In an interesting debate with an English Lit. student today I argued that Childrens’ Literature (caps?) was as violent as it has ever been. During the debate I pulled in references from some of my old favourites – Darren Shan, Lemony Snicket, Gaiman, Gliori, Rowling and Tolkien. The opposition filed in with 18th century children’s literature, much of which I had barely heard of, and mostly never read. The ensuing argument did leave me with a few interesting points to note however.
The majority of literature written for children in the 18th Century was created to instill the fear of god or to gain other disciplinary results . This formed much of my argument about violence in modern Childrens’ Lit. – the modern novel is written for entertainment, not for any moral or ethical end-product. There is also much deeper character development in modern childrens fiction – this engages the reader much more emtionally so that although the violence from some authors may be less detailed the effect on a young reader is greater.
The authors of children’s literature are certainly much more engaged publicly with their audiences and know what subjects they want to read about – children make the best critics. If an author treats the reader, and plots, as adult the young reader will engage much more with the characters and the author. My experience of this was at a CBI (Childrens Books Ireland) event in Dublin a few years ago where a number of authors were invited to give readings and talks about their books. Having never met or read anything of most of those involved I attended a talk by Larry O’Loughlin in which the author was so re-caught by the emotion of his own novel that he cried. Seeing a grown man cry had such a profound effect on me that I bought his book, and others and will be a fan for life.
The debate, my apologies for straying, ended however on a very pleasing note when my opponent admitted to having read very little new Childrens’ Lit. Not a strong win but with a pleasing result – she agreed to read some of those that I used in my argument. This post is not just to gloat that I finally managed to win an argument, but also to raise the question of what others think.
hadn’t seen this until today: Oscar Winning, Six Shooter