Posts Tagged ‘children’s literature’

That Rosemary Sutcliff followed in the footsteps of children’s writer Geoffrey Trease was the accurate claim of an intriguing article a couple of years ago in The Morning Star (the link I had does not now work, but I have found the article— below —on Wayback Machine). I was moved to write to the editor:

Although you carry a fascinating article yesterday (February 25, 2010) by Farah Mendlesohn about Geoffrey Trease, may I correct a couple of errors of fact? If Rosemary Sutcliff (sic) did indeed “follow” in “Trease’s footsteps”, she started following in the 1950s not the 1960s as stated, with her award-winning Lantern Bearers and The Eagle of the Ninth which were both published in that earlier decade.

Furthermore, in all decades her name was spelled without the ‘E’ … As to the detail about Trease, whilst not a matter of fact, I think it interesting that in one respect Rosemary Sutcliff certainly did not follow in his footsteps. I grew up listening to her, as a close relative. I heard how much she treasured Trease’s work, but I do not think that she shared the political leanings that the article explores.

The man who told the people’s stories

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I once found that an editor of Rosemary Sutcliff once wrote (I could not for a long time locate the source, a website on ancient history, but see Anne’s comment below):

 I knew Rosemary as a friend and, briefly, as her editor…most of her best writing was done in the 50s and 60s, beginning with The Eagle of the Ninth and ending with The Mark of the Horse Lord, which is my own favourite. What she really wanted to do, however, was to write romantic novels full of sex, but here her experience, and imagination, let her down. She was crippled by Still’s disease, contracted as a child – many of her protagonists have physical disabilities of one kind or another. She had no movement in her legs, and hands whose work (including writing and miniature painting) was done with just a forefinger and a tiny, rudimentary thumb.

She had, as did Henry Treece, a mystical communion with the past, which enabled her both to recreate tiny details, and to confound military historians with her understanding of the art of battle in any situation she cared to devise. Her sense of place was uncanny, in that she could get no nearer to a site than the seat of a car on an adjacent road. Friends often served as her eyes, and also as her researchers, but it was the conclusions she drew from the evidence, and her re-creations of them, that made her contribution to the literature about the ancient world so distinctive. Where she was simply embellishing recorded history, she was no better than anyone else.

She also had one of the rudest senses of humour in anyone I have met.”

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Michael Rosen (writer, poet, performer, broadcaster and Professor of Children’s Literature) recently said about children’s literature:

Most adult readers were made into the readers they are by the ‘repertoire’ of reading they did as children. The link, then, between children’s literature and adult literature is not so much via the writers as through the reading habits of the readers. That said, there are various key children’s literature texts that have informed adult writing – most notably perhaps, the Alice books; although I would guess that much of the readership of crime fiction was inducted into the genre through Enid Blyton.

This set me thinking about two questions:

  • Are most story-tellers made the story-tellers they are by the stories told to them as children?
  • Are most writers made the writers they are by the ‘repertoire’ of what was read to them as children?  (more…)

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  Rosemary Sutcliff historical and children’s book and novel Blood Feud coverOutcast by Rosemary Sutcliff hardback coverKnight's Fee IllustrationBrother Dusty Feet historical fiction by Rosemary Sutcliff original UK cover

Sadly (and perhaps remissly) Katherine Rundell – winner of the Blue Peter book award 2014 for best story – did not include any of Rosemary Sutcliff’s characters in her recent ’10 of the best orphans’ at The Guardian’s children’s books site. She might have chosen Beric in Outcast, Jestyn in Blood Feud, Randall the dog-boy in Knight’s Fee, Hugh Copplestone in Brother Dusty-Feet. (And what are the  others I have forgotten?).

She chose:

  1. Mowgli, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  2. Cinderella
  3. Cat Chant, Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Anne, Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
  5.  Alex Rider, Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  6. Harry, Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  7.  Lyra, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  8. Sophie, The BFG by Roald Dahl
  9. Peter, Peter Pan by J M Barrie
  10. The Fossil Sisters, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield

Source: Katherine Rundell’s Top 10 Orphans

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To mark World Book Day 2014 yesterday, Richard Davies of AbeBooks.co.uk chose ten ‘must-read’ children’s classics that can be bought secondhand for less than £1 each. One was The Witch’s Brat by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Famous for her historical fiction and retelling or myths and legends, Sutcliff transports readers to 12th century England in The Witch’s Brat, the tale of Lovel the outcast.

Lovel, the crippled hero of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s The Witch’s Brat, is driven from his village in a shower of stones after his grandmother’s death. (The) novel (is) … crammed with careful period detail and research, the painstaking catalogues of herb-lore brought grippingly to life by the characters to whom they bring such danger.

Writing for The Guardian in 2011 Imogen Russell Williams explored the enchantments of witch fiction. Of The Witch’s Brat  she wrote:

 … Lovel, the crippled hero of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Witch’s Brat, is driven from his village in a shower of stones after his grandmother’s death.  Both novels are crammed with careful period detail and research, the painstaking catalogues of herb-lore brought grippingly to life by the characters to whom they bring such danger.

The other titles in the top ten were:  (more…)

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Illustration from From The Author's Note to The High Deeds of Finn MacCool by Rosemary Sutcliff

The stories of Finn Mac Cool belong…not to Epic, but to Folklore and Fairytale; and only here and there … something of the Hero Tale remains.

… The stories of the Fianna are full of loose ends and contradictions, and unexplained wisps of strangeness that seem to have drifted in for no especial reason except that they are curious or beautiful and happened to be floating by.

They are stories made simply for the delight of story-making, and I have retold them in the same spirit – even adding a flicker or a flourish of my own from time to time – as everyone who has retold them in the past thousand years or so has done before me.

Source: Author’s Note to The High Deeds of Finn MacCool

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Over at Twitter I am tracking down people who can say #Ireadsutcliff , and their favourite(s). Merrian Weymouth in Australia favours —possibly— Dawn Wind, which was recently reprinted. The Historical Novel Society had this to say of it:

First published in 1961, this reprint keeps its original charm by reproducing the black and white illustrations by Charles Keeping. Dawn Wind represents historical fiction at its best. It was written by an author who delighted readers with her detailed and atmospheric stories. It is equally suitable for both young adult and adult readers. A thoroughly enjoyable book.

The novel starts:

The first paragraph of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Dawn Wind

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