Skip to main content
Published

Books we give, books we get

February 12, 2020 by Nora Nagy

February 14th is International Book Giving Day, a worldwide event that celebrates books. The books we love giving say a lot about who we are and we have asked some of our authors and illustrators to share their favourite book memories with us.

These are the questions:

  • What is the first book you remember receiving?
  • What is the most special book you have received?
  • Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?

We hope to inspire you to read the books you are not familiar with, and perhaps recommend them to your students. You can also have a short discussion about book giving and book memories with your own students.

Book Giving Day illustration given to Helbling Readers by Lorenzo Sabbatini, and given to you by both of us. © Lorenzo Sabbatini

Paul Davenport

Author of the readers Stubs Grows Up and Princess on the Run

What is the first book you remember receiving?
I've always been an avid reader. One of the first books I remember receiving was 
The Secret of the Lost Tunnel (1950), a title from the Hardy Boys Mystery Series.
Luckily for me, my neighbor Mike was a bookworm and generous about
about lending me books. Checking in on the Hardy Boys after all these years, I was surprised to read this Wikipedia article about them.
 
What is the most special book you have received?
The most special book? That's a tough question but if I have to pick one, it would probably be Lord of the Flies by William Golding, given to me by a fellow teacher, also a bookworm.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
A book I'd like to give as a present? Sure, it'd be Different Seasons, a collection of 4 novellas by Stephen King, two of which I'd rate as masterpieces: The Body (Stand by Me) and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, both of which were made into blockbuster movies.

Robert Campbell

Author of the readers The Time Capsule, The Green Room, Next Door and the Studio adult course

What is the first book you remember receiving?
I was the youngest of three children, so books tended to be passed on to me from my older brother and sister. I was an avid reader of comics so at the end of each year I was given my favourite comic’s annual which was usually a large colourful book full of short stories, comic strips, puzzles and unusual facts. I still have some of them including the 1962 Supercar annual which was probably one of the first books that I was ever given. Supercar was a science fiction TV show with puppets. You had to be there!

What is the most special book you have received?
This was a large Chambers dictionary which I was given back in 1979 when I was starting out as a writer. Sometimes the message written inside a book is as important as the actual book. The person who gave me the dictionary hoped that I’d find all the words I’d need to make my way as an author.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
It’s always difficult giving a book to someone unless you know it’s something they really want or that you’re sure they’ll enjoy. I like giving books that the other person will probably never have come across. After all these years, I still love science fiction, so some of the slightly ‘alternative’ books I’ve given include The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber which, as its title suggests, is one of the strangest books you’ll ever read; The Humans by Matt Haig which is strange but fun at the same time; and Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman which I originally received as a gift and continue to pass on. They’re all books that make you think about life.

Hania Bociek

Co-author of English through Art

What is the first book you remember receiving?
The very first book I remember was from my great-grandmother in Poland. It was called Dom Hani all about Hania and her household chores and tasks! A beautiful and colourful illustration per page and then a one-sentence description of the task involved (vacuum-cleaning, washing…). It doesn’t seem to have inspired me to follow that particular road but maybe, retrospectively, the illustrations have influenced me in my art work today. Who knows?! 

The first real book I remember both receiving and actually reading all on my own was from my father for Christmas: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, part of the Narnia Chronicles, all well before the film version. I still remember the cover, holding the paperback in my hand, and the magic world I was transported into.

What is the most special book you have received?
I think this book has become all the more special retrospectively: Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. I received it from my godfather when it first came out. The dedication was "A pearl of a book to a pearl of a girl about a girl with a pearl." Firstly, the book is so special because of the special person who gave it to me. Secondly, this book and the art work in it is what really fired my use of art in my classroom and in all my work, as well as my interest in all books that concern art. I have transferred this passion to several of my students. The link between this book and the special person who opened this world to me is unique.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
Not a moment’s hesitation here: George Orwell’s Animal Farm. A must-read with my classes, it’s also become a standard when I travel. I take translated copies for non-English-speaking friends everywhere. The fascinating and deeply disturbing resemblances between Orwell’s society and those of today strike a chord everywhere… Oh it were not so…

Martyn Hobbs

Author of Helbling Readers: Graphic Stories series, the Time Detectives series: Total Eclipse, Run, Liam, Run!, The Last Voyage; and co-author of the courses Sure and For Real Plus.

What is the first book you remember receiving?
I would have mentioned a wonderful gift set made of card which looked like the entrance to an eighteenth-century home. Inside was a baroque-styled wall with two doors on which were depicted two doormen in uniform. When you opened these flaps, you found inside a ‘library’ of small individual fairy tales. A dream introduction to reading tales.

What is the first book you remember receiving?
The most precious gift I’ve received is a two-volume collection of reminiscences of Lord Byron published by John Murray, his friend and publisher, just a few years after his death in Greece. Interspersed among his friends’ recollections are engravings and prints of portraits and the various places he visited in his short intense life.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
My gift to others is An Imaginary Life by the Australian writer of Lebanese origins David Malouf. It is crystalline lapidary story of Ovid in exile on the edge of the Black Sea – and his slow discovery of a new language and new ways of thinking, seeing and being.

Maria Cleary

Series editor of Helbling Readers and Helbling Readers Blog; author of young readers Sam and the Sunflower Seeds, Fat Cat’s Busy Day, Henry Harris Hates Haitches, Freddy the Frog Prince, A Christmas Present for Barney Bunny, Skater Boy, and the culture courses World Around and Talking Culture

What is the first book you remember receiving?
The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjory Williams. It still makes me cry.

What is the most special book you have received?
My grandfather’s poetry book, after he died. He knew all of the poems by heart and used to say them to me when I was very young.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris. It’s a magical celebration of nature and the natural world and a protest against how we are losing our connection with it.

Ella Beeson

Editor of Helbling Readers

What is the first book you remember receiving?
The Park in the Dark by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth.

What is the most special book you have received?
The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan. It is a book of retellings or extracts from Grimm’s Fairy Tales ‘illustrated’ by Shaun Tan’s ceramic artwork. It was special because when I received it as a gift I didn’t know it existed, even though it is by my favourite picture book illustrator.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
The Arrival by Shaun Tan. It is the story of immigration told in a magical fantasy world. It is a work of art and makes a wonderful present. It is a silent graphic novel, but I’ve actually found it very useful for language lessons, as students need to use their own language to retell the story. 

Nora Nagy

Author of Helbling Readers Blog

What is the first book you remember receiving?
I clearly remember Andersen's classic, The Ugly Ducking in a big book edition. My Mum bought it after a doctor's visit to make me feel better.

What is the most special book you have received?
My Mum always gave me books for every big and small occasion, and now my friends know that a book is the best gift to give me. My first double volume English dictionary still means a lot to me, even if I stopped using bilingual dictionaries since then. When I was at university and started doing research about Edward Burne-Jones, I received The Flower Book, a series of 38 round watercolours. I have a very special memory of a birthday present, a book about Hungarian art history with very few pictures and a lot of text, which my mother gave me. Recently I have received a picture book, Get on the Whale Bus illustrated by a friend, Mariann Máray. I really like the hidden little dedication drawings she adds to the books. The colours of her books especially make me happy.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
I love giving picture books to friends, no matter if they are little friends or grown-ups. One of my favourite novels to give is Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb, which is a journey through Italy and a journey through the protagonist's psyche. 

Manuela Scarfò

Illustrator of Football Fury and The Dark in the Box

What is the first book you remember receiving?
The first book I remember receiving was a collection of Andersen's fairy tales from my father. I remember that I liked the tale of the Little Mermaid very much.

What is the most special book you have received?
The most special book that I have received is one regarding textile patterns from all around the world.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
I really like giving Gianni Rodari’s books, because I think his fairy tales are suitable for children and adults! 

Maria Sole Macchia

Illustrator of The Three Seeds and The New Class

What is the first book you remember receiving?

I’m not sure about the first one, but if I look back as far as possible, I remember La Coccinella (The ladybug) by Il Brucoverde Edizioni.

What is the most special book you have received?
As an adult, I received a book that has permanently changed me: Corto Maltese: Ballad of the Salty Sea by Hugo Pratt, whom I got to know so well that I became a fan. This book was the first in my collection of the whole Corto Maltese series.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?

I love giving Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni. It is a brilliant book, and it has everything. Especially when I have meetings in schools, with children and teenagers, I use this book to explain that you don’t necessarily have to be good at drawing because all the emotions can be told with a good idea.

Sara Menetti

Illustrator of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility

What is the first book you remember receiving?
Russian Fairy Tales, a collection of Russian tales edited by Carla Poesio and illustrated by Sophie Fatus.

What is the most special book you have received?
Ascolta il mio cuore (Listen to my heart) by Bianca Pitzorno.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
I like giving comics, but the title is always chosen for the receiver.

Mario Onnis

Illustrator of Oliver Twist, Moony Goes on Holiday and the character spreads in the Shakespeare series

What is the first book you remember receiving?
Storie lunghe, Storie breve (Long stories, short stories). This book was a birthday present when I was a pea, it was a collection of stories and poems. The illustrations were taken from old books very popular in Italy and France in the 50s and the 60s.

What is the most special book you have received?
One book I really appreciate is an illustrated Chinese  version of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway published by Grimm Press. My friend Isabella Labate did the illustrations and she sent me a copy a few years ago. It's stunning! 

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
I don't have a special title I like to give as a present. I read many books, so the gift may change according to the mood of the moment.

Catty Flores

Illustrator of The Great Gatsby, The Garden Party and Sixpence, Robin Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood and The Sun is Broken

What is the first book you remember receiving?
Probably when I was 5. I have this early memory of "Martine" book series by Gilbert Delahaye. Martine fait la cuisine was the first one. Unfortunately it didn't have any impact on my cooking skills. I remember quite vividly the very classic illustrations from Marcel Marlier.

What is the most special book you have received?
Olvidado rey Gudú written by Ana María Matute. It was given to me by a very good friend who knew me well. I adore this book and I have always been fascinated about the author, a very special woman living during hard times. I would love to illustrate it too, it would be a wonderful challenge!

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
I like giving children illustrated books. I think it is a great way to make them like reading and to discover fantastic worlds. Books like The Three Robbers (my daughter still loves it) from the wonderful Tomi Ungerer. Also like Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, or the absolutely beautiful The Red Tree by Shaun Tan.

Lorenzo Sabbatini

Illustrator of A Test for Jess, The Desert Race, The Bully, Sam and the Sunflower Seeds, Fat Cat's Busy Day, Henry Harris Hates Haitches, Skater Boy, A Christmas Present for Barney Bunny, The Prince and the Pauper, The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle, Dan and the Stolen Bikes, Dan in London, Westbourne Kids graphic stories series

What is the first book you remember receiving?
The first book that I remember well was a comic: "Men, beasts and heroes" from the Ken Parker series written by Giancarlo Berardi and drawn by Ivo Milazzo. My maternal grandmother gave it to me while I was sick at home. That day I realized that being an illustrator could be an interesting job.

What is the most special book you have received?
The most special book I have received is: "The Airtight Garage" by Moebius - Alessandro Distribuzioni, a comic where space and time are fluid and where both  the possible and impossible can happen together.

Is there a book you like giving as a present? What is it and why?
I would like to give my father a picture book called "Due Ali" by Cristina Bellemo with wonderful watercolour illustrations by Mariachiara Di Giorgio - Topipittori. It deals with ageing and life inevitably ending in such a gentle way that it resembles a goodbye, and I see my father who is always busy with a thousand things and think of the time when he too will fly away.

Blog Comments

Add new comment*

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
* Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. It will go online as soon as one of our administrators has checked it. Comments which are considered by the project team to be harassing or otherwise inappropriate, may not be published.