As a bookwanderer, my heroine, Matilda Pages, can travel inside any book that she wishes. But the only ones that actually make it into the published Pages & Co books, are the stories that are out of copyright. Books that are out of copyright (usually seventy years from the author’s death) allow me to play as much as I like with them without having to get permission from author’s estates (or pay anything!). But, of course, if copyright didn’t exist, or if I was a bookwanderer for real, there are many, many books I’d love to visit. And even though I love all of the books below, they aren’t necessarily just my top five. So many of my favourite books are full of life-or-death scenarios and terrifying villains, or great sadness and tragedy, and would make for a very different bookwandering experience. For example, I loved Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer, but nothing would entice me into the jungle to eat a tarantula… Here are the first five children’s books I would visit.
Anna James shares which children's books she'd like to wander into
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
It’s the obvious answer, but who would pass up the chance to visit Hogwarts. I would naturally avoid any unsavoury or unstable characters and head straight for the Christmas feast, then the Yule Ball, maybe stopping in at Hogsmeade on the way back. Pausing only to say hello to Oliver Wood, of course.
One of my favourite children’s books of all time - I would love to go and listen to Momo tell her magical stories in the abandoned amphitheatre in the unnamed city she lives in. I want to meet Cassiopeia, the tortoise who can see thirty minutes into the future, and see one of Master Hora’s time-lilies – and maybe even be brave enough to help them stop the grey gentlemen from the Timesaving Bank.
If I had to choose, I would probably say that Diana Wynne Jones is my favourite author, looking at her whole body of work. And if I were to pick one story to bookwander inside, I would have to go with Charmed Life, so I could go and stay at Chrestomanci Castle, help Cat out a bit and maybe even cause some mischief with super-talented young witch, Gwendolen.
The second Pages & Co book, Tilly and the Lost Fairytales, is all about, unsurprisingly, fairy tales. One of my favourite fairy tale books is Jessie Burton’s recent retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which was one of my favourites as a child. In Burton’s imagined version, the princesses have a lot more personality, and agency, and I would love to travel through the forests, across the lake and dance the night away with them
Bookwandering to the Faraway Tree is a bit of a cheat as through it you get to visit so many different worlds. The idea of being able to travel like that entranced me as a child, and I have no doubt it was a subconscious inspiration for bookwandering. I would obviously avoid some of the more dangerous lands, and head straight for the Land of Birthdays, but most of the pleasure would come from meeting the inhabitants of the tree itself, and sampling some of Silky’s pop cakes.
And a bonus mention for the Northern Lights series by Philip Pullman – the one exception to my “no terrifying or life-threatening books” rule. I just don’t think I could turn down the chance to find out what my daemon would be, to sit and talk with Lyra and Will, or to take a flight in Lee Scoresby’s hot air balloon.