• School stuff

    27 September 2021

    Cirque Du Freak was infamously turned down by 20 different publishers in the UK when my agent first took it to them in 1997. (Sounds apocryphal, I know, but it's absolutely true, and I still have the rejection letters to prove it!) One of the reasons cited by a number of the editors was that the book was so dark, it was sure to enrage librarians and teachers, who were bound to call for it to be banned. This was still a concern for HarperCollins after they'd bought the book, in the run-up to its release, a concern that seemed justified when major retail chain WHSmith initially refused to stock it, because they too feared a very public backlash. (In the sort of turnaround that really only a writer should have been able to dream up, WHSmith not only started stocking the book fairly soon after banning it, but even shortlisted it for their Children's Book of the Year award!!!)


    But when the book was released, it proved an instant hit with teachers and librarians -- out there on the front lines, they were quick to see the electrifying effect that it was having on readers, exciting even kids who were non-readers. And they saw that although it was far darker than most children's books (at that time, anyway), really it was all about friendship and self-sacrifice and giving up everything that was important to you in order to save the life of a friend. It was stimulating interesting conversations, inviting kids to ask all sorts of probing questions, and to my publishers' surprise -- mine too, I must admit, as I always thought it would be more a playground book -- many teachers began using it as a classroom text, a trend that has continued to this day, and not just in the UK, but in the USA and many other countries around the world. It's even part of the national curriculum in Ireland!!


    The first photo features the boys and girls of 4MW in Caister Junior School, who studied the book in school. They sent me this photo to say Thanks for the enjoyable read, and it put a VERY big smile on my face.


    The second photo hails from Westcliff High School for Girls, where a tally was made for the most-borrowed books from the school library in July. I was thrilled to see myself holding off Roger Hargreaves at the top, although as the librarian noted, who would anticipated a battle between the Mr Men and the Demonata?!? :-)




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