Vivian French

Vivian French is a much-loved author who has written more than 300 books for children. In 2016, she received an MBE for services to literature, literacy, illustration and the arts.

What was your favourite childhood book, and why?

My dad read me bedtime stories every night, and I read everything I could get my hands on. There were so many favourites… but I do remember adoring Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for the glorious sound of the words. ‘Go to the banks of the great grey-green greasy Limpopo river, all set about with fever trees, and find out…’  Magic.

Which of your own books is your favourite, and why? 

I had huge fun writing The Robe of Skulls and The Steam Whistle Theatre Company, but probably my favourite is a picture book – The Most Wonderful Thing in the World. It’s a retelling of an old story, and it’s illustrated by the extraordinarily talented Angela Barratt. Every time I read it, I see something new in her minutely detailed pictures, and it’s brilliantly designed by the one and only Elizabeth Wood.

Why do you choose to read? 

Escape! Other worlds, other places, other people, other ways of thinking and being… books take me away from the everyday. I love re-reading too; many characters have become much loved friends – especially those created by Charles Dickens. Mr Pickwick, Noddy Boffin, Mrs George… the list is endless. And Betsey Trotwood! She taught me so much when I was a teenager. ‘Never,’ said my aunt, ‘be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you.’