Springingtiger's Blog


World Book Day
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Room On The Broom meets The Hunger Games

This morning I stood for a while and watched the children going into the Primary School. I saw Cruella DeVille, Mary Poppins, at least two Spidermans (no it shouldn’t be Spidermen) and the Cat In The Hat, I think it was the Cat In The Hat. Today is World Book Day and children all over the country, perhaps the world were expressing their connection with their favourite books by dressinf as their favourite characters. It excites me to see children with a love of books because reading is the doorway to imagination and creativity. Reading opens a whole universe of wonders to a child and takes them beyond their mean surroundings ito a world where anything is possible.

For me as a child books were like a lifebelt that saved me from drowning in a sea of troubles, emotions, conventions and unwritten rules I could not read. I was the little boy who hid from the world in the pages of a book. I was the kid who during birthday parties crept into a corner with a book and let the chaos around him fade away. Okay, I was slightly unusual being on the autism spectrum, but the magic of books is for everyone. Books were not only my escape, they also told me that another, better world was possible. Books eased my pain and gave me hope. Just before I sat down to write I went to my shelves and ran my hands over the classics my Grandmother gave me over half a century ago, not just a gift of books, but rather a gift of magic that continues to nourish me today. It is hard to put into words the joy every birthday of receiving a beautifully bound book published by Thomas Nelson or by Collins or the happiness they recall for me on days like today.

My favourite novel, I suspect, will always be ‘The Three Musketeers’. I have read it so many times and seen probably every film version made in English. I must admit I was not very keen on the one where the musketeers wore leather and fought battles between airships, but I am delighted that the book I love still inspires the vision of movie makers. Perhaps at one time people thought that film and television might replace books, however behind most great films and stage shows is a book. Sometimes the books intrude into the films as in ‘The Princess Bride’ or the ‘Neverending Story’. How many films have begun with the classic Hollywood opening showing a book which then gives way to the film? As I walked into this writing room I passed a shelf of Maurice Walsh novels which I micht never have read were it not for John Wayne in John Ford’s film of ‘The Quiet Man’ ( a story from ‘Green Rushes’). I enjoy the symbiotic relationship between books and films and how the enjoyment of one so often leads to the other.

The magic of story telling got me and many others into reading, but reading doesn’t end with stories, As soon as the ability to read is gained so is access to all the knowledge and ideas of the world. I have in front of me one of several translations I own of the ‘ Śiva Sutras of Vasugupta. Itend to have several versions of the books and films that capture my imagination, I gather it’s an Aspergers thing. I am surrounded by shelves of philosophy, theology, psychology, politics, economics, management, NLP (I am a master Practitioner), mythology, history, physiology, gardening, massage (I am a trained Massage Therapist), maps and guidebooks and so much more, so many ideas, so many theories, so much inspiration.

I was moved a couple of days ago by the film ‘He Called Me Malala’ which the National Geographic showed on a worldwide simulcast. As I expect everyone knows it is a documentary about the life so far of Malala Yousafzai. Her belief in the importance of education and the right of every child including girls to be educated caused her to speak out against the Pakistani Taliban and they attempted to murder her for it. She was shot in the head, but her life was saved and she has continued to speak out for the right to education, but no longer merely in Pakistan she has carried her message worldwide and her work has been recognised with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. I mention her because when her father, a teacher, gave her her name he was inspired by the story of the Afghan woman Malala of Maiwand. When the Afghan army was losing heart in the battle of Malwand during the Second Afghan War, the young woman Malala rallied the troops and carried the Afghan flag into the battle. The British killed her but the troops she had rallied won the day for Ayub Khan. There is an incredible power in storytelling, the sacrifice of a young Pathan woman for her people carries through into the story of another young Pathan woman courageous enough to giver her life for her beliefs. It is not the texts of religions that inspire devotion, but the stories of the saints. Political ideas may be important, but they don’t carry the power to inspire people to action that the life stories of people like James Connolly, William Wallace or Horatio Nelson do. As a child I loved the little Ladybird books that told of people in history, my favourite was Nelson which I read over and over again, but there were many and many children were inspired by them.

The other day I read a rough draft of a novel by my friend Cerys Evans. It was a gripping story about the power of storytelling. I love that far from being a dying art form new generations of storytellers are coming forward to inspire new generations, just as JK Rowling and others like Philip Pullman did the generation who came after Roald Dahl, who came after Blyton, who came after AE Milne and Kipling and so on back to the first scribes who decided to capture the legends of their people. Today was World Book Day, from the earliest times to now children have been inspired by stories and storytellers. As long as the stories live so do we all, may every child in the world discover the joy of books.

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