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Sue’s Book Reviews: Of Wheels and Witches (by Stephen Hayes)

27 August 2017

Here’s a quote from Sue F’s review of my children’s book Of Wheels and Witches.

The latter part of the book is fast-paced and more violent than I’m comfortable with. This is not an escapist unrealistic adventure story of the Enid Blyton variety. It’s all too real, even gory in places, and as such I wouldn’t want a child of nine or ten to read it. Moreover, the children are very young to have been allowed out on their own in such dangerous circumstances; the adults seem to think nothing of letting them ride about the countryside, even when it’s clear that there’s the potential for tragedy. The characters are drawn skilfully, and it was easy to identify with them.
Source: Sue’s Book Reviews: Of Wheels and Witches (by Stephen Hayes)

Most authors (I imagine) are pleased to have reviews of their books, whether the reviews good or bad, because in most cases, provided they are neither fulsome nor malicious, reviews help one to improve one’s writing. Sue reviews quite a lot of children’s books, so I was glad to see her review.

Her review also raises an issue that interests me — that of violence and danger in children’s literature. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of online forums, but perhaps a blog (in its literal role as a web log) is a better medium for comparing things with links to different web pages for reference.

One of the books I have read recently, The mystery of the Solar Wind (my review here) had some scenes that I regarded as too violent. I recently re-read Alan Garner’s children’s books, and this time was struck by how violent they are — they end in scenes of rather confused violence, and those were the parts of the books that I least enjoyed.

The ending is the most difficult party of a story to write, and so many books I’ve enjoyed seem to have anticlimactic endings — Alan Garner’s books are not alone in that. And, in his review of Of Wheels and Witches, David Levey was most critical of the ending. If Alan Garner’s books ended too violently, perhaps mine did not end violently enough?

Anyway, thanks to Sue for raising that issue and giving me something to think about.

Another thing that struck me, after reading E. Nesbit’s Five children and It yesterday, is that most of the best children’s literature is in the fantasy genre, and the stories from the past that have been most reprinted and still available today are in that genre. But that is another story, and there’s more on that here: Children’s literature: fantasy or moral realism? | Khanya

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