Hope is something that we can all do with in the current situation, and children are no different. Children, as much as adults, are worried about the confusing and frightening news that we hear, they have lost their routines, and they may be worried about parents who are key workers and working in difficult circumstances, or not working at all. The NSPCC reports “a huge surge in calls to Childline from children struggling to cope”, and for some with difficult home lives, losing the stability and refuge of school is a real blow.
Katherine Rundell felt this need acutely, and decided to do something about it. Rundell, award winning author of children’s books, contacted a whole load of children’s authors and artists and asked them to contribute something that would offer hope, “a sense of possibility even in darkness.”
And they responded generously. The result is a book published online, free, and available for everyone to read. The whole process took only a few weeks, and contains contributions from over 110 writers and illustrators. Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Axel Scheffler and Francesca Simon are among the best known, but there are many treasures to find. Jackie Morris, who illustrated The Lost Words has a poem, Learning the Language of Birds, with one of her beautiful pictures. Chris Riddell offers illustrations to inspire children to make up their own story. Nottingham born Jasbinder Bilan has written a scene inspired by her book, Asha and the Spirit Bird. Robin Stevens, author of the popular Murder Most Ladylike series, writes an essay about why she likes crime fiction and how it inspires hope. Alex Wheatle’s poem is a football themed The Demon Goalkeeper. Greg Jones and Chris Smith write about the Hope-o-Potamus. I could go on …
The fact that the book is only available online is of course one reason why the project moved so quickly. However, it is beautifully designed, with pages that turn like a real book. All ages are catered for, from stories and poems to be read aloud, to longer stories for older children. The book is available on the Literacy Trust website and has been published by Bloomsbury. It is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone currently working in hospitals.
As Rundell says, the stories are not all explicitly about hope, but the book is something far more subtle and uplifting, the aim to create hope, “through delight or comfort or new ideas, ridiculous jokes, wild heroic tales”.
“Out of the silence
Just before dawn
You would find the threads of hope
As the breath of birds became song”
From Hope: or Learning the Language of Birds by Jackie Morris
My advice would be: read and share this book with any children in your life. And if you don’t have children in your life just now…. read it anyway. We can all use some hope at the moment.