I should probably thank my children for leading me to the newly late Diana Wynne Jones because without our morning Read Alouds I might never have met her. And that would have been a tragedy. As it was, once we'd found her, she became one of our very favourite writers.
We were first introduced at the library, in the form of an audio CD: The Lives of Christopher Chant. It had a curiously fetching cover, featuring a squished ginger cat looking extremely grumpy. How could we resist?
It was, to use a well-worn phrase - such an original story. It had elements familiar to lots of other books - magic, witches, clever children - but they were combined in such a fabulous way that we thought about them long after the book had been put back on the shelf.
Then we discovered that one of our favourite movies, Howl's Moving Castle, started life as a book, written by - you guessed it - Diana Wynne Jones. The conjunction of Hayao Miyazaki and DWJ seemed charmed, blessed, far too fortuitous to ignore. And you know, Howl the book was even better (should I whisper this?) than Howl the movie. It was populated with wit and disaster and charm and scope, everything a good story should have. Plus, it had really excellent chapter headings, like Chapter Five: Which is far too full of washing. There was also a lot of mysteriously wonderful magic, like Seven League Boots and walking castles and the Witch of the Waste.
We read all the books we could get our hands on, as you can tell from the bookshelf photo. Twenty-four at last count. A lot of reading aloud, you might think, but all I can think is this: we don't have any more books to look forward to.
Which really IS a tragedy.