I (and some friends) launch the Blackwells Giving Tree in Oxford

We take so much for granted. Well, it’s natural, isn’t it? You can’t spend every minute of every day going, ‘Gosh, aren’t I lucky to have a roof over my head? Food in my fridge? Money to pay for the heating? A car that I can drive? Education that means I don’t struggle to read or write? A family that loves me? Children that are fit and well and mostly a delight?’ You’d exhaust yourself being grateful all the time.

But there ARE times when it’s absolutely right to take a moment to stop and think about people who DON’T have all those things. And we SHOULD give what we can when we can to people who are less fortunate.

Every Christmas, Blackwells bookshops run a Giving Tree thing. I’m really ashamed to say I didn’t know about it until this year. How could I NOT know about something that’s so flipping PERFECT?

So here’s the thing. Blackwells has a Christmas tree. And it’s decorated with red tags.

Like this
Like this

Each of those red tags represents a child – a child who, most likely, won’t get much in the way of Christmas presents this year, if any. The tags say things like ‘A teenage girl who likes drama’ or ‘A 10 year old boy who likes books about space’ or ‘a newborn likes soft things’ or ‘a 4 year old girl likes books that make her laugh’. You get the idea. You, the customer, pick one of those tags, and then you go find a book somewhere in the store that matches that child. If your tag says ’12 year old girl likes historical stories’ and you don’t know much about those kinds of books, you ask a bookseller. Because they DO know lots about lots of books, and they’ll advise you on the sorts of books that fit the description.

You take your chosen book to the counter, and you pay for it. You can write something on the red tag if you like, because both the tag and the book will be wrapped by the Blackwells staff and delivered to that child.

Isn’t that a perfectly magic idea? What a wonderful thing – to give the gift of a book to a child who quite possibly doesn’t own a book of their own already, and who will be one of the many thousands of children for whom Christmas DOESN’T mean stockings and piles of presents and turkey and chocolates and onesies and ipads and Kindles and…

The bookshop in Oxford is supporting The Children’s Society this year, and I can’t think of a better cause. I was invited to help launch it because LOOKING AT THE STARS has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal (VERY proud about that) and my author pals Susie Day, Sally Nicholls and Robin Stevens have also been nominated, so we all went along as a kind of author posse.

Me, Susie, Robin and Sally, pretending to be baubles...with books
Me, Susie, Robin and Sally, pretending to be baubles…with books

I have to say, I was concerned that I might actually cry at the event. Children and books and people in desperate circumstances…well, you’ve got me right there. But I didn’t cry. And I managed to stop myself buying books for every single red tag on the tree, though it was a close thing.

If you want to support this absolutely beautiful, magical idea, you don’t have to go to a Blackwells bookshop to do it – you can donate online HERE. And the clever staff will pick a child for you and match a book to that child on your behalf.

Go on. If you love books – or even if you don’t, but you think children should have books of their own – please consider buying a book from the Giving Tree this Christmas.

Ta very much 🙂


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