Anne has a cat’s tale for all ages

Wharfedale Observer: Anne Fine Anne Fine

Fans of Anne Fine’s popular Killer Cat series of books for children had better start saving now.

The Killer Cat’s Birthday Bash, the fourth story in the series, is due out this autumn, when the author comes to Ilkley on the final day of the Literature Festival.

Anne has been booked to give two talks in October. The first, at 2pm in The Craiglands Hotel, is specifically a children’s event for anyone aged seven and above.

“I am going to answer the ten questions I am asked most often about myself as a writer: Where do my ideas come from? Why do I write ? How much do I earn?

“I am not one to stand there and flog one book. Some may have already read it, others might not be able to afford it. I don’t care to be read to – I cannot listen to books on tape. Reading to children at bedtime is fine, but people can read books for themselves,” she added.

Anne, a former Children’s Laureate, is acutely aware of the educational, psychological and personal issues surrounding reading. Some of these matters are bound to arise in her second scheduled talk later the same day, at Ilkley Playhouse.

“This will be about my books for children of all ages, plus questions afterwards. There are loads of issues around writing for children: cruelty, fantasy, escapism.

What do children get out of books? “They get a lot: experience of the world, self-reflection, enchantment, information, vicarious being, self-knowledge. Reading is partly a mechanical skill – the more you do it the better you get at it. Reading is the foundation of education.”

Anne may also touch upon a major battle that she and many other writers fought this year on the issue of labelling books with age banding – what His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman calls “age branding”.

Unlike age guidance in bookshops, which helps parents find books of an appropriate reading age for a child, Anne said age banding on a book cover had all sorts of other implications – for people with dyslexia for example – that might deter reading or cause unintentional distress.

“I have written 50 books for young children and not in one of them have I given a character’s age. I know that people may read them at 11, 14 or come back to them. I want them to be able to identify with my characters – not their ages,” she added.

At what age should you be to read and enjoy Treasure Island, The Little Prince, Winne The Pooh or, indeed, Anne Fine’s Killer Cat stories? Earlier this year, I bought her book Goggle-eyes and read it at one go in an afternoon and evening.

The Killer Cat’s Birthday Bash was inspired by a nocturnal dog-walk in a churchyard near Anne’s home in County Durham.

Anne Fine’s two talks on Sunday, October 19, are at 2pm at Ilkley’s Craiglands Hotel and 7.30pm at Ilkley Playhouse. For tickets ring (01943) 601210.

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