World Book Day is an annual celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading and in 2020 will be celebrated today, Thursday 5 March.

This year’s theme is to ‘share a million stories’ so Anna, George and I decided to share our favourite books with you – and to hopefully hear from you about your favourite authors and stories.

Claire Messenger, ITP Manager

It took me a LONG time to decide which book to choose.  I often find, having read one novel by an author, that I feel inspired to read everything they’ve written and those become my favourite books – for a while – but then I move on.  So, I decided to think about a book that I’d not only read more than once, but also had a special memory for me. So I chose The Secret Garden written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Secret Garden was published in book form in 1911 and is set in England. This classic of English children’s literature tells the story of Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old girl, born in India to wealthy British parents.  Mary’s childhood is a difficult one, sickly and seemingly unwanted and unloved by her parents she grows up spoilt and self-centered.  However, following the death of her parents and guardians, Mary is sent from India to Yorkshire in England to live with her uncle whom she has never met.

Initially Mary rebels against her new situation, but slowly, thanks to those around her and the shared stories of the history of her new home, Mary becomes physically much stronger and emotionally more connected to her new ‘family’.  Particularly inspired by the story of a ‘secret garden’ – a private walled garden filled with roses – Mary sets out to discover the garden and in doing so opens herself up to new experiences, new friends and a new, happier, life.

While I didn’t share a history with the main character Mary, I had a very happy and secure childhood, I did admire her tenacity, determination and courage.  Her sense of adventure and persistence inspired me and draw me back to the book again and again and one of my earliest memories is my mother reading this to me and asking her to re-read pages and chapters that I really enjoyed.

I won’t tell you anymore but hopefully I’ve shared enough of Mary’s story – and my own – to make you want to read The Secret Garden for yourselves.

Anna Cottle, ITP Coordinator

Just Kids tells the story of how Patti Smith’s artistic career started, through her eyes, memories and careful descriptions. What I love about this story of seeking creative fortune in 1970s New York, is the beauty Patti finds in the things around her, even at the beginning when she arrives in the city with nothing and it is a struggle to survive.

Her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is an integral and at times painful part of the book. They collaborated and supported each other’s artistic endeavors whilst carefully sculpting their individual senses of style and what would become Patti’s famous ‘look’. Everything is described with such detail that you can really imagine the exciting time in art when things were changing in the city – everyone took themselves and their art so seriously, but with masses of ambition and optimism alongside it.

You can sense that Patti appreciated every little thing she had; writing poetry, reading and drawing, going back to the few books and records she had at the time, over and over… ‘day old bread’ in the park, sounds like a romantic restaurant dinner, the way it is remembered. Robert would make necklaces for Patti and they are also recounted, bead by bead, as are the art ‘alters’ he built and the talismanic objects he collected. It’s a small book and feels like a real window into this creative couple’s life, New York and the art scene of the time. Patti Smith’s imagination is captured and little black and white photos taken by Mapplethorpe, illustrate the memories throughout. It’s a story of dreams, ambition and struggle along the way and I found it fascinating to read about how one of my favourite artists became such an iconic female musician.

George Peckham, ITP Assistant

I’ve decided to choose not just one book, but a series of books! A Song of Ice and Fire is an ongoing series of epic fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin. This is the series that inspired the massively popular television series Game of Thrones and is perhaps the first series of novels I became truly obsessed with. After watching the first two seasons of the show I decided to buy the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones, and was instantly hooked. I proceeded to read the four other volumes in the series over the space of a summer and have been impatiently waiting for the release of the next book ever since.

For those unfamiliar with the world of Game of Thrones, these books take place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. Powerful families who control different parts of Westeros play games of political intrigue and corruption in attempts to consolidate more power. This culminates in a civil war over who should be the next ruler of Westeros and ascend the Iron Throne.

There are other interwoven stories which include dragons, magic and mysterious ice creatures known as the Others. But despite its fantasy elements, these books are grounded in realism by their complicated characters and very real themes. There is no clear ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in this world unlike in other fantasy novels. The characters are morally ‘grey,’ with strengths and weaknesses and are often forced to make difficult and morally questionable decisions. The horrors of war and the looming threat of climate change are other themes that George R. R. Martin explores deeply in these books. The plots of these books are hugely inspired by real historical events! For example, the War of the Five Kings in these novels was inspired by a series of English civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses.

With all these elements I became completely immersed in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. If you’re a fan of the TV show Game of Thrones, or enjoy other fantasy stories such as The Lord of the Rings then I couldn’t recommend this series enough. I just hope one day soon the next book will finally be released!