Dr Rona Tutt is a former president of the National Association of Head Teachers. She has been whinging about the violent content of children's books.
She claims that children's books are becoming so violent and sexualised they should be
accompanied by explicit content warnings. The guidance would be in addition to the current age brackets displayed in shops.
Her warning follows two recent high-profile children's book awards in which violence loomed large in the shortlisted
In last month's Booktrust Teen Prize, all six shortlisted efforts featured a striking amount of violence and blades, judges said. Two had 'knife' in the title - Patrick Ness's winning effort The Knife Of Never Letting Go ,
and Anthony McGowan's The Knife That Killed Me . Both books were aimed at the 12-plus market.
Meanwhile, the seven novels nominated for the Carnegie Medal, the country's most prestigious children's book prize, were also predominantly
histories about violence for the ten-plus age group.
Tutt said: The level of violence and adult themes in children's books is a worrying trend. People didn't used to write for young children in this vein. It is a new problem. Some children
will be protected because they won't have the reading ability to cope. You will have others whose reading is extremely advanced but they don't have the maturity to cope with the themes.
Amanda Craig, who was chairman of the Booktrust Teen
Prize said: We are all worried about violence, but I think that picking on books is the last thing someone in Dr Tutt's position ought to be worrying about. I'm far more worried about film and TV. We all grew up reading some pretty violent stuff,
whether it was The Lord Of The Flies or Stephen King horror novels.
James Dawson, author of teen read Hollow Pike , explains why he has to hold back on the cussing in order to get his books accepted by the gatekeepers , booksellers and librarians.
Any artist tries to reproduce
reality on their terms. So, as an author, I aim to portray young adult characters in the most honest way possible. Logically, this involves them swearing. In Hollow Pike, I was allowed shit and any swear word less than this one ie bloody,
Jesus Christ etc. Interestingly shit was only allowed as a curse, not as a bodily function (all bodily functions were removed at the edit, to make the characters more aspirational). It was only when editing my new, second novel that I asked if I
could use even stronger swear words in an extreme situation of peril.
My editor was sympathetic and has no personal objections to stronger words than shit , but it was at this stage the gatekeepers were first
mentioned. Booksellers, book groups, librarians and bookshop buyers form this steely line of defence. They are arguably the most powerful link in the publishing chain. These are the people who decide whether or not to sell your product. Without them, a
book, especially a book by a debut author, is relegated to the internet and warehouse shelves thus limiting the potential contacts a reader can make with the book in the real world