6. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Books were her home when she was somewhere strange - familiar voices, friends that never quarrelled with her, clever, powerful friends, daring and knowledgeable, tried and tested adventurers who had travelled far and wide.
Of all the books I probably wouldn't have read if I hadn't been a children's librarian, Inkheart
has to be pretty high up on the list of my favourites. It's not only a gloriously old-fashioned, complex and engaging children's fantasy (in the best possible way, and beautifully written - or, very well translated, since I'm unable to read German), it's an exercise in pure bibliophilia. Inkheart
is about book-loving Meggie, her book-binder (or book doctor) father, Mo, her great Aunt Elinor (a book collector who verges on bibliomania), an author and a number of escaped book characters. It's a genuine fantasy novel, but the only magic in it is the power of books and words, of printed paper pages, and reading, and writing - and reading aloud. And about the power, danger and addictiveness of stories and the imagination, of the contrast between fantasy and reality. It's also about the way that stories and characters have a life of their own that can't truly be owned by anybody, even their creators.
The hardback copy I first read (published by Chicken House) was lovely
- covers, paper quality, typesetting, everything. A lot of thought went into having not just the cover art (which is nice, but not the thing here) but the whole feel
of the book match the theme of it, of getting completely lost in a story. (Actually, I'm thinking now, given how much of it is also about loving the sheer physicality of books - the covers, the paper, their presence
in the house, under the pillow, everywhere - it's a little ironic to think how many people are going to read an e-book version of this. That's not a criticism... just a passing thought.)
My only regret is that I couldn't have read it when I was 10 or 12 or so. On the other hand, whether I'd have ever been able to emerge again is a good question, so perhaps it's as well. It is, however, very much one of those books that is a worthwhile read at any age. (Stories have their own shape, and sometimes that shape is a children's novel. That doesn't automatically make it not worth reading by adults.)( Books are like flypapers )Credits: textures by tiger_tyger