This is Sophie. You’ve met her before. Lots of times. We are old friends, she and I. We go way back, before the bump, before the twinkle in the eye, back to university where her Mum and I became friends. We studied English together, but often bunked off “The Age of Chivalry” lectures in favour of a double breakfast at Sainsburys. Priorities, people, priorities.
Now that we are both old and greying (no less than 4 grey hairs spotted this morning), now that Laura has produced two of my favourite little people on the planet, I get called on for babysitting duties when her and hubby have a rare night out.
My favourite part of the evening, apart from Laura’s well-stocked chocolate cupboard, is story time before bed. Sophie, my dedicated little bookworm, gets to choose 3 books to enjoy. We read them together, she tells me without fail if I’ve missed a page, she finishes the sentences before I do.
You see, Sophie has a bookshelf filled to the brim with tall tales and she could recite the story of every single one. The words are largely just shapes still (that will change quickly) but the pictures are entire worlds to her. She knows the phrases off by heart. To hear her speak out loud, enjoying it more with every retelling, is a simple, beautiful pleasure.
So on World Book Day, who better to kickstart my little bookworm project than her.
I asked her to choose her favourite book to be photographed with. She chooses 3. They came together in a cardboard cover, so I’ve let her off. They were also a Christmas present from me, so I am biased.
When pushed, she had a favourite of the three. For her little bookworm portraits, Sophie chose How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. I can confirm, she has excellent taste.
I chose them for their beautiful illustrations, warm wit, and charm. Sophie chose them because the stories light up her imagination and draw her into another, more colourful world every time she opens the book.
Every picture is a delight, every word is a wonder, every page leaves you hoping there is more to come on the other side. I adore it.
But I love that Sophie loves it even more. Because it makes me remember the exact feeling I had curled up in a corner, or swaddled in a duvet, or quietly hiding in a library, or browsing the bookshelves in a hight street shop – that feeling of disappearing for a moment, being caught up in a story, and in the end, that story becoming a part of me.
When I saw Sophie, sat in her chair, crossing her legs like a 30 year old rather than a toddler, little fingers delicately turning the pages, it made me smile. I hope she has a lifetime of stories, books and adventures ahead of her. I think of all the things I read and love, and then the wonderful certainty that they are waiting for her too.
If you have a little bookworm who would like to take part in my ongoing project to photograph children and their favourite books, I’d love to hear from you.
Tell me what you read together if they are small, or what they just can’t put down if they are older. Tell me the stories that make them laugh out loud, or the book they just finished that made them sad. But sad in a good way, in the way that all great books can make you feel something, and in feeling, learn a little more about their world.