Many readers feel a tingle of excitement when an author mentions a favourite book in the context of their characters or plot. Author, Daisy May Johnson, has written a special blog post about the books that feature within How to be True.
A book built on books – the story behind How To Be True
When I wrote How To Be True, and its prequel How To Be Brave, I knew that I had to mention other books and authors in them. As a reader, I always get a little thrill when I come across a mention of a book that I’d read or an author that I enjoyed – it makes the distance between the real world and the fictional crumble. Suddenly I’m right there with the characters I’m reading about.
As a librarian and researcher of children’s literature, there were also some other bonuses to this. I knew that I could mention the books that had helped make children’s literature and the boarding school story what it is today – and also spotlight the books which I felt were destined to be classics in the very near future.
Here’s some of my favourite mentions of books in How To Be True –
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens.
Part golden-era detective mystery, part boarding-schooladventure, Murder Most Unladylike is gorgeous. I think it’s an absolute modern day classic piece of children’s literature and it also redefines the boarding school story for a contemporary audience. I love how genuine it is as well – Stevens knows her genres, and has fun with them. In How To Be True, the girls need to solve a mystery – where else would they go for help than Murder Most Unladylike?
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
When I knew that I was going to be writing a story set in Paris, I knew that I had to have a Madeline reference! Picture books are a very special sort of magic for me and the Madeline books are adorable. Not only is the artwork gorgeous, but they’re funny and bright and fiercely charming. In How To Be True, the mention of Madeline gives the reader chance to discover more stories set in Paris and experience an absolutely charming picture book in the process.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
In How To Be True, the girls have to solve a mystery and it’s not straightforward. One of them – the bookish and clever Hanna – says that it’s like having to find The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love how The Scarlet Pimpernel is basically the first superhero and that he disguises his secret identity by adopting a foppish persona in real life. He might be an unfamiliar character for more modern readers so I explain this in How To Be True by saying that he’s like Batman.
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Sometimes I can’t quite believe that E. Nesbit was writing over one hundred years ago – her work is bright and fresh and so contemporary in tone. The Railway Children is full of all the things that I want my work to evoke: family, love, and looking out for the other people on this world. One of the characters in How To Be True mentions The Railway Children and then warns the reader about the emotional ending – a necessary warning, I think!
There are a lot more books and authors mentioned in How To Be True and some of them will be familiar and others less so. Either way, I hope that readers enjoy finding out more aboutthem if they’re interested and if they come across an author or book that’s new to them (and even better if it’s somebody they like – but they don’t have to!) then that’s great! I’ll have done my job for both the readers of the today and the writers that came before.
How To Be True by Daisy May Johnson is published by Pushkin Press and available now.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.