Read Your Way Around the UK

You can blame David Almond for this. I was reading one of his rich nuanced books, that sing of love and of humanity and of life, and I thought wait a minute. Wait a minute, I thought, I wonder if these books that are so richly of his North (and not in the Game of Thrones style, of his Actual North), I wonder if there’s something in that.

I wondered if it was possible to read your way around the UK? And not just any old books. Children’s books. Anything from board book up to Young Adult. Bath books, even, whatever, as long as it had a suitably county-specific identity.

Firstly, I congratulated myself for thinking it in such a Seussical manner that I had a rhyming name for the challenge. And then I thought, wait, that’s a lot of counties.

And then I thought, well, I do enjoy a challenge…. πŸ˜‰

This, therefore, is your official announcement of the DYESTTAFTSA READ YOUR WAY AROUND THE UK Challenge! The challenge itself is split into three parts; the sourcing of the titles (which will all live hereΒ in a handy spreadsheet), the actual reading of the books, and the posting of the review. I would LOVE it if people were to join in with this so please do tweet me (@chaletfan), comment or send a carrier pigeon with your recommended books and reviews.


(Also while I have your attention, may I ask ‘what are you and yours doing November 9th 2013? David Almond aka one of the greatest writers of children’s literature of our time is speaking in Birmingham atΒ this festivalΒ and you really, really ought to be there to hear him and also spend the day wallowing in children’s books with some very like-minded folk. I am going. I am very excited about it.)

30 thoughts on “Read Your Way Around the UK

  1. Oh, how fun! Of course my UK geography is not all that great, not living there… I know cities much better than regional names…but I traveled around visiting sites I’d gotten to know from my favorite books during the couple of weeks I spent in the UK in college… we read all the Swallows and Amazons books more than once as a family, and they’re not so popular here as the UK.. Does Robin Hood count for Nottinghamshire, or is that too old-school? “The Door in the Wall” by Margeurite D’Angeli is historical, too, but must be set close to the Welsh border, as one of the characters crosses at great risk to visit his mother. I think “A String in the Harp” by Nancy Bond is also Cornwall, and “The Secret Garden” at least made the Yorkshire accent familiar for me. And I thought I remembered “The Dark is Rising” being in Kent, but there’s every possibility that I’m mistaken as it’s been a while.

      1. Thanks for the correction! I’ve been meaning to reread “A String in the Harp” – I think I’m working from reading in 20+ years ago. (And squee! Happy to see you here – I just reviewed one of your books last week & loved it.)

  2. Philippa Pearce for Cambridgeshire! I’ve not yet read all of her books, but I think most are set here. We can claim Lucy M. Boston too.

    (PS: A String in the Harp is actually set in Wales. Excellent book, though!)

    Enjoy David Almond! He came here last spring and his talk made me tear up, it was so good.

  3. Gaffer Samson’s Luck by Jill Paton Walsh is great for the Fens, really evocative – not sure which county, Cambridgeshire? Is the Children of Green Knowe the Fens too? There’s definitely a flood.

    The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp is Exeter – not named, but clearly recognisable.

    I’m a huge Antonia Forest fan – her “holiday” books are Dorset.

  4. This is horribly nepotistic of me to say, but –

    A Most Improper Magick (by me) is set in West Yorkshire, A Tangle of Magicks is set in Somerset (Bath), and A Reckless Magick is set in Devon.

  5. Berlie Doherty’s Deep Secret for Derbyshire: the location is absolutely crucial to the story.
    Hope it’s OK to mention my book, The Bone Dragon, for the Cambridgeshire fens – they play a really big role in the story.
    Tim Bowler’s Midget for the Essex coastline.
    Susan Cooper’s Grey King is brilliant for Gwynedd.
    Swallows and Amazons for the Lake District.

  6. How about The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders? It is set in , around (and under) London and features a fantastic talking cat called Demerera.

  7. If you’re organising it by county then you might ind this useful – it is a search able gazetteer containing every settlement in the UK and giving its historic county and further developments. I guess historic counties might be most useful for you (taking the long view of children’s book history).

    My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is largely set in the Lake District which will probably be a popular setting! Malcolme Saville’s Lone Pine series is of course largely in Shropshire, but Rye Royal is in Rye in Sussex. It is places like Bedfordshire you’ll struggle with!

  8. Just had a look at the list – which is great – but your counties are all over the place! I’d put Cumberland and Westmorland together and get rid of Cumbria (a post 1974 creation Arthur Ransome wouldn’t recognise!) And you don’t want Hereford and Worcester as well as Herefordshire, and most of Humberside is really Yorkshire and it was disbanded in 1996 after only 30 odd years. Counties are a minefield if you son’t stick to the old ones.

    If you’d like me to email you a list of the historic counties I can – just email me so i’ve got your address.

    I do think this is lovely idea though, and one I’ve not seen done with children’s books before.

    1. Ah thank you for this! I’m aware my counties do need a bit of wrangling into control and I will be looking at them this week and doing a bit of amalgamation/splitting/renaming. I really appreciate the link as well. Thank you! And I’ll let you know if I need the list off you πŸ™‚

  9. Wonderful idea. I’ve done this before but not for children’s books, and not in such an organised way! Grown-up books are easy if you think of all the crime-y ones set in distinct cities or landscapes. Most of my immediate ideas for children’s books have already been suggested, but what about Helen Dunmore’s Ingo books for quintessential Cornwall? Now I’ll slink off to the spreadsheet and see that it’s probably already there…

  10. What a lovely project! Joan Lingard’s Across the Barricades series is set in Belfast, and The Katie Morag books by Mairi Hedderwick are on the (fictional) Isle of Struay which is a thinly disguised Coll in the Inner Hebrides. Exodus by Julie Hearn begins in a drowned future Glasgow.
    Waterslain Angels by Kevin Crossley-Holland is Norfolk, as is Life: an Unexploded Diagram by Mal Peet.

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