Rundell's acclaimed children's novels have moved to the top of my to-read pile now I've delighted in this polemical charm of an essay about how kids' fiction, with its "unabashed emotion and playfulness", can awaken old hungers in us, and create new perspectives. Sometimes in life, she argues, "adults must hasten to children's books to be reminded of what we have left to us, whenever we need to start all over again". Such books say: "The world is huge. They say: hope counts for something. They say: bravery will matter, wit will matter, empathy will matter, love will matter."
Rundell’s argument is both more subtle and more interesting, though. There’s something particular about children’s fiction, she says, that can open up new perspectives for adults. The best children’s fiction “helps us refind things we may not even know we have lost”, taking us back to a time when “new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal, before the imagination was trimmed and neatened…” Why You Should Read Children’s Books… is an entertaining enough window into the mind of a great writer, but you’d do better to turn to her novels. We’re halfway through her latest, The Good Thieves, and my kids declare it her best yet. Quite old and sporadically wise though I am, I agree.