This week (30 Jan - 6 Feb) is National Storytelling Week so here at Ofqual we thought we’d join in and talk about some of our favourite stories.
We have to get through a fair amount of work-related reading matter in our day jobs so it’s nice to take a break from the nitty gritty and think about some of the tales that have inspired us, and delighted and kept us enthralled for many a happy hour. Below is a selection of stories that mean a lot to some of the people here.
We hope it will give you an insight into the minds of regulatory folk and perhaps it will inspire you to pick up a book, or two…
In the high and far-off days, o Best Beloved, we would read The Elephants' Child and How the Camel Got His Hump to our kids. Rudyard Kipling is a highly-readable author too much neglected these days. It also goes without saying that for those with the mindset, The Lord of the Rings remains essential reading.
The book that has a special place for both me and my children is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I remember reading this book with my Mum when I was younger so when both my children came along I made sure to do the same with them. It got to the point that I wouldn't even look at the pages whilst reading the book to them as I had memorised the words... As for an adults choice I would have to recommend Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.
This is such a tricky question to answer! I'm going to go with So Much For That by Lionel Shriver. Genius writer and a gritty yet somehow uplifting story that stayed with me for days after finishing it.
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
I have just finished reading Rachel Joyce's short story collection The Snow Garden. The collection itself is a linked series of stories, each one very simple but poignant. The title story is a beautiful tale of a man's rekindled relationship with his estranged children. Joyce's more familiar novel is the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which is also an interesting read. I love stories, they are most definitely not just for children.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: I read this to my daughter Rachel seemingly every night when she was younger. Often she would insist I read it to her more than once each night. Of course, she knew it all off by heart by anyway, but still I had to read it. It is a beautifully simple story, imaginatively illustrated and with a wonderful rhythm from start to finish. Rachel will soon be sitting her GCSE English and is predicted to get an A*. All down to me and my patient storytelling!
The Little Prince by Alexandre de Saint-Exupery is an exceptional book that is as good a read for adults as it is for children, with messages for young and old - and beautifully, yet simply illustrated.
As a child (and still now) I loved The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes. A cautionary tale about difference that also embraces acceptance, it transfixed me when I was little. When I went to university, Ted Hughes loomed quite large in my life again, with poems like The Thought-Fox and then later the publication of Birthday Letters. But I always went back to The Iron Man - a book supposedly for children with a message for everyone.
A Christmas Carol by Dickens is one of my favourite stories - it never gets old and has so much relevance for today as it did then. (I particularly love the musical version with Albert Finney and watch it every year.)
Superworm by Julia Donaldson. I read this to my children most nights. It has everything you could want in a story. A hero in the form of a worm who loves to help others. A villain in the form of a crow who kidnaps him and forces him to do his bidding. And a community of bees and bugs coming together to mount a dramatic rescue. And then a big celebration at the end! It is a little window on some of the troubles in our world and how we can work together to make things better.
The Little Prince (Le petit prince) by Alexandre de Saint-Exupery. It is the beautiful and somewhat sad story of a prince fallen to earth from a tiny asteroid. I use to listen to the narrated version when I was a child. I have a French and English version if anyone wants to borrow it 🙂
I love The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It charts the rise of a humble villager in rural India, through a letter he writes to the Chinese Premier. It's so well written, and utterly believable. The dark humour left me laughing out loud to things that seemed pretty terrible afterwards. Following on with the Julia Donaldson theme, my daughters love Monkey Puzzle. It's all about a little monkey that gets lost, and the quest to find mum, paired with a well-intentioned (if clueless!) butterfly. It has a lovely rhythm too. I think I have it memorised if anyone's interested in a recital…
For story lovers, the Neapolitan trilogy (actually it is four books) by Elena Ferrante and anything and everything Isabel Aliente has ever written. The first one is a thought provoking tale of life in Naples during the last five decades (in four books) and the latter is just a natural story teller with a Latin American flair. Not for small kids!
Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell. While Big Bear tries to read his Bear Book, Little Bear tries to sleep, but can't. He's scared of the dark. Despite all of Big Bear's attempts at reassurance nothing works until he leads Little Bear out of the Bear Cave into the dark night… A charming children’s story that I read to my young son every night and even though he knew it off by heart he always enjoyed finding out what was going to happen to help Little Bear fall asleep.
As a child it was Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome but as an adult I have read so many it is difficult to choose. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier was excellent and loved Gone with the Wind. I read the poem Sohrab and Rustum by Michael Arnold at school and thought it so sad that the father didn't know his opponent was his son and killed him. I loved all the Julia Donaldson books for my grandson. He's now grown a little and loves the Harry Potter books and is slowly introducing me to them!
and remember, as C.S. Lewis once wrote
You can make anything by writing