When I chose I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith as my book to give away for World Book Night on 23 April, I knew that I wanted to give the copies to girls between ages 11 and 15, more or less. I first read the book when I was 11, and since then I have felt that it was a book that all girls need to read. I explained why in my previous blog post World Book Night (a post not written sitting in the kitchen sink) . So when I applied to be a World Book Night Book Giver, I described in my application how I intended to distribute my 24 copies of the book through the local Girl Guides and through my former secondary school, Holy Cross High School, specifically through the English department.
I visited the local Girl Guides on World Book Night itself, and spent a few minutes talking about what was involved to the girls – some had already heard about it, which was lovely to know. Word is clearly spreading! I then introduced the book to the girls, describing how I first came to read it and why I felt that they should read it too. It was an interesting way of giving out copies of the book; as I talked the hands gradually went up, and the number of copies available went down from 12 to 0. It felt strangely auction-like, I being the auctioneer and the girls the bidders. I told them about the Mortmain family, trying not to give away too much of their adventures, but wanting to make them warmly welcomed by the young Guides. Hands went up, and questions were asked, and the girls stood up one by one as they decided to try reading the book, until twelve girls were standing and all the books found their first home on their journey. It was thrilling to watch them immediately begin looking through their copies, sharing them with girls sitting around them. I have already seen one comment on BookCrossing (where all the books have been registered so that they can be tracked) saying “I am looking forward to reading this but it looks long!”.
Now, why was my World Book Night actually a World Book Week and a Half? As mentioned at the start of this blog entry, I intended to distribute the remaining twelve books through the English department at my former secondary school; for practical reasons, we decided it was better to wait until the senior pupils had finished the intensive revision sessions ahead of their exam leave. It may seem that I was planning to give the books to the school, either to the English department, or to the school library, but this was never the plan (and in any case, it would have gone against World Book Night regulations). It was my intention to give some of the younger pupils the same opportunity that the school gave to me. When I was 11, I was off school ill, and as a result missed a meeting of first year pupils who had been selected to try reading books at a higher level than they were doing in class (it could be considered unfortunate that this was in addition to classwork rather than instead of classwork, but I was happy just to be getting more books to read). When I returned to school, I was sent to visit the teacher in charge of this reading scheme, and there I found a whole new world waiting for me. We began with Silas Marner, by George Eliot, and Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, to be read and discussed in assignments over the summer holidays. It was the first time I had read either of these authors, and I required very little persuasion to become a fan. It was through this reading scheme that my taste in reading truly began to develop, and it developed well under the tutelage of the scheme’s organiser, who was my own teacher through three years of exams. And so I turned to this teacher to help me with the distribution of books, and handed them over on Wednesday 2 May. As yet, I have heard nothing of what has happened to them, but I expect to hear something soon, and look forward to finding out how the young pupils get on with reading I Capture the Castle. I hope that there will be at least one little girl whose discovers a whole new world that is hers for the taking, as I did the day I was given a copy of Silas Marner and Great Expectations. I hope that she will go on to discover other such worlds with every new book she reads, as I still do today.