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29Apr

Neil Gaiman: ‘Whatever I loved about Enid Blyton isn’t there when I go back as an adult’

The author on his early love of the Narnia Chronicles, the allure of spontaneous combustion – and one of the great neglected children’s authors of the 20th century

My earliest reading memory
I was three years old, we lived in Purbrook, near Portsmouth, and if I had been remarkably good my mother would order a book at the local bookshop and a month later we would go and pick it up. I remember a children’s Hiawatha, a beautiful edition of The Pied Piper of Hamelin illustrated by Margaret Tarrant, and an illustrated Mikado I’d learn the words of the songs without tunes: “Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock from a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block” and so on. Gloriously morbid stuff for a three-year-old.

My favourite book growing up
If you’d asked me at seven or eight it would have been the Narnia books, which I found infinitely re-readable – I wanted to live in them. But if you had asked me at nine or 10 it was The Lord of the Rings. I was convinced it was not only the best book anybody had ever written but that it was the best book anybody ever would write. I just had to find out how it ended, as my school only had the first two books. When I won the school English prize, I asked for The Return of the King as my prize book.

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