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Writing about sensitive issues

February 15, 2010

I have just made a tentative beginning on a story for young children aged c. 6-8.  It deals with adoption of children who are no longer babies.  Someone in our critique group raised the question of whether this could be upsetting to a young reader.  Her reasoning was that a child in an unhappy home might fear that they would be adopted “away” from their birth family.

I thought that was an interesting reflection and it is making me extra careful in how I write the story. There are many adopted children in our society.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to write in a way that is entertaining rather than worrying.  If not, I might start something entirely different.

As I walked home from the critique group meeting, I remembered something that I’m sure I have said when giving a talk about picture books: ‘Even though the readership is young, there are a huge number of themes that can be dealt with in picture books’.  I was thinking of death, as in the story of Badger who died Badger’s Parting Gift by Susan Varley.  On a far less contentious theme, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a much-loved classic, proving that one can write about something as “un-cuddly” as a caterpillar!

In Cloud Busting, Malorie Blackman has written a story in poetic format, seen through the eyes of the class bully.  It is a transforming experience reading this story.  It is clear that everything lies in the writing. And that is the challenge!

By Odette Elliott

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 18, 2010 11:09 am

    I found this a very thoughtful and interesting piece, Odette. It’s so true that, when writing for children, you have to think round the perimeter, as it were, and look out for the unexpected response.

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