From fiction for children to fiction about children. Riptide Volume 8 subtitles itself: a collection of childhood-themed stories for adults, and right from the start it immerses you in a form of nostalgia as rich but indefinable as the moment between dreaming and waking.
Starting with a foreword from Floella Benjamin (a detail which will fire up memories of early days for any readers of my generation), the stories sweep you through moments from the characters lives when they were both extremely vulnerable and capable of anything. Floella sums it up in describing childhood as “that concentrated but half-understood world that children inhabit.”
Through the collection, we encounter dreams of crows, a robot hunter squad, a terrifying glass-cased pike, girls who become ravens. The stories carry us through suburban streets, caravan sites and mysterious islands. And the children in the tales each observe and cope with all of life’s complications in their own unique way. It’s a journey of an anthology in the same way that childhood is a journey – thrilling, at times distressing, and ultimately enlightening.Many of the scenes evoked by the words on these pages have stayed with me. The three sisters herding their goats in Linda Cracknell’s ‘The Roost’ has the sweeping power of an age-old folktale, while Anna Stewart painted a far more modern but equally vivid world in ‘Paper Birds’. The image of a TV set in the centre of a snowy lawn in ‘The Man In The White Coat’ by Michael Stewart provided a lynchpin for a tender story in which mental illness may be the main character.
The final story in the collection is Ginny Baily’s ‘George and the Goblin’ in which 15-year-old Lisa learns about betrayal and regret in the most heart-rending of ways. Lisa is just entering that intensely confusing period between childhood and adulthood, and Ginny captures the sense of uncertainty and bewilderment by setting the fracturing of teen romance against an error of judgement from a supposedly much more mature woman.
Like all the tales in Riptide Vol 8, the authenticity of the characters takes you beyond the written page and plunges you into a sheer, glimmering sense of recognition. Regardless of whether these children live in England or Nigeria, 100 years ago or right now, the emotions they experience are utterly familiar, making the of focus of this issue of Riptide one of the universal human experience in all its peculiarities.
Riptide Vol 8 is available to buy from www.riptidejournal.co.uk/shop