New Worlds Through Books: Yaba Badoe
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 welcome author Yaba Badoe to tell us about a book which inspired her:
A book I’ve loved above all others, the book that’s had the greatest impact on my life, is an illustrated edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I must have been around 7 years old when I first laid hands on a collection of the tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham. It seemed enormous: ancient and musty with large, whimsical illustrations protected by cellophane.
What I remember clearly is hugging a radiator to ward off the damp Devon cold at prep school, while I wallowed in a world of lost children, ogres, wood-cutters, wicked step-mothers and beautiful princesses. I devoured the stories and I reckon they’re to blame for my love of gothic melodrama and horror movies.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Brothers Grimm ever since. I’d even go as far as to say that most of life’s rich tapestry – the struggle between rich and poor, men and women, young and old – can be found in their stories. I’m particularly fond of Hansel and Gretel, a terrifying tale that still gives me a frisson every time I read it: Hansel and Gretel and the tale of the The Fisherman and His Wife
The collection was a solace to the child I was back then – a child far away from home in a strange country where every white woman seemed to have a straight line running up the back of their legs. This was 60s Britain, you see. Tights had not yet been invented and seamed stocking were all the rage. Of course, coming from the tropical heat of Ghana, I had no idea that stockings existed.
Even so, reading the stories was balm to a lost soul struggling to make sense of peculiar English rituals such as Elevenses (taking a tea break at 11 am) with its bizarre culinary treat of Marmite spread on fried bread!
Given the exotic weirdness of every-day life around me, it’s not surprising that the Brothers’ Grimm were such a comfort to me or that the themes I return to again and again in the stories I write are to do with rupture and dislocation.
The heroine of my debut Young Adult novel, A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, is called Sante. She was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasures. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees.
I’m convinced that I survived my time a prep school by immersing myself in haunting, magical tales I lapped up thanks to the Brothers’ Grimm.
They encouraged me to read, to flex my imagination, and then experiment by telling made-up stories of my own after Lights Out. And even if the stories didn’t always have a happy ending, the Brothers made it clear that much fun and frolicking could be enjoyed along the way.
Yaba Badoe is an award-winning Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker and writer. In 2014 Yaba was nominated for the Distinguished Woman of African Cinema award.
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.
Fundraise for Book Aid International this World Book Day and celebrate the power of books to open doors to new worlds!