Death in children’s literature

I’ve written an article for We Love This Book, a new magazine published by the Bookseller. Here are the first three paragraphs.

There comes a moment in every child’s life when they understand that everyone dies: not just pets, or neighbours, or relatives, but even themselves. It’s a terrible, terrifying realisation – life is never the same again once you know that you have to die – so it’s no wonder that children’s books are full of death. Without death, many great heroes of children’s literature wouldn’t even have a story to tell. If their mothers and fathers had lived, Harry Potter wouldn’t be banished to 4 Privet Drive, the Baudelaires wouldn’t suffer a series of unfortunate events, Mary Lennox wouldn’t come near the secret garden, and James would never grow a giant peach. But death is much more than a plot device. From a surprisingly young age, most children want to know the answers to questions about death and the afterlife. Why do I have to die? What will happen to me? Fiction allows children to articulate the fears and anxieties about mortality that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

You can pick up the magazine in bookshops, or read the whole article on the website.