Paul Stewart

Paul Stewart is an internationally bestselling children’s author. With Chris Riddell he is co-creator of The Edge Chronicles, published in over 30 languages. His picture book stories, with Jane Porter, are Wings!, Brian the Brave, and A Little Bit of Hush.
Paul Stewart

What was your favourite childhood book and why?

My favourite book as a child was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, with pictures by Jules Feiffer. I was awarded it at primary school by my music teacher for singing in the choir. The copy was an uncorrected proof, with a red cardboard cover. She apologised, saying, ‘It hasn’t been published yet, and I know it looks a bit ugly, but I think you’re really going to love it.’ She was right! Set in a different world, where nothing is what it seems, it tells the story of Milo, a young boy who has to solve the problems caused when the Princesses Rhyme and Reason are banished to the Castles in the Air. Full of wonderful characters, like Tock the watchdog and a ‘Which’ called Faintly Macabre, the book took me on a weird and wonderful journey through an incredible place. I read it over and over, always finding something new in it, and it was the book that inspired me to become an author. I wanted to write stories that young readers would enjoy just as much as I had enjoyed The Phantom Tollbooth.

Which of your own books is your favourite and why?

This is a difficult question to answer. My first book, The Thought Domain, was published way back in 1989, and since then I’ve written dozens of other books for children. At different time, different books have been my favourite. Adam’s Ark, about a boy who was born able to communicate with animals was important for me; Brian the Brave, a recent picture book, was inspired by my daughter. I think, though, that if I have to choose, I’m going to say Beyond the Deepwoods, the first book in the series of Edge Chronicles that I produced with Chris Riddell, whose amazing illustrations brought the whole story to life. Although the book slots into the fantasy genre, it is a little different from many other fantasy books: unlike the Arthurian legends, there is no invincible hero, chosen by destiny for greatness; unlike the tales of Narnia, there is no portal from this world into another; and most importantly, there is no magic. Instead, a huge cast of exotic characters – from shrykes to banderbears to sky-pirates – have to overcome the day-to-day dangers of the ever-changing Edgeworld in what has become a thirteen-book series of adventures.

What is reading good for?

Reading is such a wonderful activity. Ever since I first learned to read, settling down with a good novel has been a highlight of my life. Opening a book and beginning a story is like opening a door and stepping into a different world. Some books take you to other countries so that, from the comfort of your bed or sofa, you can travel around the world, meeting new people wherever you go. Other books take you to other worlds, to other universes, to other dimensions, where you can explore thoughts and theories and encounter wacky characters you never dreamed might exist. And some of these characters, you get to know so well, they become almost as close as friends. Everything is possible in a book. You can lose yourself in forests or cities; you can travel to the stars or the centre of the earth; you can swim like a dolphin or fly like a hawk. Along the way, you will experience things that are dangerous or frightening, and meet goodies and baddies of every description, yet no matter how perilous a situation you might find yourself in, when you’re reading a book, you are always safe.