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Culture vulture

Angie Hicks finds a book for every life-changing event

Books I love

I've just finished Kate Fox's Watching the English. It's an intriguing study of habits, traditions and activities: why people encourage children to eat peas on the back of their fork, or queue. I read so much of it and kept thinking: "Gosh, I do that." I like to read about why people think and behave the way they do. As a student, I read Virginia M Axline's book on play therapy, Dibs: In Search of Self, which looks at somebody who seems completely out of touch with reality, but whose way of seeing reality was as worthwhile as ours.

Lifeline books

My reaction to any dramatic situation is always: I need a book. The day I found out I was expecting twins, we went straight from the hospital to the bookshop and bought The Twins Handbook, by Elizabeth Friedrich and Cherry Rowland (Robson Books). Seven years ago my husband Andy had a car accident, survived by the skin of his teeth and spent the next 10 months in hospital in neuro-rehab. I read two defining books during that time. Trevor Powell's Head Injury (Speechmark Editions), which explained the rollercoaster of emotions and gave practical help. Injured Brains of Medical Minds, edited by Narinder Kapur (Oxford University Press), is a collection of pieces by medical practitioners who have suffered brain injury, in which clinical psychologist FR Linge writes that the three things which helped his recovery were faith, hope and love. That became my mantra: if all you can offer is love, you have still given the most important thing.

To use in school

I'm new to the area of looked-after children, and Learn the Child by Kate Cairns and Chris Stanway (British Association for Adoption and Fostering) has been an invaluable good practice guide.

Treat in store

When something dramatic happens in your life, your goals become much more short-term. After Andy's accident I was looking forward to when we might sit alongside each other on a bench again. Now he's made a better recovery than expected: he can walk, though his language is badly affected and he can't work or drive. We want to build a henhouse and keep hens in our back garden.

Angie Hicks, 43, is adviser for looked-after children to Essex LEA and a former primary head. Interview by Karen Gold

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