In my family, summer holiday time has always meant reading time. As a child, I had no idea how much my summertime reading was teaching me about life, I simply plunged in and enjoyed myself. This summer, a neighbour has asked me for summer reading recommendations for her youngsters. These were my suggestions:

For Jack (aged 10)
The Barefoot Book of Knights for the way in which it introduces boys to the principles of chivalry, and for the way it shows how the skills that are needed on the battlefield are also skills that are relevant in other arenas of life. All of us find ourselves needing ‘warrior energy’ in both family and professional situations – young readers who follow the adventures of the knights in this book will, I think, get a head start.

For Elise (aged 6)
The Barefoot Book of Princesses
I love it when mothers tell me which stories their daughters have most enjoyed in this collection. Interestingly, it is the Akamba story which sparks the most interest – in this tale, a rather vain princess loses all of her hair when she breaks a promise she has made to a bird. This is quite a powerful way of stressing the importance of keeping your word! I’m happy to say that once she has realised that her behaviour was unacceptable, the princess enjoys a new head of hair. I also admire the  princess in the Chinese story, in particular the moment when she asserts herself to her partner with the line, ‘My heart is not a doormat’. Hear, hear!

For Euan (baby)
Clare Beaton created Baby’s First Book as a gift for new borns and their families. I  have seen lots of small babies enjoying the different catalogues of clothes, food, animals, boats and everyday items that adorn this book; I have also noticed in my wanderings around the Oxford studio how much pleasure it gives older siblings, parents and grandparents as well. There is something very scrumptious about the ‘thinginess’ of this book.

My own holiday reading list this year is, as usual, out of control. I am juggling Love and Will (Rollo May) with Angels and Harvesters (James Harpur), Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimananda Nzogi Adichie) and The Queen’s Sorrow (Suzannah Dunne). I also plan to edit my disintegrating recipe book, started when I was fourteen years old and now bursting at every seam, and transpose the best recipes into a new and orderly volume. So much to do, so little time…

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