This week children's author Amanda Swift writes a guest blog in our Landscapes in Children's Literature series, this time with the urban landscape of Crystal Palace. I grew up in South London, so I remember the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace very well. It's a fabulous place to explore with kids.
Over to you Amanda.
I’ve lived in South-East London for the last twenty-five years and one of my novels for 9 – 12 year olds, BIG BONES, is set in one of its suburbs, Crystal Palace.
I like to set my books in places that are both ordinary and special. Crystal Palace is a residential area from which many people commute into the centre of London. It has houses, schools, shops, pubs and cafes, just like lots of other places. But it also has the ruins of a vast, Victorian plate-glass and cast-iron palace that burnt down in 1936.
I know the area well because I used to go there with my children when they were young. It has a big park with lots of great things to do. Best of all are the huge model dinosaurs which are really scary when you’re only as big as their toenails. As well as the ruins of the crystal palace, there is a farm, a sports centre, a concert bowl, a lake, a maze, a museum and a television transmitter. Sometimes there are toy soldier exhibitions and Napoleonic soldier re-enactments. My sons have had a go at fencing and diving in Crystal Palace’s National Sports Centre and they have watched top professional teams play football nearby at Crystal Palace Football Club.
In BIG BONES the heroine, Charlie, lives in Crystal Palace. She has a German penfriend called Frank and she writes to him about where she lives: the palace ruins, the dinosaurs, the football team and so on. But she doesn’t tell him the truth about herself. He finds that out when he visits Crystal Palace.
I like setting my books in real places because it makes the stories feel grounded and believable. Then I can fly with the bits I make up and hopefully take my readers with me on the journey.
To find out more about Amanda, take a look at her website.
Amanda with her sons 2015
Amanda Swift started out as an actress and got into writing through doing stand-up comedy. She wrote first for TV (including a couple of episodes of My Parents are Aliens) and radio (including dramatisations of Jacqueline Wilson's The Story of Tracy Beaker and The Dare Game). I've also written animation episodes for Horrid Henry, Little Princess and Guess with Jess. The first children's books she wrote were for 9 - 12 year olds: The Boys' Club, Big Bones and Anna/Bella. Then she started to write with Jennifer Gray and so far we have written 8 books for 5 - 8 year olds: 6 Guinea Pigs Online and 2 Puppies Online.
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