Otfried Preussler, the great German children's author, who has died at the age of 89, wrote one book that left an indelible mark on me as a child.
I also have him to thank for helping me to win my first (and only) literary prize.
I've never forgotten his classic The Robber Hotzenplotz since I read it when I was about nine.
One night, my grandfather appeared with a pile of children's books. I'm not sure where he got them from - I've a feeling he won them in a raffle at the working men's club where he used to drink.
|A modern classic|
It had the same magical, picaresque quality that Pinocchio has and I raved about it so much I made my brother read it. Yet nobody else seemed to have heard of it. And I don't ever recall seeing it in a bookshop.
It made such an impact on me, however, that I took some of the elements of the story and incorporated them in a tale of my own creation. The characters were different but the hallmark of Preussler was definitely there.
When we had a writing competition at school, I put my Preussler-inspired tale forward. And it won. I was delighted. I won an encyclopaedia.
By rights, I should have shared it with Mr Preussler!
That was 1978. My debt is way, way overdue.
So, Mr Preussler, I salute you.