The dad of an autistic boy who lost his treasured Terry Pratchett novels has praised selfless strangers on the internet who rallied around to replace all 41 Discworld books in one week for free.

Avid reader and Pratchett fanatic Freddie Findlay, 14, was left distraught after a pipe burst in the bathroom of his home near York, dousing and destroying the novels on the shelf below on January 29.

Dad Oliver posted the heartbreaking news to his followers on Twitter and was met by an “unbelievable” response. He told The Big Issue that Freddie, who reads up to eight books every week, had been left in a “blind panic” by the loss.

“We heard a funny noise then the ceiling came through and everything became saturated. It was pretty disgusting and the books were ruined, they were in a puddle of sludge on the floor,” he said.

“With Freddie being autistic, he looks at the books every day and counts them to make sure they’re all there. They are a comfort thing for Freddie as well. When he saw the books he had an instant meltdown and went into a blind panic. It caused distress and anxiety and he was really upset.”

The tweet was picked up 2019 Big Issue Changemaker Simon Key of Big Green Bookshop, who has found success on the social media platform with his weekly #buyastrangerabook initiative.

And he mobilised his army of Twitter followers to help out. Within half an hour, offers had been made to replace all the books while Pratchett’s daughter, writer Rhianna Pratchett, had also been in touch with the offer of “loot”.

“I’m always moaning on Twitter – it’s where I go to moan – but I put it on Twitter because I have a lot of parents of autistic children on there,” said Oliver. “Next thing I knew, Big Green Books picked up the tweet and it caught fire.

“Simon (Key, Big Green Bookshop co-founder) got in touch with me and within 20 minutes they’d got all 41 books. It was really quick, I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t expect the entire collection.

“It was fantastic.”


The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.

A week later, the entire collection arrived at Oliver and Freddie’s home and the youngster is so overjoyed that the books have yet to be returned to the repaired shelf.

Oliver told The Big Issue that the experience his restored his faith in social media.

“Freddie was absolutely delighted. With him being autistic, he doesn’t dance around and cheer but he clasps his hands and shakes. He was absolutely made up,” he said.

“I’ve not even got them back on the bookshelf yet because he is still looking through them all and putting them in the order he likes them in.

“It’s really overwhelming that Simon has organised that and I couldn’t keep up with replying to people. I’ll be honest, I just kind of sat there and filled up.

“Twitter is kind of like a bin fire most of the time, it’s horrible! But something like that happens and it’s absolutely amazing – social media can be a good thing.

“Thanks so much to Big Green Books and everyone who donated – it really is staggering that people would do that and it blew me out of the water.”

Big Green Bookshop co-founder Simon Key added: “I like to do things that make me happy and I’m fortunate that my followers point me in the right direction. It’s nice to be in the position that I can rally people to help in situations like this.

“There is so much toxicity on Twitter and this proves it can be a positive place. All the best to Oliver and Freddie.”

Image: Oliver Findlay