“It is a truth universally acknowledged that every rainy day requires a very good book”

I wish I wrote this sitting in the kitchen sink but I don’t, I write it upstairs and I write it staring out onto a grey and rain spotted day. The sky’s a smudge of sadness and the roofs are slat-dark with the rain that’s pounded on them since first thing this morning.

So what do we do on such days? We read. Books are made for rainy days; for days where the only thing that matters in the world is you and a blanket and a sofa and time, time, time to wallow and read and to lose yourself.

Here’s five of my favourite recommendations for such days.

1. Roland Barthes – “A Lover’s Discourse”

A dipping book this, one to pond-skim and then to dive in wholly and hold your breath until the text releases you. This is a book that reminds you of the quality and power that language can yield. It is a book of constant inspiration for me; a book for breathing, in and out, and realising just what words can do.

2. Frances Hodgson Burnett – “A Little Princess”

There is a part of me that could populate this list with just repeated references to this book. Rainy day reads are reads that should transport you, that should take you to other worlds and times and places, and do so quite ferociously and fiercely and vividly. The tale of Sara Crewe and her attic is that book.

3. Dodie Smith – “I Capture The Castle”

Grace, bold and lovely and heartfelt and awful, this book is full of grace and of heart and of romance and of love. Read it slowly, read it richly, read it slowly and selfishly and when you’ve finished reading it, read it again and remember how perfect a book can be.

4. Michelle Magorian – “A Little Love Song”

To talk of Michelle Magorian and her work, is to talk of a writer who is simply very very good. A Little Love Song is lesser known, I think, than ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ but it is, I think, better. Can books be better when they are all so good? I think so, yes, I think Rose and her seaside coming of age story is one of the most perfect books to ever dawn the world of children’s literature.

5. Susie Day – “Pea’s Book of Holidays”

A classic in the waiting, this series ; all of them are written so beautifully that I fall in love with them afresh each time I read. Day’s books and this one in particular sing of life and of warmth and of love and of people. What better to read on a rainy day than this book of sunshine and of humour and of Enid Blyton and of adventures and wish fulfillment in every sentence? These books are a constant, constant joy and ‘Pea’s Book of Holidays’ is a book that I am feverish with love for.

Everybody sometimes a Yoda needs

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Everybody a little life in their Yoda needs hmmmmm? As part of the thought process began here, I wanted to briefly explain who my inspirations were in relation to my writing / blogging about children’s literature, language and literacy and hopefully (she says, sliding back into art-school vocabulary) contextualise my critical practice.

Maria Nikolajeva 

If you read one book about critical theory, make sure you read Nikolajeva’s “The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Literature“. It is genuinely a game-changer. She discusses how everything from speech tags through to names combine to create character – and it’s all done in a madly readable and fascinating style.

Roland Barthes

I first came across Barthes at university and I’ve remained in love with him ever since and it’s all primarily because of one quote: “Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.” (A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1979)) Oh. My. God. He gets it. He gets the raw physicality of language and the blunt, near-primal sexuality of discourse. He gets it so right.

KM Peyton

Because, I think, nobody quite writes love like KM Peyton does.

“’What will the Prof say?’ [Pennington] whispered, smiling, moving his face against hers.
‘He’ll say I’m bad for you.’ [said Ruth]
‘Good for me. I need you.’
‘I love you’
‘Yes.’ Pennington’s Heir (1973:12) 

Barbara Kruger

Everybody needs a piece of art that they can just – just breathe. This is mine. Always.


So who’s your Yoda? I’d love to hear them! 🙂