The novel I’m writing for 8-12 year olds, The Stone Feather, is set in an imaginary world not so very far removed from medieval England. Much of the action happens in the hero’s home village, Greenoak. As well as imagining what the village looks like, I’ve been thinking about the songs, poems and rhymes that Ethon and all the other the characters in the story would know and recognise – everything from lullabies to jokes, riddles to recipes – and it’s great fun sprinkling these ‘cultural treasures’ throughout the chapters. Hopefully, it will also make Ethon’s world feel rich and real.
The Little Birch Boy is a cautionary tale that sits inside the main story. It is intended to stop adventurous children from straying out of bounds (which, of course, is exactly what Ethon does right from page one!):
Every child in Greenoak knew the story of the child who, disobeying his mother, wandered into Viper’s Wood after dark and came face to face with a huge, silver-eyed wolf. The boy died of fright before the creature could open its jaws. The wolf, blind from birth, simply blinked her shining eyes and padded past, leaving the little body to fade, season by season, into the earth. The boy’s mother, bent with grief, found her only comfort beneath the gently rustling leaves of the young silver birch tree that sprang up, forever beautiful amongst the pines. The tree sang to her, she said. But it was a song that only she could hear.