Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Has realism in children's books gone too far?

Former children's laureate Anne Fine has told an audience at the Edinburgh Festival that she is concerned that realism in children's novels may have gone too far, reports Jack Malvern in The Times.
“In the Fifties, when a strong child was dealing with difficult circumstances, there was always a rescue at the end of the book and it was always a middle-class rescue,” she said.

“The child would win a scholarship to Roedean or something, and go on to do very well. That was felt to be unrealistic and so there was a move away from that. Books for children became much more concerned with realism, or what we see as realism.

“But where is the hope? How do we offer them hope within that? It may be that realism has gone too far in literature for children. I am not sure that we are opening doors for children who read these books, or helping them to develop their aspirations.”
Speaking on the same panel at the Festival, Fine's concerns were rejected by bestselling children's writer Melvin Burgess:
“I have had letters talking about the humanity of my books, even when the situations the characters are in are very dark and difficult. Just the fact that they are still making jokes and falling in love. Perhaps the light of hope comes from the reader and not the story.”


  1. Anonymous11:26 pm

    I don't think we should be encouraging editors to follow any more rules. They're too prone to this as it is: "We need more adventure. We need more realism. We need more books about mutual understanding..." And so on. No, we just need more _good_ books for kids, and sometimes that means an upbeat ending and sometimes not. What we do see more of these days in children's books are endings that leave some room for interpretation, and no harm in that.

  2. In fact Anne Fine had a letter in today's Times pointing out that she never said what the article claimed.

    The grand tradition of British journalism, it seems, is not dead!


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