chapter  4
9 Pages

The (im)possibility of writing for children …

As David Rudd, and John Gordon before him, has shown, ‘The boundary between imagination and reality, and the boundary between being a child and being an adult are border country, a passionate place in which to work’ (Rudd, in Hunt 2004: 35; Gordon 1975: 35). Now this will take much more explanation than this short quotation gives (and I will move onto this soon). But let us make no mistake, at the meeting point, the border, the cusp of the bridge, the child is not a passive product of the adult on the other side. The writer is not crossing over to colonise the child subject but to engage, not through desire but to acknowledge that the child is a young person who is to be encouraged even helped to grow into a free citizen while and at the same time the adult continues to learn and experience too. And this takes us to the next stage of our thinking on the (im)possibility of writing for children. I should stress here that I am less taken with the idea of ‘border’ as opposed to a ‘bridge’, it is only an ideological difference, depending on how you read it, but I am with Primo Levi when he says: ‘I always thought that [building] bridges is the best job there is … because roads go over bridges, and without roads we’d still be savages. In short, bridges are the opposite of borders, and borders are where wars start’ (Levi 1986), but this message will become clearer as we progress. Returning to Rose’s idea that neither child nor adult enter the space in between

author and reader, it is obvious that I do not agree. I think I have addressed this at length but we have to take this forward and I will do so by referring to ideas that have hitherto been ignored in this field. But in moving on I would say that while the hybrid idea of addressing the ‘constructed’ and ‘constructive’ idea of the child in theoretical terms seems alive and an ideal explanation to the vexed questions raised by the critical discourses raised and previously discussed, it just doesn’t work as a solution. Surely the constructed child ‘is not’, any more than the adult, so the question we should be addressing is what does happen when the bridge across the gap is recognised? Crucial to understanding this is that once again we have to disagree with critics, with Walter Benjamin, for example, when he suggests that when a child reader comes to a book they read it with limitless trust.1 Well I just don’t believe a child comes to anything with limitless trust, no more than the rest of us. I admit my scepticism and cynicism may have been sharpened over the years but despite the comfortably predictable aspects of my life, I am still cautious of the unexpected; who could not be? We have to return again to the idea that children occupy a radically different social space from the one hitherto investigated in this hybrid notion. Once again it is because theirs is contingent and genuinely temporary; in a way that is only ever shadowed in all the other demographic categories, they truly are in a process not being, but becoming one of us.