Today it’s my turn to tell people all about the rather wonderful ‘Granny Magic’ and share a special post by author, Elka Evalds, about some of the wonderful books she loved in her childhood.
When Will’s granny passes away, he and his mum make a start on clearing her house – which is absolutely stuffed to the rafters with her weird and wonderful knitting projects! Odd mittens, colourful kittens and woolly toys cover every surface. Will’s never before had the desire to wear one of Granny’s knitted creations but when his mum asks if he’d like something to remember her by, a stripy jumper catches his eye. When he tries it on, it feels like it was made for him!
It would seem that Will’s not the only person who treasures Granny’s knitting. The family are soon visited by a group of old ladies claiming to be part of Granny’s knitting group. They’re also paid a visit from the slightly suspicious-looking Mr Fitchet who seems very keen to get hold of anything made by Will’s gran.
A mass midnight mitten robbery by Mr Fitchet’s pet ferrets draws Will into a knotty magical mystery involving an old motorbike, a flock of magical sheep and a determined Gang of Grannies!
Oooh! I loved this book! Granny’s colourful knitting brought back so many happy childhood memories of hand-knitted jumpers and cosy crocheted jumpers. Unfortunately, none of mine were made with the wool of magical sheep (so far as I knew!)
Mr Fitchet and his ferrets added just the right level of menace to this absolutely enchanting magical adventure with family at its heart. You’ll have to read the book to see if he gets his comeuppance! A great read for anyone aged 7+
Now it’s time to hear from Elka about some of the books she loved as a child. I wonder if you’ll spot any of your favourites?
‘Children’s books I’ve loved’ by Elka Evalds
I was really lucky with books as a child. My mum’s mum (Grandma-in-Connecticut) was an English teacher, and she made sure we had wonderful things to read. She was especially good at finding books in charity shops, and at the famous Bryn Mawr Book Sale. I began teaching courses on the history of children’s book illustration in 2014, and I realised anew how fortunate we’d been. I kept coming across books in the historical surveys—George Macdonald, Christina Rosetti, The Rose and the Ring—you name it—and remembering that I had read them, and might even have copies on my shelf, with the telltale 25 cents marked in pencil on the inside cover. Grandma-in-Connecticut really knew her onions.
My mum read aloud to us nearly every evening. This was long before Harry Potter, but we had Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Swallows and Amazons, and E. Nesbit. Mum was a librarian, so we visited libraries regularly, too. My big sister found The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper in the school library and was so excited, she insisted I stop what I was doing then and there so she could read it aloud to me. It was my absolute favourite for years. She also found us a book by Sally Watson about a girl who becomes a pirate, called Jade. She was my heroine when I needed courage. I can still picture the library shelf where the book lived, we checked it out so often.
I dearly loved From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koninsberg, which may be responsible for my adolescent habit of skiving off school to visit art museums; and The Court of Stone Children, which is about a museum ghost. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett was another favourite. A great book for anyone who is bullied, it’s like a handbook on how to maintain your self-respect in the face of cruelty, and stick to your standards when surrounded by injustice.I also loved the idea of having a secret magical world alongside the real one, which sustains you. The Kitchen Madonna and The Fairy Doll by Rumer Godden are also about finding magic in the everyday, and about having faith and persistence. I loved them, and all of Godden’s doll books. Finally, I must mention Luvy and the Girls, which began my long fascination with school and college books from early twentieth century. My family did not share this interest!
As an adult I continued to visit children’s libraries, and even worked in one for a summer. Here I found The Magic Summer by Noel Streatfield; The Revenge of Samuel Stokes by Penelope Lively (which is in my top three list); and The Ash King And The Oak Queen by Ann Phillips (for fans of The Dark is Rising), among others.
Meanwhile, there has been so much amazing children’s literature written since the millennium, it’s overwhelming! I am currently in awe of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Cathrynne Valente; Cuckoo Song by Francis Hardinge; The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness; The Ocean At The End Of the Lane by Neil Gaimon; Lobby Linda Newberry; and The Door That Led To Where by Sally Gardiner, to name just a few. One of the many joys of becoming a children’s writer is that I now have an excuse for reading as many children’s books as I like. It’s research. I have to keep up, after all.
Some real classics there! Thank you, Elka, for sharing that lovely piece with us.
GRANNY MAGIC by Elk Evalds is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)