Are you a young reader? Looking for a new series to delve into? Feeling uninspired by your bookshelves at home? Do you need a prescription for an exciting new read? Then pop along to the Book Clinic!
This year DBF are joined by Children’s Books Ireland’s Book Clinic team. Children and parents can drop in for a consultation with the Book Doctor, who knows everything there is to know about books! The book doctor will ask questions about books the child has previously enjoyed, as well as their favourite tv shows, video games, activities. Then the Book Doctor can write a book prescription – a personalised list of books, tailored for each individual patient!
We are joined by Book Doctor Becky Long. When Becky isn’t reading and writing about childrens’ books. she’s talking about them, on her radio show for RTE junior, The Word.
Q. What first got you involved in the Book Clinic programme? Have you always dreamed of being a Book Doctor?
When I started my Masters in Children’s Literature in Trinity College in 2011, I started to hear more and more about the amazing work of Children’s Books Ireland, and I knew I had to get involved in some way. I was incredibly lucky as a child in that my mother always made sure that I had access to books, and that I knew that this was my right as a child. It makes sense to me that I should try and pass some of that luck on to children now, to help them find the books that are right for them, and that they deserve. In a way, I guess I have always dreamed of being a Book Doctor, even if I didn’t know it was an actual job until CBI came along!
Q. If a character from a book were able to visit you for the day, who would it be, and what would you do together?
My mother named me after the lead character in Kate Douglas Wiggin’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – and little did she know how like Rebecca Rowena Randall I’d grow up to be! I’m clumsy just like her, I have curly hair just like her, and I’m a complete daydreamer just like her! Imagine my surprise when I read the book when I was twelve – here was a girl just like me, and the book was written in 1903! I’d love to have a visit from Rebecca. I’d take her to the library in Trinity College which I know she’d love, and then I’d take her to the forest in Curracloe in Co. Wexford where I’m from, and we could wander its paths to our hearts’ content. We’re so much alike that I know with absolute certainty that that would be her idea of a perfect day!
Q. What was your favourite children’s book growing up?
I had so many favourite books when I was growing up. When I was younger, these were the books my mother read to me – Beatrix Potter’s Tales, Mr Galliano’s Circus by Enid Blyton, the list is endless! And looking back, it seems like there must have been a new book every night. It was a wonderful way to grow up. But of course, there’s one book that stands out in my memory, read so often that some of the pages have come loose now – even though I was a careful reader and treated my books with the utmost respect! That’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and to this day, that book still holds the essence of magic for me. And what is reading, if not a strange kind of magic? That we can speak the words on a page to ourselves in our heads and create an entire world in our imaginations? Magic.
Q. What have you read lately that has inspired you?
I’ve literally just finished a book called Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young, it’s just come out. It’s a small story – a young girl is moving through her last year of elementary or primary school, knowing that she’s facing an entirely different experience when she moves to middle school. But everything in Tink’s life is changing – and I do mean everything. Her looks, how she feels about herself, what she believes about the world, her faith in and her love for her friends. She’s growing up. And that’s an incredibly complicated thing to have to do. A book like this is about as inspirational as its possible to be because its author is doing something wonderful; creating a character that her readers can not only relate to and recognise, but understand and empathize with. Someone they can learn with, even as they make their own mistakes and earn their own victories. That’s the power of children’s books – to help readers realise that they are not alone, not for one single second. That we may be apart but we are never separate, and that we may be different but we’re also the same. Inspiring stuff indeed!