Guardian Review: Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge |

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Guardian Review

Patrick Ness reviews Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge

It's JK Rowling's fault. After the mammoth Order of the Phoenix, so primed were readers for a concluding epic that The Deathly Hallows's 607 pages seemed, incredibly, a bit mean. Have you noticed, though, that it's only middle-aged reviewers who complain about the length of children's books, not the children themselves? Frances Hardinge's delightfully inventive Gullstruck Island cooks along for 504 ripe, rollicking and endlessly creative pages. If that sounds exhausting to you, maybe that's the point. Maybe that's why it's a kids' book...

Regarding the length of this and similar children's books, children may not complain exactly, but very many of them simply don't attempt to read them because of the daunting bulk. The J. K. Rowling effect has misled writers and publishers into believing that the average young reader is indeed capable of reading books of 500pp plus. This is simply not the case. Of course there will always be the readaholics who will lap up books of any length. In a class of 30 you will get one or two of them. And how many more children aged 10 or 11 would have the facility or inclination to read a book of this length, without special encouragement? Probably no more than another three or four.

J. K. Rowling was able to gradually increase the length of her books because of the groundswell of fan worship and media coverage. Special circumstances are necessary before books of this length can command a solid readership amongst the under-12 readership. An author visit will often work. When Eoin Colfer recently visited the children I know best, huge numbers of them bought and actually read Airman, a book that the vast majority of them would not have been persuaded to read had the author visit not happened, despite the popularity of his other work.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on February 28, 2009 10:31 AM.

Guardian Review: Teenagers by David Bainbridge | was the previous entry in this blog.

Auslander by Paul Dowswell (12+) and The Escape by Robert Muchamore (12+) review | Children's Books - Times Online is the next entry in this blog.

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