Writing for Young People – Morris Gleitzman and John Boyne

The Writer’s Festival is currently on in Melbourne. There are many wonderful writers for Australia and overseas talking broadly on the field of writing.

I have heard Morris Gleitzman  speak on a number of occasions. He is always very eloquent and very sure of his ideas and reasons for writing his novels. I have always appreciated how much care he take to write interesting and empathetic stories for young people. He does not write down to them or pander to those that think novels must be “safe”. He has written about ideas and situations that have interested and concerned him, with the belief that his interests will also be shared by others.  The novels Then and Once were controversial in that they were about how some young people survived in WWII. Some criticised the stories as being too “real” and said that is told too much about some of the awful things that happened to young people. He has been asked about these books before and one interview is on the WriteAway site.

In the ABC’s Book Show  there is a discussion involving Morris and John Boyne, who wrote the award winning Boy in the stripped pyjamas. Both these authors have explored a real situation (WWII), one that many young people have unfortunately had to endure, in a sensitive and sensible way.

The topic for discussion was “How young is too young to read about the Holocaust?” Is there a danger of oversimplifying complex events or downplaying the true horror of Nazism by writing about history in this way?

This is an interesting discussion and one that our students would enjoy listening to as well. I work in a school and the students are very aware of what is happening in the world around them and has happened in the world in earlier times. They are interested in discussing these events and putting forward their ideas as they attempt to understand life.

The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas has gone on to be a very successful movie and that has brought more of our students into the library to borrow the book, with much less controversy. I ask myself why is it more acceptable/less threatening for young people to watch a movie than it is to read the written word ie the book?.

In a recent blog post author Nicola Morgan wrote about writing for teenagers. It is a very interesting post where she tries to put down her ideas about writing for this audience. There are some interesting comments where others have not agreed with her suggested guidelines but I think they have a lot of merit. I would love to get opinions from some of our student readers/writers.

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