I had a very lucky childhood, with not just a houseful of several generations’ worth of favourite children’s books, but a resident storyteller who could while away any long hour with the best possible distraction!
I was lucky enough as Joan Aiken’s daughter to have an endless supply of stories to listen to, as she would tell them to us whenever we asked – on rainy days, long walks home, or train journeys to visit relations – all the stories she was writing in her head, or had told to her younger brother years ago, stories from all the books she read as a child, all those favourite stories that she knew almost by heart – these were what she passed on to me.
And then there were the books! Precious old ones, and all the new ones she discovered from the wonderfully lively time when she was starting out as a published writer herself and meeting other budding authors at Puffin Book Festivals and writers’ gatherings like the ones which now take place all over the world. My world was awash with books.
Now, looking after her legacy, I am more aware that this kind of childhood was fairly unusual – especially when I get letters like: “Letter for help from Aiken lover in Beijing China” – now I begin to realise how incredibly lucky I was.
This writer asked if I could find a long lost piece, a letter Joan had once written, saying:
“When I was a kid, I have read the Chinese version of Joan’s dedication written for the International Children’s Book Day in 1974. That article triggered my love of books and I want to read the original English version of it?”
Joan’s letter was very inspiring, you can read it too, her wish for the world was that everyone could have just one book:
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Joan Aiken’s Letter for World Book Day