Arts and Entertainment

It's worth remembering that fairy tales were not originally thought of as children's stories.

Up, up and away...

Director Anthony Clark has vivid memories of the magical children's book 'The Red Balloon'. So he adapted it into a musical. By Georgina Brown

There's nothing wrong with a good yarn

This time last week the author Philip Pullman was causing a fuss by saying, in his acceptance speech after winning the Carnegie Medal for his children's book Northern Lights, that most adult fiction was not doing its job properly because it wasn't telling stories properly. It was just being too clever and experimental. The leading article of the Independent cheered with delight at this, and expressed everyone's relief that we didn't really have to say we enjoyed Salman Rushdie or Martin Amis or almost anyone who has won the Booker Prize.


The Carnegie Medal, the premier children's book award, has been won by Philip Pullman for his Northern Lights (Scholastic pounds 12.99) - a bold choice for the judges, since it is a 399-page book inspired by Paradise Lost. However, they "predict it will become a cult book for both adults and children, as it already has in America. It is often long and demanding, but it will set young adult minds on fire".

Letter: Books for the story-starved masses

Sir: Your leading article ("Modern literary culture has lost the plot", 18 July) was itself, like the sentiments it quoted, "like rain after a drought".

Children's author accuses novelists of losing the plot

The winner of Britain's premier children's book award broke with literary convention yesterday when he used his acceptance speech to denounce fellow authors.

Opinion: The moral's in the story, not the stern lecture

We should remember that 'Thou shalt not' might reach the head, but it takes 'Once upon a time' to reach the heart

Why modern literary culture has lost the plot

Pilgrims on the path to literature have been finding the going harder and harder. They want to follow the road to its promised destination, but they keep stumbling on the way. Often they meet diversions, which turn out to go nowhere at all. Frequently, despite its promise, the road peters out altogether.

Right of Reply / What do you mean, flaws?: Clare Bayley, critic turned writer, accepts criticism with (qualified) good grace

It's sod's law for a critic that people only ever remember the bad bits about reviews of their work. You can write a rave with one small quibble about a certain performance, or a quirk of the plot, or even (this really happened) a wig, and five years later you meet the person concerned and they still bear you a terrible grudge. This is hard for critics to understand since, contrary to popular belief, they are generally enthusiastic beings who want to enjoy the plays they see. It quickly becomes comprehensible when you are on the receiving end. My play Northern Lights has been blessed with a clutch of good reviews, but inevitably there have been cavils.

CHILDREN'S BOOKS / Teenage fiction 2

Underrunners by Margaret Mahy, Puffin pounds 3.99. Tris, a friendly but isolated teenager, is brought up by his father on a bleak headland in New Zealand. Haunted by fragmented memories of his childhood, he turns to his confidant Selsey Firebone, an outer-space secret agent. His life is transformed by the arrival of Winola, a scrawny, worldly-wise runaway from the local children's home, but their dreams of escape from the world of grown-ups through their new-found friendship suddenly change into the terrifying reality of shooting and kidnap. As Winola's mysterious past comes back to claim her, Tris realises that his ordeal has just begun and that his past is inexorably bound up with hers. Mahy displays a deep understanding of the emotions and conflicts of growing up in a strange and threatening world, but is never mawkish or patronising. A sophisticated book for up to 14-year-olds. Sophie Seiden (16)
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