Writing for Children
Updated: Mar 16, 2019
I have never written for children until recently and very late in my career, which has always been concentrated on stage plays and the occasional novel and ranging from comedies to serious scientific subjects. However, when grandchildren came along and reached the age where they could appreciate bedtime stories, I remembered the hilarious times I had with my own children at the age when we would all be weeping with laughter at the wonderful A. A. Milne stories and poems (the adults often more than the kids).
When I was looking for the equivalent stuff to enjoy with the next generation that apart from all the best-selling picture books with which they were familiar, and which relied as much on the illustration as on the stories, there was nothing to equate with the sheer wit and joy of those ninety-year-old Milne classics in which Christopher Robin and Pooh and Piglet and al their friends experienced such splendid adventures in their magical forest world. Modern books of children’s poems in particular were mostly simplistic and woefully short on the part of wit and imagination, which illuminated Three Cheers for Poohfor instance, orWaiting at the Window.
So, as I was between adult projects and wondering what to write next, I began to dabble with the odd idea myself and came up with a poem or two which at any rate made me write, and when I read them to the grandchildren found that they went down well. Eventually, over several years they grew into a collection of about thirty poems, and when a superb artist friend, Wendy Hoile, agreed to do some illustrations, and so eventually they got published as the book Charley Poon’s Pomes.
There is no question in my mind that the earlier children, even toddlers, are made familiar with the printed word when embellished with illustrations, the greater will be the effect on their creative minds and imaginations and ultimately on their entire educational progress. I can still remember vividly the effect of my mother reading to me those early children’s books which awakened in me such thrilling imaginings and which as I got older led to progressively more advanced stuff asWind in the Window, Swallows and Amazons,and Just William and on into adult literature. I wonder whether my education and indeed my own career would have progressed as it did without those very early revelations and stimulations.
The surprising thing about Milne’s stuff is that the children get the humor early on. Yes, the idea of Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit’s front door because he’s eaten all the honey, or the idea of making a Pooh trap for Heffalumps might seem fairly obvious concepts (although not many writers could have come up with them), but what really makes them so unique is the humor in the language dialogue. As a playwright, I can really appreciate that and time and again when reading the stories, I have thought: “Wow, I wish that I had written that.”
Nowaday’s children are introduced so very early on to the huge distractions of the smart phone and the internet, where everything is rushed, everything included language is abbreviated, everything is about mundane matters and everyday concerns. I have serious worries when every day I see every teenager in the street or the café glued to their screens, hypnotized by their Facebook or Twitter messages, addicted to their photo collections or their video games. What is this doing, I wonder, to the growth of their individual imaginations, the development of their creativity? How does this effect their knowledge of the English language, and their ability to describe sophisticated concepts in an increasingly specialized professional world?
Would they understand this…
‘Suddenly Christopher Robin began to tell Pooh about some things: People called Kings and Queens, and something called Factors, and a place called Europe and an island in the middle of the sea where no ships came, and how you make a Suction Pump (if you want to), and when Knights were Knighted, and what comes from Brazil. And Pooh, his back against one of the trees and his paws folded in front of him, said “Oh!’ and “I didn’t know,” and thought how wonderful it would be to have a Real Brain which could tell you things. And by-and-by Christopher Robin came to an end of the things, and was silent, and he sat there looking out over the world, and wishing it wouldn’t stop.’
Excerpt from: robinhawdon.com