Nancy Li Fan makes Christopher Paolini look like a doddering greybeard.

The Observer reports:

A fantasy novel about tribes of warring birds, written by a gifted 11-year-old girl who lives in the southern-most province of China, is to be published worldwide in English.
The young author, Nancy Yi Fan, won the extraordinary opportunity by simply emailing her manuscript to the chief executive of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, at the publisher’s New York office.
Fan has since been hailed as a prodigy by her editors who will use her book in a new attempt to establish the firm in China . Her story, Swordbird, is an epic allegory about the struggle for peace and will be printed in this country in the new year.

No offence to Fan, who may well be a child prodigy. But this looks like the Paolini Effect at work: the backstory sells the book, and unless it’s putrid-terrible, what kind of evil reviewer would slag off an 11-year-old author?
And well, on one hand, more power to Li Fan and Paolini: at eleven and 16 respectively, most of us were scraping the chewing gum off our pigtails, not signing book deals. But does anybody remember, say, Flavia Bujor? Teen sensation, wrote The Prophecy of Stones at the age of 12? Or Catherine Webb? Neither did badly with their “teen sensation” books, but both became the publishing industry equivalent of the two-or-three hit boy/ girl bands.
This CSM story explored what happens when the very young write that first book.