Kids Judge Books by their Covers #7 The Subtle Knife

Now I've had a little dig at 'adult crossover' children's fiction before, and the sort of people who buy the editions with the 'grown up', i.e. boring, covers. But I had to make an exception for this print run of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. This was partly because the kid's copies had dreadfully boring fantasy style artwork, but mainly because the publisher picked some fantastically evocative images that caught the mood and subject of the books perfectly.

My favourite was The Subtle Knife, which used 'The Melancholy and Mystery of a Street' by Italian Surrealist painter by Giorgio de Chirico. I was intrigued to see what sort of story it would tell the children.

C There is a little girl running down the street. She lives in one of the houses at the very end, so she has to run very quickly because it's night time and she's supposed to be in bed.

G. That little girl is rolling a hula hoop and she's late for something. You got it wrong there. But I don't know what she's late for.

What country do you think she's from?

C. She lives in China.

G. No, no, no, no. Sweden.

There's something you've missed – what's that?

G. A shadow

C. A giant's shadow. An ogre's shadow. She might get killed. Let's have a look in the book (flicks through pages), yes she does get killed.

That's it for now from the children's reading session. But they'll be back next week as we go down to the woods for a bit of a bear hunt.


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