The Book That Made Me: Harriet Muncaster
Published on: 18 August 2020
Isadora Moon author Harriet Muncaster tells us about the books she loved as a child - from fairies and magical rabbits to the spooky world of witches and vampires - and why everyone should have a friend they can keep in their pocket.
Author Harriet Muncaster and Dorrie by Patricia Coombs
Sweet with a streak of dark
When I was asked to write about the most impactful book I read as a child, my mind immediately went to the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs. They are beautiful stories, illustrated in a limited colour palette about a little witch and her cat, Gink, who live in Witchville. I absolutely adore the aesthetic of these books and the spooky but comforting atmosphere that they evoke. I remember reading them as a child and then later as a teenager, collecting up the series and taking them to university. I stacked them by my bedside as a prized possession.
Another series of books that made it to university with me were the Pookie books by Ivy Wallace. They are about a little white rabbit with wings who lives in a charming, olde-worlde forest. The illustrations are beautiful and the toadstool houses, fairies and elves enchanted me.
Looking back I can see why I love and felt inspired by these books so much. Pookie appeals to the side of me that loves ‘fairies and sparkles’, while Dorrie is much more gothic. I have always had a particular love for these two very contrasting vibes and in my own work I especially love to mix them together to create something that is sweet with a streak of dark running through it. Isadora Moon (vampire-fairy!) is a testament to that and now Victoria Stitch too.
Harriet Muncaster as a child and Pookie by Ivy Wallace
My own little friend to put in my pocket
However, I couldn’t think of much more to write about when it comes to the Dorrie or Pookie books. I adore them and they have brought great comfort and inspiration to me over the years but there’s not much more to it than that. I started to worry that maybe I didn’t have a ‘book which made me…’
But THEN, I suddenly remembered another book that I loved as a child and which I think actually WAS life changing for me and that is The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson.
The Suitcase Kid is a brilliant book about a little girl called Andrea whose parents are getting divorced. Andrea has a little toy Sylvanian Families rabbit called Radish who she takes everywhere with her and who is her tiny little friend, her mascot. I guess Radish is a sort of coping mechanism or escape for Andrea. She takes Radish on all kinds of miniature adventures and makes her lots of tiny things. This was the part of the book that I was most interested in and which completely captured my imagination. I had never thought to play with my toys in that way before and I LOVED the idea of it!
Immediately I wanted my own little mascot so I set about finding a small toy to do the same with. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed having my own little friend to put in my pocket and take on adventures. It ignited a real surge of focused creativity and, in a really weird unexplainable way, made me feel more complete and reassured in my life.
The cover of Jacqueline Wilson's The Suitcase Kid and wiskling dolls made by Harriet Muncaster
It wasn’t long before I introduced my friends to the idea of ‘mascots.’ We would spend time making tiny things, sitting our mascots around real miniature campfires, having elaborate parties for them with real miniature food that we made (The food HAD to be real because our mascots were very real to us!), taking them to the beach, and sending them down streams in tiny boats. We even made a fully illustrated magazine about their adventures called Mascot Monthly! This game really dominated a huge amount of my childhood and actually for me, outlasted it!
Having a mascot turned out to not be a phase. I have had a tiny mascot on and off for my whole life since then and for some reason I find it a source of immense comfort and inspiration. I actually often say that it’s a kind of therapy for me. I don’t know what it is about having a tiny little person to put in your pocket and make a tiny world for that makes me feel so reassured. But there’s something magic about it. It’s a charming escape from reality, a whole miniature world that I can control no matter what else is going on in life.
From mascots to wisklings
As I got older I started making my own mascots from scratch and that’s actually how the species of ‘wisklings’ (from Victoria Stitch) were created. I really wanted to make my own species of tiny people so I invented wisklings (tiny creatures no taller than 5 inches with super long eyelashes, black tipped noses, pointed ears and antennae.) I made a tiny wiskling doll called Celestine and that was the beginning of the character Celestine in my Victoria Stitch book! The idea for wiskling world grew from there! But it started with a mascot. So in a way, I have Jacqueline Wilson and The Suitcase Kid to thank for that. I doubt I would have thought of the idea of having a mascot by myself if it hadn’t been for that book – or at least not so early on in my life! Just that one idea in a book, at age eight has definitely had a big and lasting impact on my life! So thank you Jacqueline Wilson for the inspiration!
And in case you’re wondering I STILL have a mascot. She’s called Twiglina and it’s still my greatest escape and most relaxing hobby to take her out on miniature adventures!
Author: Harriet Muncaster
Isadora Moon is half fairy, half vampire. When she reaches school age, she visits both a fairy and vampire school to see which she prefers - but everything goes wrong. A humorous chapter book about being different and celebrating diversity.
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