Penguin Random House have published 17 new children’s authors, all aged 12 or under, with the help of the Hackney social enterprise Ministry of Stories.
The works of pint-sized prose include The Lonely Teacup Head (written by Bartu, aged 10), 12-year-old Berkay’s fried chicken-focused The Wing Annihilator, and ruminations on more weighty subjects, as in 10-year-old Erencan’s story of step-parents and belonging, The Turn Around.
Copies of the full colour picture books will be given to local school libraries and Shoreditch Library, as well as to the authors themselves.
Participants got involved through attending the Ministry’s regular creative workshops, held behind a ‘secret door’ in their sister shop, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.
They were encouraged to write for ages even younger than themselves, a decision explained by Ministry of Stories’ co-director Lucy McNab: “They are much closer in age to picture book readers, far closer than adults are.
“We found that the project gave the young writers a lot of empathy for the little ones.”
The kids were paired up with volunteer illustrators, such as Swiss-born Hackney artist Vera Howard (illustrator of Helin’s anti-bullying tale Isla the Nerd), who were then tasked with providing the right visuals for their words, concepts and flight of fancy.
Howard told the Citizen that working with child authors was a blessing, not just because of their sheer excitement (“Helin kept saying “no-one’s going to believe I’m doing this!”) but also “because they are not limited in their imagination.
“It was great to draw to a story that doesn’t necessarily make total sense to me, but it makes sense to them, and they explain it to you. I learnt a lot!”
Ministry of Stories was co-founded in 2010 by novelist Nick Hornby, with the aim of closing the ‘creativity gap’ for economically and socially disadvantaged young people aged 8 to 18.
The books come midway through a three year partnership between the global publishing house and the Ministry, as part of the former’s desire to show ‘Creative Responsibility’.
Danae, 9-year-old author of The Royal Giraffe, gave a summary of what it all meant to her:
“The best thing about writing this book was I got my own turn to be an author and be me. Working with an illustrator felt like being a real author – it makes me feel happy that people notice my book.”
All of the books are available to read in full on the Penguin website./ 8 June, 2017