I’ve always loved the expression “voracious reader.” It smacks of self-containment and solitude, traits in which I have become far too practised over the years. Because for me, being able to read isn’t just about improving one’s chances in the great sausage factory of life. It’s about escape. And whilst I was horrified to learn that Australian children rank 27th out of 48 countries in reading ability, it’s not just the practical aspects of how crippling functional illiteracy can be which sadden me.
As a shy child, I would re-read my favourite books in order to alleviate the anxiety which intensified with each lost hour of the school holidays, the start date of the new academic year filling me with dread. Eeyore’s dry wit, Toad’s showy pomposity, the insanity of the Mad Hatter; they all conspired to transport me to a world where limitations are determined solely by the richness of one’s own imagination. Books do this in a way that film and computer games simply fail to. And if children can’t escape from a world in which information overload and scholastic expectations enduce a feeling of little or no control, it’s hardly surprising that anxiety levels in young people continue to rise.
Now that I have a child of my own, I’m hoping I can teach him how invaluable it is to be able to switch off those external pressures with the turn of a page. At the moment he’s at picture book stage, his current favourite being “The Hungry Caterpillar.” Which happens to be my favourite too; because what’s not to love about vicarious gluttony? But I’m already looking around for chapter books with which to fire his imagination further when the next stage comes.
Which is why I’m delighted to be able to share with you a little gem I was asked to review. “A Frightful Recipe” is the first in The Chatswood Spooks series, written by Notti Thistledore and illustrated by Nela Krzewniak. It tells the tale of three ghosts who risk being demoted by their boss for not being scary enough. When Ivan the Fearless comes to stay, they each do their utmost to frighten him. I won’t spoil the ending but suffice to say, their ingenuity comes into its own in the form of a rather surprising solution.
The characters have engaging personalities and there’s a gentle humour which adults reading aloud will also appreciate. You have two options to choose from; a large print paperback retailing at $4.99 or a Kindle download at $1.99, both available on Amazon.
And if you’re wondering what’s on my bedside table for tonight’s escape, I can tell you it’s “The Little Prince,” a magical tale with a beautiful message.
If only I had found it sooner.