The idea for this first-rate anthology arose from conversations between the American novelist Richard Zimler and the Serbian children’s rights advocate Rasa Sekulovic about how best to support the humanitarian work of the charity Sekulovic was then working for. The end result is this collection of stories about childhood from a stellar cast of authors from around the world, with all royalties going to Save the Children.
There are 26 stories here, by 26 writers and, although it is perhaps invidious to mention some names while omitting others, the presence in these pages of such authors as Nadine Gordimer, David Almond, Etgar Keret, Alberto Manguel and Ali Smith are testament to the consistently high quality of the writing.
From Margaret Atwood’s single-page acid drop of a tale ‘Making Poison’, to Eva Hoffman’s heartrending ‘The Girl Who Ate Death For Breakfast’, via Zimler’s own ‘Personal Fulcrums’ and Melvin Burgess’s typically blunt ‘Bunker’s Lane’, there is much to praise and much to ponder in these snapshots of what it means to be a child in our fragile and fractured world.
While it would certainly be true to say that these stories taken together highlight just how bad we adults are at protecting our offspring from the iniquities of the world, this is neither a despairing nor a depressing book. What shines out from this anthology is the hope, joy and wonder that comes with seeing the planet through the unique and ephemeral prism of childhood, making The Children’s Hours both a cause deserving of support and a work of literature worthy of attention in its own right.