Not the retiring type!

At 76, local poet and children’s author Kevin Crossley-Holland is busier than ever. Amanda Loose tries to keep up

 “I’ve always had a lot of different balls in the air at the same time and this last year perhaps more than ever,” says Kevin. “I am trying to cut down on invitations, but I’m not doing very well at it. I am collaborating with more artists in other disciplines than ever before. I can’t imagine retiring – being curious, involved with a range of things generates its own energy.”

And energy is something which Kevin seems to have in abundance. The beginning of November saw the publication of his Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki for children, with illustrations by Jeffrey Alan Love. Meanwhile, Radio 4 wants to make a 30-minute programme with him about the tides on the Staithe at Burnham Overy over 24-hours; David Cohen wants to make a film about Kevin based on the moored man from his poems, to premiere at the Oxford Literary Festival next March.

Not bad for starters, but hot on the heels of his collaboration with composer Cecilia McDowall on As Each Leaf Dances, written at the invitation of Barnardo’s for the service of thanksgiving to commemorate its 150th anniversary at St Paul’s Cathedral last year, Kevin and Cecilia have just embarked on a new project together.

Their commission for the National Children’s Choir will focus on children in conflict, with the story of cerebral palsy sufferer, Nujeen Mustafa and her journey with her sister from Syria to Germany at its heart.

Closer to home, Kevin was involved with the beLong education project which ran alongside the Richard Long exhibition at Houghton Hall this year, writing poems for key stage 2 and 3 pupils. And his cycle of poems about Sea Henge at Holme will be appearing in an updated version of The Stones Remain: Megalithic Sites of Britain with photography by Andrew Rafferty, and text by Kevin.

“I have Valkyries on either side of me, my wife and PA, suggesting I remember that the answer is no. I think a lot has to do with just plain curiosity. Everything is connected to so many other things. Curiosity is the thing which drives me, coupled with a sense of wonder really.

“In old age you forget things more, you treasure friends, family, especially grandchildren, and have a keen sense that you need to prioritise. Prioritising is beginning to make its mark on me.

“You have to begin to say this is what your body is saying. I always resisted this and pressed on regardless. Now I quite often rest in the afternoons. There is a weariness, I am 76 which seems so absurd. There’s a growing disappointment at how other people see you and how old you feel. But you must be a little more cautious.”

As busy as he is, North Norfolk remains home and a continuous thread throughout his work. “I never regretted for one moment living here. With my grandchildren, there have now been five generations of Crossley-Hollands coming here.”

Child literacy is hugely important to Kevin, who has just come to the end of five years as President of the School Library Association, and is now a patron. “My wife Linda does reading at the school each week here, part of a frankly splendid group who give a couple of hours each week to work on literacy.”

This Carnegie Medal-winning author’s extensive backlist of works for children has surely inspired many a young reader. Indeed, Short and Short Too, his sequences of short stories printed over a double page have been a hit with schools, with the former reprinted 35 times.

“The act of storytelling itself is so crucial. In an age besotted with the visual, we need our imaginations fired, and they are best fired by a story told with an ear to the music of language.”

Young (and older readers) will be delighted to hear that Walker is re-issuing his British Folk Tales next year, and that Kevin is “re-brewing” his children’s book on the 1953 flood. I’m just not sure I can keep up!

Amanda Loose, North Norfolk Living


‘Norse Myths: Tales of Odin,
Thor and Loki (Walker Studio,
240pp, £18.99, Oldie price £16.90
inc p&p) is a beautifully illustrated doorstopper of an anthology, in which the poet and Carnegie-winning author Kevin Crossley-Holland retells the legends of the Viking gods.
The book comprises 23 stories, all
woven into a thrilling narrative spanning the creation of the nine worlds to the final battle of Ragnarok.’     Emily Bearn, The Oldie


BOB CHILCOTT’S new CD, In Winter’s Arms (Signum SIGCD311) includes his wonderful setting of MY PERFECT STRANGER (first sung and broadcast by the BBC Singers), Kevin’s short Nativity cantata, as well as two of his carols, Nine Gifts and Jesus, Springing.


Light UnlockedLIGHT UNLOCKED, Kevin Crossley-Holland’s and  Lawrence Sail’s lovely anthology of Christmas card poems has just been reissued by Enitharmon Books.  With poems by Alan Brownjohn, Seamus Heaney and many other leading poets with whom the editors have exchanged cards, this book is of course an ideal Christmas present, and has been praised by Sir Trevor MacDonald OBE as ‘… one of the most delightful anthologies to be published in years.’

NORSE MYTHS Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki

NORSE MYTHS  –  TALES OF ODIN, THOR AND LOKI was published in November 2017 by Walker Studio in London and Candlewick in New York.  This book continues to be available in hardback, and has now reprinted three times.  A paperback version will be available in 2020.  The UK edition is being very strongly supported by Waterstone’s and Foyle’s.                        The U.S edition has already won a starred review from Book List ‘…….. Crossley-Holland’s inspired text is straightforward and largely unadorned in a way that makes it timesless…..   Together words and pictures work to memorable effect, doubtlessly inspiring their young readers to yell and cry.  The myths have never been better served.’ , while The Wall Street Journal has hailed it: “Brute power seems to emanate from the pages of ‘Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki’ (Candlewick Studio, 225 pages, $27.99), a collection of Viking stories retold with vigor and dash by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Wall Street Journal has since selected this book as one of 13 Children’s Books of the Year.   Jeffrey Alan Love’s stunning illustrations here are so potent and menacing that they seem less to have been created with acrylic and ink than to have been hammered from iron.”

As Neil Gaiman says, ‘Kevin Crossley-Holland is the master’

Check out the Traditional Tale page for more details.  And check out this blog if you’d like to know more about the Jeffrey Alan Love’s illustrations.


Orion has just reissued the first of the prize-winning Arthur trilogy, The Seeing Stone, with a new cover  –  for a new generation.  This title alone has sold well over one million copies and been translated into twenty-five languages, and will be followed early in 2018 by At the Crossing-Places and King of the Middle March.                                                 
Check out the Fiction page for further details.