Tuesday, 3 February 2009

What makes good writing for children?

How did Barry Cunningham choose the shortlist for the children's writing competition for Chicken House? (This is the guy who is supposed to have discovered JK)

But in the end it's about how much I believe in the world that the writer creates, no matter how bizarre; how strongly I feel the children's experience shines from inside the book; and how skilfully I'm drawn to sharing the emotions and choices the characters make. Then there's the trick-ier judgment, the level of skill the writer shows. Do the characters treat each other as real people, even if they have two heads?

Well, a large number from this year's entry had some of these elements, but only five moved me to react as I did when I first read Harry Potter, or Inkheart, or Reavers' Ransom.

Threads by Sophia Bennett
Funny, serious and absorbing. The lives of a group of friends who love fashion and style become entwined with a young, brilliantly talented African refugee with a painful background.

Marshes of Magdalen by Victoria Suzuki
A colony on another planet runs into trouble from the survivors of the previous failed expedition and the intelligent life forms already there. Physically gripping and exciting, with very real teenagers at its heart.

The Psychic Squad by Shar Ros-Elman
Children with psychic abilities are singled out for special training. The question of whether they are to be used for good or evil is mixed in with their relationships to each other.

Charlie Squires Goes Elsewhere by Justine Windsor
Amusing fantasy romp for younger readers. A young boy follows his mother through a painting to an alternative world of mild peril, but strong adventures.

Chasing the River by Anne Giraud
A beautifully written African odyssey. A young refugee from a massacre travels through a devastatingly beautiful landscape and battles with danger, betrayal and impoverishment. Hope, resourcefulness and courage beat in his breast.

You can read extracts on the times site.

1 comment:

Niamh B said...

Can't beat the BFG, or George's Marvellous Medicine. By the way - I see the word counter hopping up there! Keep up the good work... I'm still editing merrily away