Here is the long-promised review of Mollie Hunter’s book on writing for children. First let me warn you that this is not a “Christian” book, it is not a book for those who merely want to entertain children, nor is it a how-to book.
But it is an inspiring book. Mollie Hunter has a rare insight into the heart of a child; it is apparent from her book that being a mother was closer to her heart than being a writer. She began by writing stories for her own two children and learned from their reactions how to write words that reach the heart of a child.
She writes about the trend in children’s writing to cover topics that were once taboo. Her conviction is that since some of these topics are part of some children’s experience, it is OK to write about them if it is done with sensitivity. Then she delivers this caution:
“The distinction between the normal and the abnormal – this, to my mind, is where the dividing line should be drawn in themes for children’s writing, with all that lies on the side of the normal classed as suitable, and all on the other side as unsuitable. This, it seems to me, is where the convention of care must operate most strongly – particularly in those tender pre-pubertal years. Otherwise, the law of diminishing returns is immediately activated, and the writer will only succeed in rubbing the young reader’s nose in the dirt of the world before the same child has had the chance to realise that the world itself is a shining star.”
For insights such as this, and her thoughts on the use of language, I would recommend this book to those who aspire to write for children.
A large part of the book is taken up with thoughts on folklore, Scottish folklore in particular but her perspective can be applied to all folklore. She shares historical evidence that fairies and elves were real people, not Disneyesque caricatures with gossamer wings, but real people who were shunted aside in the migrations of peoples into new areas, yet still lived in isolated villages not far from the newcomers. These people may have been somewhat smaller in stature, or maybe not, but the difference in their customs and lifestyle gave rise to the tales that have come down to us. This insight in itself is worth the price of the book.
Talent is Not Enough, Mollie Hunter, © 1975