This book has become something of a touchstone for me. I go back to it again and again.
In re-reading a chapter entitled 'The habit of hoping', I was recently reminded of an interview with Kate DiCamillo where she says there's only one thing she keeps in mind, only one hard and fast rule she holds on to: "which is something from Katherine Patterson - that you're duty-bound when you write for kids, to end with hope. Other than that rule, all bets are off."
It's one of the essential ways in which children's literature serves its readers - by allowing for the presence of hope, by creating the space for it to exist, to breathe, to be. That's all - the creation of a space to fill, no matter how slight. It's not a guarantee, it's not about an idealised happy ending, there is no masking of the complexity, pain or paradox that weaves through childhood as much as adulthood. But hope is there in the closing pages, it's there in the end. And it's unyielding.
Here is McCann's chapter in full: