World Book Day…. UK version

Today’s World Book Day.  I couldn’t understand why there seemed to be no sight of it here in France.  It turns out we Brits are out of step.  Celebrations in the UK are over a month ahead of everyone else’s.  April 23rd may be World Book day for everyone else, but it’s also Saint George’s day, and he’s England’s patron saint.  Apparently he does dragons, not books.

It was the Spanish who first decided to celebrate books and reading on April 23rd, as a way of honouring Miguel de Cervantes, who died on that day.  UNESCO made the connection that Shakespeare, as well as other writers, died or were born on the same day as Cervantes, and a world-wide festival was born.

Children have the most fun on World Book Day, whenever it’s held. Here are my grandchildren off to school this morning.  They had to turn up as a character in a book….. so please meet Harry Potter, and Mr. Willy Wonka.

Ben and Alex in character for the day
Ben and Alex in character for the day

Books are often centre-stage in school all day and there are free books to be had for most lucky children

So many of my best memories of the children’s childhood centre round the books they enjoyed.  That first winter of my daughter Elinor’s life was one of those once-in-a decade toughies.  We were marooned in our house up an icy and snow-covered steep slope on one of Sheffield’s seven hills (‘just like Rome’). It was unthinkable to set foot outside with an unwieldy pram and a tottering toddler. But unable to do the daily round, or see friends, my then two year old son Thomas, my new baby and I simply cuddled up on the sofa. I read with him, and breast fed my daughter for hours at a time. I’d never have chosen such a harsh winter with all its limitations, but it remains one of the golden periods of my life.

Then, as now, the books we favoured had the rhythms and cadences, the witty and lively illustrations of authors like Quentin Blake.

Blake’s Mr Magnolia remained a family friend from the day his story was published in 1980 through the pre-school years of all three of my children.  Any of us will recite his story to you at the least provocation.

Meet Mr. Magnolia.  See?  He has only one boot.
Meet Mr. Magnolia. See? He has only one boot.

‘Mr. Magnolia has only one boot.

He has an old trumpet that goes rooty-toot

And two lovely sisters who play on the flute,

But Mr. Magnolia has only one boot.

In his pond live a frog and a toad and a newt……’

Young children now are privileged to have world-class illustrators and fine writers available to them for the price of a paperback, or the use of a library ticket.  I’ve just had a high old time remembering old favourites loved by the whole family– Shirley Hughes’ Alfie, Rosemary Wells’ Noisy Norah, Nita Sowter’s Maisie Middleton, Roald Dahl’s heroes (Charlie of Chocolate factory fame) and anti-heroes (The Enormous Crocodile and of course the Twits).  Make friends with any of these characters by the time you’re three years old, and with any luck, you’re hooked on reading for life.  That’s what World Book Day’s for.

Alfie, his friend Bernard and a good book
Alfie, his friend Bernard and a good book

20 thoughts on “World Book Day…. UK version”

  1. ……ahhhhhhhhhh yesssss, remember those cold Swiss-winter-days…reading (my favourite books = fairy tales; tears running down my cheeks about those poor little girls, misstreated by their stepmothers…) – cuddled up in a woolen blanket, knittet by my favourite granny………..thanks Margaret, bringing back those memories – AnnA


  2. Love the picture of Ben and Alex.
    It’s National Pie week over here this week. Bet you don’t have that in France!!Cheese, onion and potato for us tonight. Books and pies – two good things to cheer up a wet, grey and miserable March.


    1. National Pie Week eh? Well, no, not here. But we ARE having French friends round today and giving them….. bangers and mash. A fine purveyor of hand-made British sausages exists in the area, and we’ve selected the best he does to share with our friends.


  3. I’d never have thought to compare Sheffield to Rome, but then I’ve never been to Sheffield! Don’t forget The Jolly Postman, Burglar Bill and Hairy McClairy. My children missed the Gruffalo but my grand children love it.


    1. It was just a Sheffield joke that, like Rome, it was built on 7 hills. I’d never forget Burglar Bill et al, and all the Ahlberg books. Or The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch. Or Maisie Middleton. Or Mog (Mog the cat AND Mog the witch). Ah, memories, memories……..


  4. Our school missed the WBD boat this week and there was no dressing up to be had. Books are integral to our lives in this house. In fact, I fear that one day I might meet my end when the shelves finally heave under the weight.


    1. No dressing up? Shame on them! Well, if the house collapses, you can always use the books as walls and ceilings. We find bookshelves hide a multitude of sins against grotty walls 😉


  5. Is Malcolm quite allright now? I hope so. I agree with World Book Day -what I prefer are short stories (fantasy science fiction fairy tales …). It would be fun(ny) to turn up as a character in a book.
    But I also agree with National Pie Week! I like cheese onions potatoes and sausages (you say bangers) more than cakes! Let us have a great time (Régalons-nous!) in reading or eating!


  6. We did not have book days growing up like that – although that would have been so much fun! We had Scholastic book fairs and to this day I can still smell the new books as they lined the tables. The first book I ever bought was 101 Dalmatians and I was hooked since! A few times I got to help out at the fair and I was in book heaven. I hope everything is going well with you and your hubby… Blessings!


    1. They used to do book fairs at my childrens’ primary schools too. Fun. And 101 Dalmations was an early favourite of mine as well. Yes,things are going quite well thank you and I hope your health is on the way up too.


      1. I am glad that you are all doing well, and yes, thank you I am on the mend. Sunny and warming up here in the grand ole USA – sunshine is indeed the best medicine.


  7. I’m an only child and books were my constant companions, I wouldn’t leave home without one. When I go on holiday I have to take at least half a dozen and I’m afraid they have to be the paper ones, I don’t think I’m a Kindle kind of gal.


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