The importance of writing books for children cannot be overstated, especially in the modern day and age. The Enchanted Necklace encourages children to gain pleasure from books – to explore characters and their emotions. The Enchanted Necklace follows Silya and Hedda, beautiful 10 and 11-year old princesses, who have the same fears and vulnerabilities as anyone their age, from any era. The deep love Silya and Hedda have for each other is as real as any romance; the gifting of the necklace from Hedda to Silya is reminiscent of the 'true love’s kiss' shared by the sisters in Frozen. As with Frozen’s Ana and Elsa, there is no stereotypical knight in shining armour coming to save our characters. The Nordic cousins must draw from their own wits to save themselves. When Hedda flees to Asgard, it is the Valkyries she seeks for help – a band of goddess warriors, as strong as they are beautiful. It was important for Clarke that he "Allow the princess characters to be vulnerable to danger, without a male character coming to their rescue." It’s a refreshingly modern twist, with an undoubtedly positive message for young girls.Children’s authors near the turn of the 20th century have a focus on confronting real-life obstacles, whereas current trends lean towards fantasy. Such trends in children’s literature show social and cultural change. While previous generations of children enjoyed predominantly adventure-based stories, such as Treasure Island or The Railway Children, today’s children’s literature often has a darker twist. Undoubtedly owing to their increased worldliness, having been raised in the information age, modern kids don’t wince at the threat of mythical creatures or other dark themes. Clarke has combined features from both trends, drawing from one his own cherished childhood tales, Treasure Island. He credits it with being his favourite type of story - a "fast-paced, plot driven adventure with lots of lethal danger and rich cultural details."The Enchanted Necklace has an inspired cultural backdrop. The Kingdom of Norway is home to Princess Silya’s family, who live atop a charming harbour village. Creatures inspired by Norse mythology are the ever-present threat to an otherwise idyllic world. So begins an archetypal battle between good and evil. When trolls, fire giants and a malevolent shape-shifter kidnap Silya and threaten the kingdom, Hedda escapes on a magical horse. She rides into the sky and across the Bifrost Bridge in search of help. Hedda’s dedication to saving her cousin from Loki’s evil clutches shows a selflessness and bravery beyond her years. It is a test of both girls' endurance, facing up to adversity alone for the first time. This is not the only point in Clarke’s novel that we see the princesses’ experiences as a coming of age story. Before their ill-fated trip, Hedda expresses concern that they are "running out of time" - that their childish games will one day have to come to an end, and give way to marriage and children of their own. It is an intriguing theme for children of all ages, as it explores that fundamental transition into adulthood.Children’s literature is currently enjoying huge resurgence in popularity, in part thanks to J.K. Rowling, and the storming Harry Potter success. Young Harry made an attractive prospect for kids experiencing their first taste of written culture in the modern age. He presents the archetypal average character made good, which is every child’s fantasy - a nerdy boy, bullied by his aunt and uncle, who ultimately becomes famous, strong and respected. As today’s children are made more self-aware by exposure to online media and information, it is important for them to access characters they can relate to. Silya and Hedda are brave and resourceful, but they are also modest and fiercely protective of the ones they love.It is clear that Clarke has sought to inspire and encourage young readers. First-hand experience of having read this story to my own daughter tells me of its magical appeal to children. The opening pages instantly transport the reader to a setting full of mythical wonder. In Viking Norway, princess Silya inhabits a world where royal children wander amongst meadows and forests, encountering talking woodland animals. It’s an attractive world for modern children who, despite access to 21st century past-times, still crave the cosy enjoyment of being read a good book. The endless possibilities of a magical land are particularly awe-inspiring for today’s youngsters wanting escapism from the confines of the modern world. My daughter was quickly engrossed by the building tension as Silya first encounters Molock the troll, and then becomes separated from her cousin. Silya was her favourite character due to her resilience and cunning, although the talking squirrel was a highlight, necessitating a few impressions! The Enchanted Necklace ends with a moral message, championing strength, love and friendship. It was a satisfying ending for both of us, and is certainly a magical novel to share with your children to awaken their imaginations.
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Feature by Keri Wilson