Three Singles to Adventure
These days there are plenty of books aimed at the thirteen to fourteen year old female market, but when I was that age, books weren't categorised in the same way. There was no Judy Blume or - these days - Louise Rennison and I'm not really sorry. I didn't want to read books that reflected my own teenage occupations. I wanted to be transported to other worlds. Three of my favourite writers were Gerald Durrell, P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie.
I adored Gerald Durrell's books, requested them as presents, and saved up my pocket money for them. I have those orange Penguins beside me now as I write: Three Singles to Adventure, A Zoo in My Luggage, The Whispering Land, Encounters with Animals, Menagarie Manor and of course that classic, My Family and Other Animals. The inscription on the fly leaf tells me that I was fourteen when I bought this for one and sixpence in Derby market with my friend, Pauline. So it was second-hand to start with and has been read so often that the cover and the first pages have become detached.
That one wasn't illustrated, but the others were and the illustrations by Ralph Thompson were no small part of their charm. As for the text, the mixture of humour and description of the natural world were pitched at the perfect level. I've just been flicking through them. They're beautifully written and still eminently readable. I read them for pure pleasure, but I learned a lot, too. They enlarged my world and were the perfect escape from the perplexities of early teenage life.