C Kris Read

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
fantasy, young adult
What I love most about this story about a girl who becomes a witch to save her brother the way the heroine wakes up to the world throughout the book. Everything develops identity and importance, even telegraph poles and toasters.

"Every telegraph pole stood centred on a single leg gathering wires up, looping them over little stunted arms, and Laura felt her way into being a telegraph pole, or a roof rising to a ridge and butting against itself. The Baptist church squared its concrete shoulders, its doorway touching its own toes, carrying a great weight of square, white blocks on its bent back."

And a brief warning: every edition of The Changeover is cursed with a terrible cover. Don't be fooled by it. It is your protection against people borrowing what will come to be one of your favorite reads; my own copy has a worse cover than most, which is the only way I've been able to hang onto it for fifteen years.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

I don't actually know if this book is considered a classic. Probably not. It's a Penguin Classic though, so that's good enough for me. I'd recommend this to anyone who's ever been annoyed by the lowering, hyper-sexualized landscapes of D.H. Lawrence. The novel is set in a similar landscape, the titular Cold Comfort Farm, where the Doom family has been breeding and hating and generally mucking things up for one another for generations. Enter the sensible Flora, who comes in asking politely for hot water and a reliable tea time and goes around tidying everyone up. She is a delight. This is also nice when the dust bunnies in your house have turned into dust Bunniculas and you need some inspiration to make you clean. Also, it's very funny.

"'Aye...woman's nonsense,' said Seth softly. (Flora wondered why he had seen fit to drop his voice by half an octave.) 'Women are all alike -- ay fussin' over their fal-lals and bedazin' a man's eyes, when all they really want is man's blood and his heart out of his body and his soul and his pride...'

'Really?' said Flora, looking in her workbox for her scissors.

'Aye.' His deep voice had jarring notes which were curiously blended into an animal harmony like the natural cries of a stoat or weasel. 'That's all women want -- a man's life. Then when they've got him bound up in their fal-lals and bedazin' ways and their softness, and he can't move because of the longin' for them as cries in his man's blood -- do you know what they do then?'

'I'm afraid not,' said Flora. 'Would you mind passing me that reel of cotton on the mantlepiece?'"

Come Play With Me by Margaret Hillert, illustrated by Kinuko Craft
children's, poetry
It's Craft's magnificent, eerie, slightly hippie illustrations that make this book so wonderful. Hillert's poems are very, very basic but Craft's pictures set your brain on fire. My favorite page reads:

"I like to help my mother work.
My mother likes it, too.
I like to help my father work.
Here's something I can do."

But the illustration is a gorgeous winged woman with her antenna-sporting child collecting the stars from the sky and putting them into a flower petal basket. Okay, it's a little twee. But it inspired many games of pretend when I was a child and I will not hear a word against it.

The Complete Saki by Saki, aka H.H. Monro
humor, literature
This should probably go under "S" instead of "C," but whatever.

"'Some one who Must Not be Contradicted said that a man must be a success by the time he's thirty, or never.'
'To have reached thirty,' said Reginald, 'is to have failed in life.'"

You'll love Saki's wry, fey irony if you like Oscar Wilde. And speaking of...

The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
literature, plays
I actually hate having all my Wilde in one volume. When I lived in my studio apartment and found myself alone of an evening, I would sometimes make tea and cucumber sandwiches and curl up to re-read The Importance of Being Earnest. But now I've got this great big book which refuses to be curled up with -- I should never have sold my individual Earnest. Still, it's nice to have access to Wilde-ian works I probably wouldn't own otherwise.