New Worlds Through Books

New Worlds Through Books: Elizabeth Wein

19th February 2018 | Blog

It’s World Book Day on Thursday 1st March!

In the run up, we’re celebrating the power of books to change lives and are asking authors and readers to tell us about a book which opened a door to a new world for them when they were young. That might be a book which sparked their imagination or inspired a new hobby or even led them to learn a new skill.

Today we’re delighted to have author Elizabeth Wein on the blog to tell us about a book which inspired her:

Don’t have time to watch the video? Read the transcript below!

“Hello my name is Elizabeth Wein and I am here to tell you about a book that hugely influenced my life and probably my writing career. It’s The Owl Service by Alan Garner.

I remember watching the television version of this in 1969 and the book was published in 1967 when I was about four years old. When I was in high school, I used to see it sitting on the shelf next to me in the library and I would think “Gee I remember how my parents loved that on television, I should try reading it.” And I would get it out and I would try to read it and after about five pages, I would give up. It was hard, it was weird and I didn’t really get it.

Finally one day, I kept going and I am not sure why but once I got into it, I absolutely loved it.

I think I must have tried fifteen times before I finally made it the whole way through. Once I’d made it the whole way through, I was fascinated by the story of these three teenagers who, while they’re kind of involved in a love triangle, they’re also being forced to act out roles that are played by teens in the past in a mediaeval legend. And the legend turns out to be a real story from Welsh mythology, the Mabinogion. And it was reading The Owl Service that brought me to this. I’d never heard of it, I’d never read it, but when I read The Owl Service, I wanted to know more.

And the story just absolutely transformed my life.

It made me go and try to learn medieval Welsh when I was at university, it made me become a student of folklore which I eventually got a PhD in and it made me think up my own variation on the legend and eventually I tied that into my own story and wrote The Winter Prince which is deeply connected not only to Arthurian legend but also to the Mabinogion and it’s all because of Alan Garner.

So that’s my special book, that’s my special story and I hope that you find a book that means as much to you and that you hold with as much value throughout your life. It might not be an obvious one or it might be something that everybody else knows about but in any case, it will be special to you.”


Elizabeth Wein was born in New York, and grew up in England, Jamaica and Pennsylvania. She is married with two children and now lives in Perth, Scotland. Elizabeth is a member of the Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots. She was awarded the Scottish Aero Club’s Watson Cup for best student pilot in 2003 and it was her love of flying that partly inspired the idea for her novel Code Name Verity.

World Book Day is an annual celebration of authors. illustrators, books and reading. Every year on World Book Day, thousands of school children dress up as their favourite children’s book characters to raise money for Book Aid International, so we can send more brand new books to libraries and schools in Africa and beyond. Last year they raised over £140,000 – enough to send 70,000 books to communities where children would otherwise have extremely limited opportunities to read! Learn more about World Book Day here.

Visit our World Book Day resources page for fundraising tips, 30 brand new classroom activities and 43 costume guides.

Fundraise for Book Aid International this World Book Day and celebrate the power of books to open doors to new worlds!


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