Middle Readers in Middle Earth: Reflections on the Fantasy Genre for Young Readers

To my delight, Erin Wamala recently asked me to pen some thoughts for The Kids’ Bookshop’s website. My brief was simple, to offer some reflections on the lure of fantasy for middle readers.

Although I wrote this piece several months ago, before last week’s Somerset Celebration of Literature – about which more soon – everything I saw and heard on the Gold Coast confirmed my conclusion that fantasy for middle readers is thriving in Australia, and that children’s attention spans are not diminished, but looking for – indeed craving – new thoughts and words and worlds to explore.

Here is what I had to say:

“Words seem cheap nowadays. They roll beneath our fingertips on social media feeds, via text messages, and on the news-sites and blogs we browse on trains and buses. First thing in the morning and last thing before sleep, we read. In this world of words, literacy remains as important a tool as ever, perhaps ever more so. Words snake beneath our news screens and they flash, almost subliminally, on shop screens, restaurant screens and underground train station screens. Yet seldom do we give any of these words our full attention. We read and walk. Read and talk. We read three things at once. We have become textual omnivores, eating quickly before moving onto the next bite. Sometimes, on those very same screens, we read listicles warning us that our attention spans are failing. In our busy lives, we fear there is no time for slow cooking, let alone slow reading. This is the world today‚Äôs children are raised in. A world we have created for them, not the world they created.

Yet visiting schools since the publication of Empire of the Waves: Voyage of the Moon Child, a maritime fantasy of some 90,000 slow-cooked words, my experience has been this: The primal yearning to stop the clock and sit still, to lean in and pay attention to words at the expense of all is alive and well….”

To read the rest, head on over to the Kids’ Bookshop Website.




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