(Maureen) Mollie Hunter (McIlwraith) Paul Heins - Essay

Paul Heins

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mollie Hunter is best known for her historical narratives and fantasies for young people, but her present essays [collected in Talent Is Not Enough: Mollie Hunter on Writing for Children], originally delivered as lectures, pertain to the writing of any work of fiction, juvenile or adult. This gifted practitioner of the art of writing children's books assumes that there are natural and necessary connections linking the various areas of all good writing. She traces the filaments binding folklore to storytelling, storytelling to the experiences of an author, and an author's experiences to the sudden apprehensions often kindled by words in both writers and children.

In A Sound of Chariots, Mollie Hunter tells how Bridie McShane, overwhelmed by grief at the death of her father, became suddenly, instantly aware of her physical surroundings…. (p. ix)

From the various allusions to Mollie's own childhood experiences in "Talent Is Not Enough," it becomes obvious that A Sound of Chariots is autobiographical. But more significant is Mollie Hunter's observation that "the range of a child's emotion has the same extent as that of an adult, and all the child lacks, by comparison, is the vocabulary to match his range." Bridie's emotions and experiences were obviously Mollie's own emotions and experiences, recollected—not necessarily in tranquillity, but certainly with intensity and with a hard-won power to convey that intensity in words. (p. x)

The whole collection of essays is an extraordinary combination of various patterns of thought and expression…. The general discussions of realistic and historical fiction, as well as of fantasy, are significant in their own right, but they are further enhanced by the author's feeling of responsibility toward children's literature. And her intuitive and poetic perceptions reveal her love of words and her constant desire to tell a story.

Although Mollie Hunter's stories are rooted in Scottish soil and history, the range of her fiction is wide-reaching in its sweep and universality; and, in a sense, her essays are confident assertions in another medium of what she does so well in storytelling. (pp. xi-xii)

Paul Heins, "Introduction" (copyright © 1976 by Paul Heins; reprinted by permission of the author), in Talent Is Not Enough: Mollie Hunter on Writing for Children by Mollie Hunter, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1976, pp. ix-xiii.