Books

Top 5 child characters in books, chosen by award-winning journalist Tom Lamont

Children can form the emotional heart of a novel, here are some of the most memorable

Image: Margaret Weir from Pexels

Ahead of the release of his debut novel Going Home, Tom Lamont picks his favourite child characters in novels.

Tilda in Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

Six-year-old Tilda lives on a canal boat with her mother Nenna and her sister Martha in 1960s London. Fitzgerald gives the little girl a sailor’s memory for tide times, an antiquer’s eye and an emotional perceptiveness far greater than many of the adults in the story.

James in Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann

Seven-year-old James plays a small supporting role in this novel about the coming-of-age of his older sister, Olivia, in 1920s England. Even so, he steals every scene he’s in. 

Leo in The Go-Between by LP Hartley

Eager and over-credulous Victorian 12-year-old Leo finds himself spending the whole boiling hot summer of 1900 as a messenger between the adults in a sexy, doomed love triangle.

Lila and Elena in My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein

Ferrante portrays an utterly real and full friendship between two six-year-olds. Everything about their shared world rings true, their fears and superstitions, their small pleasures and their big dreams.

Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Six-year-old Scout, the narrator of the story, is Mockingbird’s soul. But her best friend Dill is its heart. You love Dill forever from about page 60, when he starts “hatching one” — that is, another of his famous tall tales. My favourite of Dill’s fibs comes in chapter four, when he tells Scout about his father being “president of the L&N Railroad. ‘I helped the engineer for a while,’ said Dill, yawning.” That yawn!

Tom Lamont’s debut novel Going Home is out on 6 June (Sceptre, £16.99). These titles are available to buy or preorder from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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