On being a literary detective

So I’ve been a bit lazy in writing to you recently, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been lazy in reading. I have a few lovely books to catch you up on, and I should probably start with the one I read after my last post on the Jungle Book, but I’m far to excited about the book I’m currently reading, so I’m going to tell you about that one. Naughty, I know. Especially since it isn’t even on the 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up list – but it is tied to it, I promise.

knights-castleOne of my favourite children’s authors is Edward Eager, who has written some absolutely wonderful stories full of magic, charm, and lots of literary references. The children’s in his books are always big readers, and will tie their magical situation in with a book that they have read. Mr Eager particularly admired E. Nesbit, and made sure all his characters were equally as fond of her. His obvious love of her is one of reasons I picked up her books in the first place – and I am so glad I did. I’ve read the Railway Children and the Story of the Treasure Seekers so far, which are both on the list, as well as picking up some delightful old editions of her work from a local second-hand bookstore.

In one of Edward Eager’s books, Knight’s Castle, one of the characters likens the magical trouble they are wrapped up in to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I had never heard of this book before, and was immediately intrigued by the title. I first read Knight’s Castle when I was about ten or eleven, and have reread it many a times, and every time I read the part where Anne talks about  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, I think to myself, ‘I must find this book and read it.’ However, I’ve never been able to find it.

That is, until a couple of weeks ago I went to look up some books on my library’s catalogue, and the book sprang into my head. I have no idea why; it wasn’t like I had read any of Edward Eager’s books recently. But the title popped into my head, and without much hope (I had looked it up on the library database before) I typed in the title, and… hey presto! They had a copy. I ordered it in and now it is in my hot little hands, and I am finally reading it.

Connecticut YankeeI find reading it a very interesting experience, since I know Edward Eager’s books so well – it is quite clear where he drew inspiration from. Since I am a writer as well as a reader, I am always interested in where stories come from, and I feel like reading this book adds an extra layer of understanding to Knight’s Castle. I can even see Mr Eager reading the book, and, like the apple that hit Newton on the head, inspiration suddenly coming to him, the kernel of an idea that turns into Knight’s Castle. What I love is that he references it in his book, so that literary detectives such as myself can retrace his steps.

The connection to the 1001 Children’s Books list is that Edward Eager is on the list (and rightly so). However, I know, it’s a bit of a weak link. I promise I’ll update you on some of the books I’ve been reading from the list soon, which range from Jonathan’s Stroud’s ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ to William Pene du Bois’ ‘Twenty-One Balloons’ to the seemingly never-ending Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.


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