Mind The Child is definitely the most challenging of the Penguin Lines books. Written by children of Kids Company with Camila Batmanghelidjh, it dips into the lives of London’s most overlooked offspring. The children each offer us a different viewpoint, speaking out about their vulnerabilities, their anger, their hopes; sharing memories so sad and frightening you want to put the book down, but can’t draw your eyes away from the words like: “The door slams in a certain way and I feel like being sick and wetting myself at the same time.”
The fear that strikes through these childhoods is striking, but so is their resourcefulness.The book is crammed with accounts of how these kids are driven to form gangs for safety, to learn to steal, to sleep in bus depots, “always thinking about the dangers […], trying to stay one step ahead of any potential threat”, to child prostitution, to alway blanking out the horrors in order to be able to work the next night. And, yes, some of it, a lot of it is harrowing to read.
But in giving these young people a voice, a chance to talk about the things the rest of us have the luxury of flinching away from, there’s an indefinable but distinct sense of hope too, a reminder that there are means to give these children “some mastery over their trauma’ and help them find ways to manage the repercussions of their maltreatment.
These are stories of survival, because these are the neglected children who have managed, despite the odds, to find help. In the form of Kids Company there’s a chance that they’ll have a future. Chillingly, these are the lucky ones.
And if that doesn’t take the banality of your daily commute, your petty concerns and all the things that stress you out day to day and offer fresh, even grateful perspective on and for those small annoyance, I don’t know what will.