Short Stories

Many of Jan’s best-loved books are collections, such as Nothing to be Afraid Of or ‘frame novels’, like They Do Things Differently There or Finders, Losers. She often expressed her preference for the short story form.

In addition to writing dozens of her own short stories, Jan edited several anthologies, most notably The Oxford Book of Children’s Stories (1993), which traces the evolution of true short stories for children from 1749 to the 1990s. Researching the book took most of 1992, and became the subject of her Patrick Hardy lecture – the text of which will be forthcoming on this website.

Jan’s own short stories varied in length, some approximating novella length but still feeling like short stories. (Remember, she wrote 2,000-word novels for young readers, so knew that a short story of the same length was an entirely different beast.) Hairs in the Palm of the Hand (1981) offered a pairing for children while Two Stories appeared for adults in 1984, at the end of her residency at Oxford Polytechnic.

Neil Philip explores one of the stories ‘Childermas’ in this piece.

Here is a link to a piece written for The Horn Book Magazine.

To read an uncollected short story, ‘Angel in the Library’, click here, and click here to see Jan’s original handwritten manuscript and her typescript.