An Appreciation of Children’s Literature / Bath Children’s Literature Festival


To celebrate the long-awaited, updated edition of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, editor Danny Hahn leads an insightful discussion about the current golden era of children’s books. Joining him are acclaimed authors David Almond and Sally Gardner, and Pushkin Press publisher, Adam Freudenheim.

Date 30-09-2015
Time 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Venue Guildhall
I received a free ticket for reviewing this event.


This was certainly one of the highlights of Bath Children’s Literature Festival and that was before the event even started. With Danny Hahn as Chair the audience was introduced to each panel member; authors David Almond and Sally Gardner and Pushkin Press publisher, Adam Freudenheim.

Danny Hahn began by asking what the difference between adult and children’s books were. To which Adam Freudenheim replied that the best books appeal to both and that there isn’t a fundamental difference.

David Almond said that children’s literature was a freer place. He stated that he used to be prejudice, but then grew up and began writing for children. He also talked about how picture books were a beautiful art form.

Sally Gardner talked about how we’ve lost childhood. We’re leading tick-box lives and children are growing up so fast. So we’re recapturing the innocence we’ve lost from the world.

When asked what they read when they were young Adam Freudenheim said he probably started reading adult books to soon. However before then it was the illustrations from picture books. David Almond loved (The Numskulls) comics and Sally Gardner used to make up stories from the picture in catalogues.

Danny Hahn also asked if there were books that they would always recommend. Both Sally Gardner and David Almond were very enthusiastic about Shaun Tan’s picture books. David Almond also recommend Nothing by Janne Teller and books by Shirley Hughes.

Sally Gardner talked about her love for fairy tales. They were: “The beginning of going into the dark dark wood of imagination.” and how different children will take away different things from the same story.

This opened up the discussion of the importance of fairy tales in general. David Almond said that children tested themselves by going into the darkness. They were also much more demanding readers. “No sunset descriptions” was Sally Gardner’s phrase.

Another thing that really stuck with me was when David Almond said that children grew up much more emotional intelligent through reading books.

While the panel agreed that children’s literature is taken more seriously now, there is still a division. Yet as David Almond said “you are writing for the future”.


ffe0cb916fabbd30ed4bbf154d6d5a78Sally Gardner grew up and still lives in London. Being dyslexic, she did not learn to read or write until she was fourteen and had been thrown out of several schools, labeled unteachable, and sent to a school for maladjusted children. Despite this, she gained a degree with highest honors at a leading London art college, followed by a scholarship to a theater school, and then went on to become a very successful costume designer, working on some notable productions.

After the births of twin daughters and a son, she started first to illustrate and then to write picture books and chapter books, usually with fairytale- or otherwise magical subject matter. She has been called ‘an idiosyncratic genius’ by London’s Sunday Times.

Books by Sally Gardner I’ve reviewed:
Maggot Moon
Operation Bunny (Wings & Co #1)
The Three Pickled Herrings (Wings & Co #2)
The Vanishing of Billy Buckle (Wings & Co #3)
The Matchbox Mysteries (Wings & Co #4)


13652David Almond is a British children’s writer who has penned several novels, each one to critical acclaim. He was born and raised in Felling and Newcastle in post-industrial North East England and educated at the University of East Anglia. When he was young, he found his love of writing when some short stories of his were published in a local magazine. He started out as an author of adult fiction before finding his niche writing literature for young adults.

The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival runs from
Friday 25th September to Sunday 4th October.

Twitter @bathfestivals
Facebook /bathfestivals

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