Everyone is getting excited about Book Week which takes place next week and was launched today by Mrs Ashdown and the English Department as they welcomed writer, Liz Kessler, who came to meet our Year 7 students. There will be lots of literary events next week as we all remind ourselves of the great pleasure of reading and of writing creatively. I thought it might also be a good time to recall some of the women writers whose books ‘broke the mould’ of writing for young people. Here – courtesy of The Book Trust – are five of them:
Louisa M Alcott, when you hear her name, everyone thinks of Little Women (1868). Nowadays, the book seems rather sweet and old-fashioned – but back then, it made waves. The family drama was highly unusual for being all about women. Also, the tale was told through the lively and inspiring eyes of Jo: a headstrong tomboy who longs to be a writer and have a career. Outside of writing, Alcott was a social reformer who campaigned tirelessly for women.
Ursula Le Guin writes for both children and adults, but her books are always mythic and dreamlike. Some call it ‘ethical fantasy’. In the late 1960s, she wrote the children’s book A Wizard of Earthsea, which made a world as complex as Middle Earth or Narnia. Many of her books explore gender issues and place female characters at the heart of the action, even when this was unusual.
Judith Kerr The Tiger Who Came to Tea made her a household name in 1968. Revisiting it now, there is something touching about the way the family welcomes a hungry stranger into their home – especially since Kerr was a child refugee, who fled Hitler’s Germany. Ever since, Kerr has used her fantastic imagination to write and illustrate picture books that capture the highs, lows and in-between moments of family life. Sometimes this has proven controversial – such as when Mog passes away in Goodbye, Mog, or a woman has make-believe adventures with her late husband in My Henry. However, Kerr has the talent to take painful events and turn them into something beautiful and funny for children.
Astrid Lindgren Born in Sweden, she rose to fame in 1945 when she created Pippi Longstocking. Not only are the books completely hilarious, but Pippi was a truly radical character for her time. She is feisty, resourceful and ridiculously strong. Pippi also showed that it was OK to be different and question authority figures if you think they’re in the wrong. This was an issue close to Lindgren’s heart. She was heavily involved in political issues and often challenged the government on the rights of children and animals.
Judy Blume Since the 1960s, her bestselling books have tackled the issues that tweens and teens want to know about but are scared to ask: death, sex, body image and periods. The list goes on.
Blume often resists a happy ending for her characters – like life, their difficulties do not resolve neatly. Writing about these things, in this way, has sometimes landed Blume in trouble. School libraries have even refused to stock her books (not ours!). Many would argue that Blume has simply tapped into real-life experiences with refreshing honesty.
I’m sure everyone will have their own favourite ‘ground- breaking’ writer – please share your ideas with us on Twitter (@BHHSEng) or go along to Y7 or Y8 Lit Soc or take part in the Southern Schools or GDSTBook Awards – and if you are interested in contemporary women writers check out the Bailey’s Prize website: founded in 1996, the Prize was set up to celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world.