Language and Control in Children's Literature

By Murray Knowles; Kirsten Malmkjær | Go to book overview

4

Today’s young reader

INTRODUCTION

The narratives which are representative of the genre of traditional juvenile fiction are, in general, best regarded as sets of characteristics with little to distinguish them one from the other. This is not to deny that with writers like Ballantyne and Kingston there was a new departure in children’s literature. As well as assuming the role of instructor there was a recognisable attempt to entertain the young reader. By the early twentieth century, however, the genre was exhibiting symptoms of weariness. Overall, these narratives are alike in their uniformity, and having read one Biggies book you have read them all. The tradition of fantasy writing too was entering the doldrums as the ‘First Golden Age’ drew to a close. By and large the next fifty years are not noted for originality or creativity in the production of children’s books. Overall, in the great majority of books published during this time there is little or no complexity of character or exploration of those emotions and feelings that are the hallmarks of the best of today’s books for young readers.

In chapter 1 we saw that by the mid 1950s writers able to offer adventure and excitement with characterisation, imagination and style as opposed to presenters of stereotypes were emerging. Since the 1960s and 1970s writers already well established in the field of adult fiction were to contribute substantially to children’s literature. Not least amongst them is Nina Bawden whose work has been cited in Knowles’s 1989/1990 survey. Furthermore, no discussion of modern children’s fiction can ignore Roald Dahl. His work has attracted a large following from childhood to adolescence as the survey demonstrates. We consider him specifically in chapter 5 from another perspective but in this chapter we wish to discuss some of the notions

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Language and Control in Children's Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Children’s Literature in England 1
  • 2 - Literature as a Carrier of Ideology: Children’s Literature and Control 41
  • 3 - Traditional Juvenile Fiction 81
  • 4 - Today’s Young Reader 114
  • 5 - The Fairytale 156
  • 6 - Fantasy Fiction 224
  • 7 - Last Thoughts 262
  • References 267
  • Index 276
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