Friday, 3 August 2012

The pen and the pencil

As someone who aspires to be a children’s writer, most of my favourite authors write for children. I don’t have an individual favourite, I tend to enjoy individual books from particular authors and don’t read everything they have written, and I’m quite selective. I have thoroughly enjoyed books but have been disappointed or uninspired by other books, unless it’s a series of course.

As a young ‘un I was particularly arty to the point I assumed I’d be an artist or a writer, but not both. I was the best in my class at drawing and loved it, and I also loved to write. I thought you could just do one thing, and coming from a working class background I didn’t know a great deal about professions. Those were things people I never met did. My parents did whatever job paid the bills. This changed when I read a series by Robin Jarvis. My young self just popped into the library at the bottom of my street and picked up one of the new books that looked good. It was The Dark Portal, the first of a series of three books about the Deptford mice.

In his book Jarvis wove a fully constructed world of mice that lived in the drains and underground of London. They had their own religious ceremonies and each mouse had a ‘mousebrass’ which designated their role in the community. He even wove the plague into it. I was spellbound and loved it. But the thing which took my breath away was the fact that Jarvis had illustrated it himself. Brilliantly. These skilful illustrations only added to the magical world which was living under our own. It made me think, I could do both the things I love when I grow up. I’m still waiting to grow up however. But I still draw and paint, I’m hoping to write for children and have never forgotten the impact that series had on me. Jarvis made it ok to want to do both writing and illustrating. He did it, so could I. I’m hoping I still can. I wasn’t keen on the books Jarvis wrote which had human characters. So I can’t say he’s my favourite author for his whole work, but the Deptford prequels and trilogy are amongst my favourite children’s books for the drama, darkness and imagination.

I also like anything by Roald Dahl, and most Raymond Briggs (particularly Fungus the Bogeyman). Children love a touch of the macabre and I don’t think there is quite enough of it in modern children’s books. I loved The Little Vampire series by  Angela Sommer-Bodenburg for its tension, you never know whether the little vampire boy or his family will indulge their instincts, and try to puncture Tony and his family (I half wanted him to just do it). Another good one was The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. A headmaster who was evil? Perfectly normal to me, the headmaster’s role is to terrify young children, but one who could hypnotise and control everyone around him? I couldn’t put those down.

I’m unlikely to send many adult readers rushing off to read these authors, but if you know a child, they are good to give. Or if you are a child at heart like me, borrow them covertly from the library and read them in the house. Kindles are great for hiding what you’re reading ;) I however have no shame and will read anything in public, I don’t care. So there.


Ashley R Lister said...

On the subject of children's literature, my class were reading Anne Fine's Diary of a Killer Cat last night - and loving it!

The Robin Jarvis titles look like a lot of fun - and it's fascinating to see how you were inspired to want to write and draw.

Personally, I think you've managed both of those already. It's now just a matter of getting you published ;-)


Flogistix said...

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Wordrabbit said...

Arh the Deptford Mice. I only read The Dark Portal, but yes, a lot detail in the back ground. It wasn't that everything was explained, but it was very obvious that there was a bigger world out there.

Roald Dahl is a fav of of mine. Between him and Lewis Carol I pretty much found my voice. Not to copy or even try to emulate, more to pick up an idea and run with it.

I think writing for children gives you a freedom on the page to just explode with imagination and create worlds for great colour and character, villains darker than most James Herbert and heroes from the most unlikely of backgrounds.

Just leave out the sex and the swearing, let you mind fly and click those keys.

I love writing for Children.

Thanks for the blog, made me feel warm