Elen had many lives before becoming a writer, including as an archaeologist, a nurse, a theatre usher and a museum security guard. Perhaps because she was taking her job at the museum very seriously, it was there that she realised there is a way to steal anything if you think about it hard enough. This thought led to her début novel, How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant, which was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Prize and longlisted for the 2010 Carnegie Award.
Kirsty Jenkins was followed by How Ali Ferguson Saved Houdini but it is Elen’s third novel, Operation Eiffel Tower which has been voted by kids onto the shortlist for Younger Readers as part of the Red House Children’s Book Award (and at the end of today’s post you can find out how you can win a signed copy of this book).
When I caught up with Elen recently I asked her if she would share with us today eight of the books which have made the biggest impression on her, on her road to becoming an author. Here’s what Elen had to say:
To be asked to think about my formative books is a real pleasure. Choosing them has made me consider the ideas that matter to me. I can see a pattern. However, when you line them all up, it looks more like I threw darts in a library and presented whatever I struck! Make of that what you will…
James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
Although I knew how to read, I didn’t understand the pleasure of it until I read this book. James and the Giant Peach was the first book to really transport me to the land of stories. I never came back.
First Term at Malory Towers – Enid Blyton
Formulaic? Yes. Simplistic? Maybe. Comforting? Definitely. It was the safety of Blyton’s schools that I found so appealing. So much so, that when I finished a series, I would go straight back to the first one to re-read.
Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Dystopian fiction has always fascinated teens and this is the proof! It was deliciously dangerous to imagine a world so damaged that society simply crumbles.
The Stand – Stephen King
Day of the Triffids with added gore and five times the word count. Now I could really revel in apocalyptic visions!
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Still one of my favourite books. It took me until the third re-reading to spot that it has a plot. Luckily, the humour, the pathos of war and the wisdom kept my interest until I mastered the jigsaw style.
Framed – Frank Cottrell Boyce
A smaller apocalypse (the rising Thames) but still with lots of humour meant that this novel was a joy to read. Also, it is set in a landscape I grew up in. It is so consoling to see home and the people who live there in books.
Rachel’s Holiday – Marian Keyes
I read Keyes’ reaction to a review before I read the book itself. She was cross that the book had been dismissed as poolside fluff. It’s actually about facing and overcoming drug addiction. But it is funny. And about a woman. Which is maybe why it was easy for the reviewer to belittle it.
Holes – Louis Sachar
The book you’re apparently not allowed to choose any more as ‘the one I wish I’d written’ as it’s selected so often. But that’s just what happens when you write a perfect book. This really inspired me to imagine what’s possible in children’s writing. It is so beautifully constructed, with humour, myth and realism all blending seamlessly.
Elen Caldecott’s Operation Eiffel Tower has been shortlisted in the Younger Readers category of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House.
Thanks to the publisher’s of Operation Eiffel Tower I’ve got one signed copy of Elen’s shortlisted book to giveaway today. Simply leave a comment on this blog post and you’ll be in with a chance of winning it.