If you were staying with me and wanted a mug or plate, you would probably start by looking in the kitchen. You would be disappointed. All my kitchen cupboards are full of kids’ books.
And I mean full.
Sometimes when I open one, I get an avalanche of paperbacks. The books come thundering out, falling into my arms and sink and all over the floor. I’ve only got a small amount of crockery and tend to stack it on the microwave, where it is regularly smashed by falling books.
The discovery of books instead of plates would surprise you for two reasons.
Firstly, very few people keep books in the kitchen (apart from maybe recipe books). Secondly, the rest of my flat is so full of children’s books that you’d be surprised to find extra ones in even the most typical of places.
As you can tell, I love children’s books (I even publish them). I stopped reading them when I left high school, but in my early twenties, I picked up a Harry Potter to see what the fuss was about. I couldn’t believe how good it was. Nor could I believe that I’d been missing out. All those wasted years, reading proper books!
I began to re-read my old collection, and discovered that some had aged poorly. Others were even more charming to read as a grown-up. The Little Prince. The Little Vampire. Beaver Towers. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Once I’d exhausted my childhood library, I went to Waterstones. I couldn’t believe how many brilliant books had passed me by. Now my kitchen is full of the things. Try making soup in it. It’s not easy (I suppose “too many books spoil the broth” – ha ha ha).
Being an adult, I suppose I should talk a bit about why I love them so much.
I love children’s books partly because reading them, like any kind of escapism, is such a simple pleasure. It is totally unpretentious.
Compare and contrast with (purely for the sake of example) wine-tasting.
Now don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of people who love wine for real. But for others, wine-tasting is a more mixed kind of pleasure. Only part of the joy comes from the wine. They like to feel superior and sophisticated. They enjoy being wine-tasters, I think, more than they enjoy the taste of wine.
The same is true of pleasures like literature, haute cuisine, foreign film, fashion. For every person who enjoys them sincerely – and plenty do – you can probably find a half-dozen pseuds.
And I can’t help feeling that even in the most sincere cases, a small amount of the pleasure – maybe dwindling into fractions of a percent – is about being a certain kind of someone, rather than doing a certain kind of something.
Not all pleasures are this complex. The dreamy escapist joy of children’s fiction – like laughter and chocolate and good home cooking – is something you enjoy for its own sake. We read the books now as we read them then: engrossed in the experience, without any delusions of grandeur. I enjoy children’s books in the same simple way I enjoy burgers and beans or a hot bath. It is very straightforward and joyful.
Anyway. That’s all for today’s blog post. Hope you’re enjoying the year so far!