A youngster’s reading list

Scilla in the Banzoota school library
‘Scilla in the Banzoota school library’ by Quentin Blake in Joan Aiken’s The Winter Sleepwalker

In an ongoing discussion on Goodreads which began a few years ago one reader noted that one of Diana Wynne Jones’ novels — Fire and Hemlock — “mentions a number of books that DWJ probably liked herself.” This noted children’s author, as many authors do, had included quite a few semi-autobiographical details in her fiction; and in Fire and Hemlock one character, Tom, lends or recommends a number of titles to the young Polly. They’re all intended to obliquely reference traditional ballads like Tam Lin, which is about a human rescued from the Queen of the Fairies by his own true love.

In a review of Fire and Hemlock which I posted both here and on Goodreads I agreed: “Jones’ book references — quite apart from their relevance to the plot (as when Tom insists that Polly reads the book on fairy tales he has sent her) — must be a good indicator of Diana’s own childhood and student reading matter …

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