Elen Caldecott

Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: I loved Enid Blyton and would re-read Malory Towers compulsively. Also Roald Dahl was (is) amazing.

Q: If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A: I always had a soft spot for the inhabitants of Wonderland. I don’t think I’d be Alice, as she’s a bit bossy. Maybe the March Hare, or the Dormouse. I’d like to sleep in a teapot.

Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: Losing yourself completely. When I read the world around me disappears and I’m inside the story. It really feels like magic.

Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: Can I have two? I love Holes by Louis Sachar. It’s a perfectly crafted book, so simple, yet clever. I also admire One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson. It is practically perfect.

Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A: I don’t know, really. I really admire how patient by brother-in-law is with his toddler. He answers a lot of the ‘why?’ questions with perfect equanimity. As a result, my nephew feels comfortable chatting with most adults he meets.

Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: Not a huge part, really. I did have a great teacher who gave me lots of encouragement. That was in Year 5 or 6. Her praise meant an awful lot. But in my teenage and early adult years, I wrote in secret. I was loathe to share my work with anyone. It was only in my late twenties that I had the confidence to write for an audience wider than just me.

Q: How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A: I don’t have any! But lots of my friends are having babies at the moment. My staple new arrival gift is The Baby Catalogue by Allan and Janet Ahlberg. It’s a really subtle, charming book that entertains adults and babies. My friends tell me that they are amazed at how early in their lives babies enjoy books. I think there’s something about the shared experience of enjoying a book that both parents and babies respond to.

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