Next time you buy your grandchild a book perhaps try reading it yourself, you may well be surprised
What were your favourite books in your youth? At the mention of today’s children’s books, most adults probably think of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter or Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight dark romance series, but teenage fiction has much more to offer than stories about boy wizards, dragons, vampires and angels. For example, Suzanne Collins’ brilliant The Hunger Games (released in March as a blockbuster film) transports the reader to a dystopian world where reality television is taken to a whole new, disturbing, and thought-provoking level. Like many of today’s teenage-targeted books it is not just a great story but is extremely well written, and is a fantastic read for adults too, and many are beginning to cotton on to this well-kept secret. When I began writing there was a dearth of good books for boys but now there are terrific series by the likes of Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider), Charlie Higson (Young Bond), Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series, and my own Special Operations series.
A couple of years ago many publishers introduced age-guidance for children’s books as a result of extensive consumer research. There was a good reason for this. A sizeable chunk of the market comprises adults making gift purchases for children, grandchildren and godchildren. Feedback suggested many adults would appreciate this extra information on the cover. Some authors objected on the grounds that reading ability and maturity of young readers is extremely variable, and that such guidance can be misleading. This is undoubtedly true but it is, after all, just guidance. In my work with schools and library services I’m always keen to encourage readers to stretch themselves, and for parents and grandparents to take an active interest by reading alongside them. If you’ve not done this you might be surprised at just how many teenage books can be considered crossover books; that is, equally suitable for adult readers. Indeed, fans of my books range from nine years old to ninety-plus!
My novels are inspired by the Resistance movements of the Second World War and, in particular, the remarkable secret agents of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). I’ve spent many years researching them and their stories, and have been inspired by their selfless courage and sacrifice in the name of freedom. I give talks in schools about them and the response is terrific. Most have never heard of the SOE or what they did. They don’t know that of the four women to have been awarded the George Cross, three were agents with the SOE. One, Noor Khan, was a children’s writer too. And in my books I’ve tried to capture a sense of the danger and life or death decisions these agents faced. Although my books are fictional each is inspired by real events (detailed at the end of each book). Hopefully, they bring history alive to a new generation and remind older readers of that dark time. I often say to readers that I have no need to create fantasy worlds or monsters in battles of good versus evil, the real world back then will do for me.
You might recall post-war children’s classics such as Goodnight Mister Tom or Nina Bowden’s Carrie’s War or, my personal favourites, Robert Westall’s The Machine Gunners and Blitz Cat. Many focussed on the ‘war at home’. Indeed for many years few children’s books reached out into the heart of the conflict. Today, it’s different. Fantastic books like Mal Peet’s Tamar, John Boyne’s Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and James Holland’s Duty Calls series delve, like my novels, into the heart of wartime Europe. And young readers today devour them. I’m not surprised by this as they explore some of the most powerful themes in storytelling.
So, if you’re looking to purchase a book for a son or daughter, grandchild or godchild, do pause to consider reading it yourselves – I reckon you’ll enjoy it.
My books Resistance and Special Operations Series (published by Random House – Corgi) are available from Saga Bookshop (20% off both paperback and ebook versions) and I have five signed copies of my latest book (Special Operations: Dead or Alive) set in wartime Paris to give away.
Your chance to win Special Operations: Dead or Alive
We have five signed copies of Craig Simpson's new action thriller Special Operations: Dead or Alive to give away. For your chance to win, simply e-mail your name, address and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to specify which prize draw you wish to enter, in this case Special Operations: Dead or Alive.
Terms and conditions
1. The prize is a signed copy of Craig Simpson's young adult novel Special Operations: Dead or Alive. We have five books to give away, one book for each of five winners.
2.The prize is non refundable and non transferable. No cash alternative will be offered. No alternative prize will be offered if unsuitable.
3.No purchase or transaction necessary for entry into the free prize draw.
4.Only one entry per household allowed.
5.Duplicates will not be accepted.
6.All entries must be received on or before the prize draw end date of midday Thursday, June 14 2012.
7.The draw will be officiated by the Website Editors.
8.The winner will be notified by email after the prize draw has taken place.
9.The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
10.The promoter reserves the right to use the winner's name in any post-event publicity.
11. The draw is promoted by: Saga Publishing Ltd, The Saga Pavilion, Enbrook Park, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 3SE.
12. This prize draw is not available to retirees, employees, or their families of the Saga Group Limited and its subsidiary companies.
13.This prize draw is not available to retirees, employees, or the families of employees of Random House.
14.This prize draw is open to residents of the UK who are aged 50 years or over.
15.The promoter reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time, for any reason and without explanation.
16. A full UK mainland address and telephone number must be provided for delivery purposes.
If you have any questions concerning this prize draw, please write to: The Promoter, Saga Publishing Ltd, The Saga Pavilion, Enbrook Park, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 3SE. The name of the winner will be available on request by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the same address (available approximately 60 days after the prize draw end date).