Magic and animals seem to have been the major themes of my favourite books whilst growing up, and luckily I can find both in Oz! But there was another witch that whet my appetite for magic at an early age, and she is Mildred Hubble, the main character in Jill Murphy's series 'The Worst Witch'.
Similar to Elphaba in Wicked, Mildred has trouble at school with the other students, particularly from her snobbish and spiteful classmate Ethel Hallow (what a perfect Witchy name!) but unlike Elphaba, Mildred is hopeless at magic and the books chart her various scrapes and mishaps as she finds herself in and out of trouble at Miss Cackle's Academy.
Magic and animals can be found in one of my favourite books of all time 'The Queen's Nose' by Dick King Smith. It tells the story of Harmony Parker, a ten year old girl who struggles to understand her family and the people in her life, so pictures them all as different animals whom she feels a much greater connection with. When her uncle gives her a fifty pence piece for her birthday she is amazed to discover that it's a magical coin and able to grant her seven wishes, but she soon learns to be careful what you wish for.
Animals and their plight against man's destruction of their habitat is a theme running strongly through both 'The Animals of Farthing Wood' series by Colin Dann and through another of my favourite novels 'Watership Down' by Richard Adams. Both introduce us to woodland animals that the authors give human characteristics and we witness their trials and tribulations as they journey to safety.
Predictably in my teens I was a sucker for anything about acting or theatre and was always drawn to books from my local library with titles like 'Make me a Star' and 'Stage Struck' but one of the more classic choices is Noel Streatfield's beautiful 'Ballet Shoes'. This novel is about three adopted sisters Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil and the struggles their adoptive family endure to make ends meet, Pauline is a keen actress and Posy a talented ballerina while Petrova is more of a tomboy interested in engines and motor cars. The girls are engaged in professional productions and I found it interesting to find out more about the theatre business of that era.
I gained so much from all these books as I was growing up and so many more. Nowadays I have less time to read but have recently being enjoying the excellent Jasper Fforde series starting with 'The Eyre Affair' and I am halfway through 'Out of Oz' the final book in Gregory Maguire's superb series of 'Wicked' novels.
For more information on the Wicked Young Writers Award visit www.wickedyoungwriters.com