Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Children's books shouldn't sit still and behave
David Almond, the new artistic director of the Telegraph Bath Festival of
Children’s Literature, argues that young readers are essential to our cultural
David Almond is the new artistic
director of the Telegraph Bath Festival of Children's LiteraturePhoto: Martin
By David Almond
The Telegraph - 10 Dec 2012
What a thrill to be guest artistic director of Bath Festival of Children’s
Literature. If I’d told myself a dozen or so years ago that I’d be involved in
such a thing, I’d have been amazed – just as I was once amazed to find myself to
be a children’s author. But life’s like any decent story: try to plan it, and
off it runs in unexpected directions.
I’m an intelligent, educated adult. I thought I’d write books for
intelligent, educated adults. So I did, or tried to, for several years. Then a
new story, Skellig, started telling itself in my head. When I began to
write it down, I knew it was the best thing I'd done, that it was the
culmination of everything I’d written before, and that it was a book for
children. I was astonished and liberated. New artistic possibilities opened up.
When the book was published, I found myself entering a new world, that of
children’s books, a world populated by folk who really do believe that
storytelling can change lives and reshape the world.
Children’s literature is a place of great experimentation. Like children
themselves, it can be hilariously playful and deeply serious. It isn’t content
to sit on shelves and behave. It is inquisitive, exploratory – and difficult to
categorise. It tells tales of rabbits and ducks, of vampires and zombies, of
ordinary kids in ordinary homes, of love and death, and explores the most
profound, joyful and troubling aspects of human experience. It experiments with
narrative and form, with the shape of the page and the shape of the book. It is
where literary culture is constantly renewed. We overlook this world at our
peril. It is, and always will be, at the heart of our cultural life.
The pessimists doubt this. They tell us that the book is dying, that children
don’t read. They need to be taken to literary events to see that children do
read, that they read with passion and intelligence and excitement, that they ask
the most perceptive questions and give the most vivid responses.
Children defy adult attempts to categorise artistic form. Tell a child the
story of Hansel and Gretel and soon she’ll be tiptoeing through the house as if
it were a forest, trembling with dread, peeping into the kitchen as if a witch
might be hiding there. The story on the page becomes a story told by the voice
and a story acted out in space. Full article at The Telegraph