Saturday 2 February 2013

Children's books are brave and bold

I was reminded this week of the resilience of children. My step grandson had a massive operation. We were all terrified by it, he was pragmatic. It was something that needed to be done as far as he was concerned. This wasn't a case of ignorance on his part. He knew exactly what was going to be done to him and could explain to you in graphic detail if you were willing to listen. He was brave beyond belief.

His attitude made me think of the post written by the DGA agent, Kirsty McLachlan, on the Golden Egg website. If you have any involvement in writing for children you should read this post. It is inspired. OK, maybe I am biased, her approach to children's literature is the same as mine. Children's books can be challenging. They can take children to places where as adults we might fear they should go. As Kirsty says 'Children's books are brave and bold. They are fearless.' Just like children and so they should be. As I have said before Philip Pullman in his Carnegie Award Medal acceptance speech spoke about how there are some ideas just too big for adult stories but children's fiction is exactly where they should be dealt with. While Melvin Burgess also suggested that children (I am including young adults in all this too) can cope with anything if it is put in context. This has all been mentioned fairly recently anyway with the whole 'sick-lit' argument, which you all know my thoughts on.

The important thing to remember when writing for children is that they have this insatiable thirst for knowledge. And books are a great place for them to ask questions of the text but also of themselves. Books can help them work out who they are and to make the connections in their own lives. As Kirsty also said 'Children always defy our expectations,' and so should their books. Somebody said to me the other day 'Oh I think I am going to write a children's book because it must be easy.' You can imagine my reaction. But more importantly, and regardless of the fact that writing a children''s book is not easy, is the fact that we should not demean children's books like that. Are they not entitled to the best written stories ever? More so, I think, than adults. I was convinced to do my MA in Writing for Children because I was told if you can write for children you can write for anyone because it is so hard.

There have also been some interesting articles flitting through the ether talking about how the gap between girls and boys reading is closing. It is believed as a direct result of the ebook. In other articles it was suggested that children still want 'proper' books as well as ebooks. They are embracing the technology and moving with it. We must make sure we move with it as writers. Thinking how our stories can be multi-platform, being open and flexible to all opportunities.

I am going to end on a quote from Kirsty again, which I think just sums up the importance of good books: 'A child that reads is not alone; they are with a best friend.'

And here is a beautiful piece of music composed and played by Shin Suzuma, brother of my friend Tabitha Suzuma. A gentle something for a Saturday full of marking and work....remind me again, what is a weekend for? ;-)


  1. Lovely thoughtful piece as ever. And well done your grandson. May recovery be swift.

    1. Thank you Candy. Seb is doing brilliantly and amazingly. He just seems to bounce back.