTA-nominated writing partnership. They have scripted hundreds of episodes of popular TV shows such as Dangermouse, Thunderbirds Are Go!, Peter Rabbit and Shaun the Sheep. Their latest book, Defender of the Realm: Dark Age is published by Scholastic and is out now.

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