chapter  5
Pages 22

How can writers get close to the world of children’s imagination? Is it possible to revisit our own childhoods? I argued in Chapter 1 that imagination selects its own subjects for writing, and we follow it, taking its promptings forward into research if we need to. For the writer, the world of children is itself such a subject, and sometimes the briefest glimpse into it can trigger a sense of its strangeness, its excitement. The sight of a group of children out of school crossing the road in twos, on their way to a show or event, suddenly allows us a sense of the curious energy of those voices. What are they thinking as they shout, sing, skip, make fun of each other? What kinds of things do they enjoy? What makes them afraid? What makes them real? What new forms of family life are they tied to? What do they think about adults? Do they see us as confident, mostly, or more often unsure about ourselves? Do they sense what worries us? Does what matters to us matter to them? In fiction, these questions can only be answered with regard to particular children, influenced as they are by age, ethnicity, gender and background. The main character, usually a good storyteller, brings us the individual child’s experience realised in close-up.