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Here’s the thing. A long discussion with a seven year old about point of view. I mentioned M’s new obsession with Nancy Drew The Secret of the Old Clockmysteries last week or thereabouts… Now it emerges why she’s so taken with them: she feels she’s trying to solve everything along with Nancy. Ah yes. And how with Harry Potter she felt that she sometimes knew more than Harry did (because there were different scenes) and she was waiting for Harry to catch up…Ah yes again. So at the moment she loves Nancy Drew, because she’s right there with her.

I clearly remember having a similar discussion with E at about the same age, about what we know as narrative tension. This time it was over how the beginning of Brian Jacques’ Redwall didn’t grab him, didn’t make him ask questions like ‘what happens next’, whereas the first Harry Potter does. I remember him getting so excited that he took down both books and read the first paragraphs to me: see, see!

It’s remarkable how early on in their reading lives children — people — become aware of what works, and what doesn’t. For them, anyway. Which brings home with an awful crash how utterly vital it is to feed children the right books, to keep your eyes and ears open for where they are, what they might like, to keep broadening and opening out…And yet of course, my children are priviledged enough to have constant access to books of all sorts. So stupidly many aren’t.


Related to this, as part of my Canterbury Laureate brief I’m putting together a shortlist of children’s books — three categories I think, 5-8 years old, 8-12, then Young Adult. About three titles per category, to be used as ‘Summer Reads’ in the last term of 2008, put then to an online vote…Great stuff.

Any contributions or thoughts for unmissable children’s books would be gratefully received! I’ve got some ideas of course, and am spending some delicious time reliving the bookcases of my children…But I’d love to know others’ thoughts. Many thanks!



From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.