After reading Theology at Cambridge University, Cathryn Constable went on to work in magazine journalism, writing for Vogue, W, Elle, The Independent, Tatler and The Sunday Times, before realising her dream of writing stories for children.
Cathryn is married with three children and lives in London.
Top 5 books set in schools
Guest Post by Cathryn Constable
My school days were intensely dull. Nothing very much happened although we all longed for adventure and intrigue. Perhaps that’s why children enjoy books set in school where something does actually happen (other than P.E. or maths lessons). I’m sure that every child’s favourite school they’ve read about is Hogwarts – certainly my children would have been very pleased to be sent there. There’s something intoxicating about boarding school for many children: the idea of being liberated from their parents and being constantly in the company of their friends being major attractions. Writers, too, can have fun exploiting the fact that all the main characters are trapped in the same place at the same time.
I desperately wanted to learn how to ride Lipizaners when I was a child, but those dressage lessons had been left off the curriculum at my junior school. Shame. So until someone can alter the timetable to include some horses, trapezes or space rockets (astronaut training also being another subject I missed) here are some books about more interesting schools than mine.
1 Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer is set in a boarding school. (Hurrah!) It also includes a wonderful time-slip element. (Double Hurrah!) Charlotte goes to sleep in her new school and wakes up in the same bed forty years earlier… I so remember being terrified when, having moved between the two times fairly predictably, she suddenly can’t get back to the present. Ripping stuff.
2 Schools are cruel places and none are more casually cruel than St Trinian’s. I loved Ronald Searle’s drawings as a child; there was something so shiver-inducing about the heartlessness of the teachers and the savagery of the girls. Morally topsy-turvy and yet recognizable and true.
3 Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell, because who wouldn’t want to go to a School for the Differently Gifted?
4 Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. ‘I think the headmaster is a marvelous man.’ If you ever think that about your headmaster, be warned: something is very wrong. Dinah Birch struggles to resist the hypnotic power of the sinister headmaster at her new school.
5 The School of Good and Evil by Saman Chaimani. My daughter loved these books: she made no secret of the fact that she wanted to be picked for the School for Evil. The idea is simple but intoxicating. Two children disappear every year to be educated at the School for Good or Evil. But this year it goes wrong…
Alchemy meets dreamy reality in this new atmospheric adventure from the author of the bestselling debut, The Wolf Princess.
The White Tower is the uplifting and magical story of Livy, a young girl lost in throws of grief and forced to move schools. Struggling to cope with life, Livy finds solace high up on the rooftop amongst the domes and spires of her new home. With the perfect blend of science and dreamy reality, Constable paints a rich and atmospheric story of a lonely girl coming to terms with the death of her best friend and finding a way to let go of her pain.
Cathryn Constable’s debut novel, The Wolf Princess, was one of the bestselling debuts of 2012. It swept the board with gorgeous reviews and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Specsavers National Book Awards.
The White Tower is out now!