During school and library visits, I often ask children if stories should end happily ever after. There are always a few gleeful shakes of the head. After a bit of thought, though, most people agree that, however dire or messy or cliffhangy, there’s one feeling they do want leave with: hope, a glimmer of light, however small, no matter how dark the ending. Hope is so much deeper and stranger than happiness.

This week’s Guardian lists books that have brought hope: https://www.theguardian.com/books/series/books-to-give-you-hope

Here are a few that have done it for me, mostly in unexpected ways. I was going to call them children’s books – but isn’t hope for everyone?

  1. 1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster: A firework display of brilliance, surprise and language that makes me so grateful that words are the currency of humans, and fills me with hope for the joy they can bring.
  2. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor: for the lack of self-pity, outrage-in-action and courage of Cassie in the face of unspeakable injustice, and the love that carries her family through.
  3. Holes by Louis Sachar: a diamond of a story: glittering, many-angled and crystal-perfect.
  4. Snakes’ Elbows by Deirdre Madden: nutty, warm, tender, with a glorious villain reminiscent of certain orange-faced leaders. So where’s the hope? Jasper Jellit gets his come-uppance in spades.
  5. Once by Morris Gleitzman: The most hope-filled book I’ve ever read about the holocaust. Not because it skirts the horror (anything but) but because of the courage, wit and resourcefulness of Felix in his flight from the Nazis, and the sacrificial kindness of a few around him.

“Each eye that reads what I have written, each voice that repeats my name, holds my hand like a little cloud.”

Ahmet Altan, the Turkish poet from his prison cell where he is serving a life sentence for a few words spoken in a public place that offended the government.