Welcome to the first of our Meet the Author features. We’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to some of our Bloomsbury Education fiction authors and share their thoughts and advice on writing, encouraging children to read and write and how their books can be used in the classroom. Read on to find out more about the brilliant Jenny Alexander.
What are your five favourite books, and why?
I couldn’t possibly choose! I have eclectic reading tastes, and how can you compare a non-fiction book that gives you a ground-breaking insight with a work of fiction that gives you a few days of sheer escapist pleasure?
If you could be a character from a book who would you be?
One of the reasons I write is because I can create the characters I would like to be for myself, and explore the situations I want to explore through them.
What inspired you to write The Binding?
The Binding was sparked by an unsettling incident I witnessed in a remote part of Scotland nearly ten years ago. I was walking past a ruined crofter’s cottage when I heard a commotion inside and went to see what was going on. I found four children, out of breath and flushed with excitement, the biggest one grasping in his fist a baby bird. They flashed each other a guilty look, before the big boy rallied, took the chick to the nearest window and opened his hand. It fell to the ground.
‘It was stuck in here,’ he said. ‘We were trying to catch it so we could help it to get out.’
We all knew that wasn’t what they were doing, but the bird was free now, and I stayed there watching it limp away to the nearest cover while the children ran back towards their houses.
I got to thinking, how would it be for a child to live in a place where there were few other children, and virtually no adult supervision?
Then, in the wonderful way that fiction works, that little nugget of an idea began to layer up with other ideas. It resonated with memories from my own childhood, particularly the secret club I had with my three siblings, which we called ‘the meeting.’ Stories other people had told me and new fantasies were called into my mind by this seed idea, and transformed in imagination to fit into it. I love this process. It makes me feel energised and happy. And when, as occasionally happens, it also grows into a publishable book, well that’s just the icing on the cake.
What would you want children reading the book to learn from it?
It’s a classic bullying situation, where a powerful, charismatic child is able to dominate the others in a friendship group, using humiliation and exclusion to crush any opposition. I’d like children to think about the importance of sticking up for each other, and the power of the group when they stand up to bullying together.
What advice would you give to teachers and parents wanting to encourage their children to write?
I wrote How to be a Brilliant Writer (A and C Black) to encourage children to write, by dismantling the idea that writing has to be ‘good’ and putting the emphasis where it ought to be, on writing as a wonderful opportunity to discover, develop and share your ideas and experience.
Jenny Alexander is a popular author of children’s fiction and non-fiction titles. She has written extensively on the theme of bullying and her latest title The Binding examines the subject in the context of isolation, authority, respect and the difficulty of speaking out.
When Jack and his family arrive on a remote Scottish island, the whole summer holiday seems doomed…until they find the den. Soon the children are initiated into a secret society. As the summer goes on Jack realises he will have to sand up to the leader, whatever it costs him.