Rights, Rites and Getting it Right

I’ve been getting through a lot of fiction this week though not a lot of my own in terms of writing. But one of the great pleasures of being a writer is allowing yourself the time to indulge in plenty of serious reading. One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I first started out writing was to consider reading a part of my working day, not simply a leisure activity or a guilty indulgence. So I try and set aside a slab of time in any working day to read and I know that doing so strengthens my writing and enriches my world.

Last night I bought two new books from Leesa, one of the fantastic dynamo booksellers from The Little Bookroom. One of them was Siobhan Dowd’s award winning novel Bog Child and the other was Free? Stories celebrating human rights. I’m only half way through Bog Child but loving its richness. I finished Free? early this morning. I’d read most of it before I switched off the light the night before but felt compelled to finish it before I got up. Some of the stories are brilliant, some more ordinary but each addresses one of the thirty Articles in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Not every article is covered but some of the ones that are dealt with are handled so beautifully that I found myself feeling very moved by the sheer integrity of the stories. Particularly outstanding are the first and last stories in the collection – David Almond’s Klaus Vogel and the Bad Lads and Michael Morpurgo’s No Trumpets Needed. It seems neither of these authors can write a story that isn’t utterly perfect. Other authors who contributed to the book include Ursula Dubosarsky, Margaret Mahy, Eoin Colfer, Malorie Blackman and Jamila Gavin who all rate among my favourite writers for younger readers.

What I took away from this is book a reinforced sense of the powerful way that stories explore what is important about being human; our rights, our responsibilities and the rites of passage that lead us into the wide world.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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