This volume is an anthology of poems, stories and extracts for children of unspecified age. Everything about the volume is well-intentioned and all royalties are going to the Reader Organisation.
There are about seventy pieces in all, arranged under approximately thirty headings designed to attract young readers, from ‘Sailing Away’ in the beginning to ‘Angels’ at the end. There are some wonderful pieces here and some superb juxtapositions of the canonical with the new: It is good to see David Almond and Walter de la Mare paired under the heading ‘White faces in the Gloom’ for example.
There is less of the challenging and subversive than one might expect. On the whole there is something well-intentioned and conservative about the choices and the language used. It is difficult to imagine that the actual and indeed virtual lives of contemporary young people informed the selections; little seeming awareness of children’s engagement with social media.
It is my feeling that the volume will work best when a sophisticated adult reader reads for a child or children because many of the pieces seem too challenging for the implied target age group to read aloud.
There are attractive black and white illustrations throughout, provided by students of Liverpool School of Art and design, LJMU. However it is clear that financial constraints limited illustration and picturebook use here, so younger children are not in fact catered for. It seems most unfortunate that Shaun Tan’s story ‘Broken Toys’ is included without Tan’s extraordinary and beautiful illustrations. Sometimes mistakes can be made in the interest of very good causes!