They come in threes

Image via Pratham Books
That vitally important triumvirate of Parents, Teachers and Librarians (which often intersect) are our theme of the moment.
 Especially for creators of work for younger readers, these are the people who put books into children's hands. Yet sometimes a less than friendly term is used for them collectively...

I speak of 'Gatekeepers.'

No, not the butterfly.

It's a loaded expression. It can suggest a group who control which print children get to see - for good or bad. An inspiration piece is not the place to get into a specific debate about censorship - but I would like to use the idea of The Gatekeeper as a starting point.

As sent up by Monty Python

There's the Guardian of the Word Hoard concept - a role of looking-after, selecting the best and ensuring its safety - some kind of benevolently bookish Smaug.

Never underestimate the power of the librarian

You can have the Defender of the Innocent too. This figure keeps filth and lies away from the young and defenceless. Anything from bacon-used-as-bookmarks to misprinted colours and hoaxes.

Parents and carers want the best.

Another I would suggest is The Leaner on the Top Bar. You know, the chatty type who waits for passers-by to talk to. Might have a piece of grass to chew. The perfect person for Word-of-Mouth recommendations.

Teachers often know their pupils' tastes.
All of these aspects can be used by writers and illustrators in their work. If you've ever felt that someone's world-view got in the way of your work reaching its audience, well that could be a motive. On the other, and more likely hand, how about those who've championed or inspired you? They can be character archetypes too.

Some gatekeepers are essential

Ideas for you to try

  • Can any of your characters act as gatekeepers - literally or figuratively? 
  • Is there a guardian figure in your story who thwarts your main character?
  • Could there be someone acting as a defender, perhaps misguidedly?
  • Does your main character receive or pass on a recommendation at any point? 

I would love to know if you have any extra ideas - or have ever used mine.

By K. M Lockwood


  1. You always inspire me, Phillippa!
    I love the idea of the 'leaner on the top bar'


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