But when I went looking for writers, I discovered that the wonderful John Flanagan celebrates his seventieth birthday today!
I remember hearing him talk about his first Ranger's Apprentice novel at a centre for Youth Literature event. Hmm, I thought, sounds interesting, but I didn't check it out for a while after that.
When I finally did get around to it, I was sorry I hadn't read the books earlier.
The Ranger's Apprentice, in case you haven't read these books, is a delightful series set in an alternative Middle Ages. In this world, women can do a lot of things they couldn't do in our world at that time and people drink coffee and tomatoes are around in "Europe". And a boy called Will, who is small and really not much good at fighting gets a job as an apprentice to Ranger Halt, who is a likeable rogue, who managed to start up a program for breeding ponies for his colleagues in the Rangers by stealing some breeding stock from this world's Mongols.
There is a spinoff series set in Skandia, this world's Viking lands, about a bunch of boys nobody picked in the annual Brotherband trials, but who ended up winning the competition because their leader, Hal, is smart and an inventor.
The books are funny and serious at the same time and both series suggest that you don't have to be a big hulking knight to make it in the world (though Will's best friend is a big hulking knight, Horace).
Raise your mug of coffee to John Flanagan, creator of this delicious universe! And, sorry, Americans, he's ours! An Aussie!