Children don't need happy endings, says prize-winning author

Children don’t always need happy endings, according to a leading children's author.

Kevin Brooks (pictured), who was today awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal for The Bunker Diary, a fictional diary of a boy kidnapped and held hostage in a bunker, said: “There is a school of thought that no matter how dark or difficult a novel is, it should contain at least an element of hope.

“As readers, children – and teens in particular – don’t need to be cosseted with artificial hope that there will always be a happy ending. They want to be immersed in all aspects of life, not just the easy stuff. They’re not babies, they don’t need to be told not to worry, that everything will be all right in the end, because they’re perfectly aware that in real life things aren’t always all right in the end.”

Brooks, whose book Martyn Pig is on the GCSE syllabus, said he wrote The Bunker Diary over ten years ago, and knew he could have got the book published earlier if he had changed the ending. But he said that rewriting the ending would have felt dishonest.

He argued that publishing should not focus on children who already read for pleasure but should also reach out to the "vast untapped audience" of young people who think they don’t like reading and their interests.

CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, awards the Carnegie Medal for the best children's book and the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration.

Jon Klassen won the Kate Greenaway Medal for This is Not My Hat. He said: “When you've been told a good story, it is a reassuring thing. This isn't to say that the events in the story have to be reassuring, necessarily, that everything turns out alright. The important thing is that the story ends how the audience wants it to end, how the story itself wants to end.”

Helen Thompson, chair of the judging panel, said: “Children and teenagers live in the real world; a world where militia can kidnap an entire school full of girls, and where bullying has reached endemic proportions on social media. Exploring difficult issues within the safe confines of a fictional world creates essential thinking space.”

The winners receive £500 of books to donate to their local library and Klassen also receives a £5,000 cash prize.

Previous winners of the Carnegie Medal include Neil Gaiman, Meg Rosoff and Philip Pullman. Previous winners of the Kate Greenaway Medal include Emily Gravett, Shirley Hughes and Anthony Browne.

Related links

Tough books left on shelf by secondary school children - 5 March 2014

TES Resources: Recommended books for children  (registration required)

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Latest stories

News article image

What should your next career move be?

You know you want a new challenge and that it's time to move on, but it's not always easy to identify what the next step should be. Liam Davis has some advice
Liam Davis 30 May 2020
school reopening

How did Dutch pupils react to going back to school?

Child wellbeing is a key priority many schools will be focusing on when they return – a teacher in The Netherlands offers insights on how staff at her school have seen children react and adapt
Rhiannon Phillips-Bianco 30 May 2020