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How could child abuse possibly inspire a new book for children?

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

In September 2021 I read about a charity called Railway Children.

Railway Children supports street children all over the world, but this article was about India, specifically Mumbai. The stories were shocking and I could hardly believe the numbers of homeless children who have to fend for themselves from a very young age.

A couple of days later another news article popped up on my screen (was it destiny or was it Google watching me?) The photo displayed an Indian couple leaving the law courts shielding their faces. They had been accused of cruelty towards a child.

I read on.

The couple had apparently taken a young girl into their home under the pretext of employing her as domestic help. The thirteen-year-old child had been made to work as a slave, been physically abused and had cuts, scars and burn marks all over her body. The girl had been unable to escape, but had been observed for a number of days by a woman living in an apartment opposite who had seen the girl cowering on the balcony from where a firefighter rescued her.

Further investigation revealed the terrible conditions the girl was working in. A reporter had taken a photo of the couple on their balcony. Whether this was real or my imagination I don’t know, but to me they looked smug, self-important and callous. It made me wonder how this evil pair found each other. Were they born cruel or did their monstrous inclinations develop over time?

The combination of the charity and the balcony couple prompted my wish to do something to help. Donating money was an option, but was there something more I could do?

Perhaps I could raise awareness by writing a story? So, despite the fact I was half way through the sequel to It’s Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella, I started writing about a brother and sister from a wealthy family who were abducted from a market and sold as slaves to a wealthy couple who badly mistreated them.

Luckily I hadn’t got too far with this idea because when I met David Maidment (more on him next week), I knew immediately that I’d got it all wrong! Nothing so romantic as a tearful reunion with a loving family for the real street children of India. The harsh reality is far worse than anything I could have possibly imagined. There was no way I could continue writing my book without some serious research. What I discovered was shocking, desperately saddening and extremely difficult to write about in a story for children. If I was to achieve the goal of raising awareness of the plight of Indian street children I was going to have to step right out of my comfort zone.

…to be continued.


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