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Feather's Miscellany: Children’s Fiction

"It was my experience as their teacher that children came to terms better with the death of a parent than with a divorce,'' writes John Waddington-Feather.

One aspect of my calling as a teacher and priest was ministering to young students who’d been casualties of divorce, which, alas, grew greatly in my time as a teacher from 1957 to 1995. It was my experience as their teacher that children came to terms better with the death of a parent than with a divorce. As teachers we see a different side to divorce from parents; for there are times when children confide family matters in their teachers which they keep from their parents.

And as a writer of children’s fiction I’ve been a similar confidant. I realised this when I began writing my animal fantasies, the Quill Hedgehog novels, in the 1960s. These began life as bedtime stories for my three daughters when they were very young. At that time we lived in a small rural village near the moors above Bingley in Yorkshire called Eldwick. The village had clearly defined boundaries. By the time we left in 1969 it had merged with the city of Bradford, five or six miles away.

So the novels started as a protest against the rapid loss of farmland opposite our home, when all the wildlife disappeared overnight in a rash of housing, and the little country lane running by our house became an arterial road into Bradford with a variety of shops and offices along it. And as I wrote more of the Quill hedgehog novels a fantasy world began to emerge – the Animalfolk world – which, in contrast to the Humanfolk world adjoining it over the border, is a world of peace, stability and neighbourliness. It was this world some of my young readers, who were suffering the trauma of parental divorce, identified with strongly. It provided a kind of healing, a buffer against the real world they had to live in.

It is a world whose characters are loveable, because in a neighbourly way they love each other and are always kind to one another. As I self-published more and more in the series under my imprint Feather Books, more and more children and some adults joined the Quill Hedgehog Club, which I launched to promote the novels. It was through editing the monthly journal that I first realised that the novels were providing a pastoral role for young readers under stress, as they wrote to me (Quill Hedgehog) pouring out their troubles and saying how they were enjoying the books; how much comfort they received from them.

What is true for my Quill Hedgehog tales is true, I believe, for other children’s fantasy novels which have no sex or sadistic cruelty or gratuitous violence in them; novels by J.K Rowling, C.S.Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other classic children’s fantasy authors. As fantasy writers, they provide an escape from stressful reality which is therapeutic. For those of us who write such novels it’s a satisfying yet sobering thought, because it makes us wary of what we put into our work, and how we ourselves live under the spotlight of the young.

John Waddington-Feather ©


A good selection of John's books are now available from Amazon. Click here for details http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=john+waddington-feather


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