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09 January 2008

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Brian F.

My first question is the oldest question: how are we defining "children?" For some, children means everything from board books to GO ASK ALICE. For others, children is more board books and chapter books, then there's middle grade, then there's YA/teen. I wish we could all agree on terminology but that seems a tall order, especially when some people think the YA/teen designation is simply a marketing device.

That said, I do think there was a time when books for young children did not feature death prominently. Oh, sure, you could name handful of books that booksellers/librarians would recommend to patrons who came requesting a book that would help a child in their life deal with the premise. But I'm not sure it was ever a prominent topic.

Taboo? Maybe not. It does seem to be a grandiose generalization. But I do think books are getting edgier. Just like there are things that are done on TV now that wouldn't have been dreamt of 20 years ago, publishing is realizing that kids are learning about deeper topics at a younger age. It may never have been 'taboo,' but they simply thought there wasn't an audience for it.

On the other hand, there are still elements out there who WANT it to be taboo, who seek to protect their children from the realities of death or anything that might be considered bad. (These are the ones leading book bannings.)

I apparently had a lot more to say about this than I first thought when I read this post. I think I have more to say but I'm going to shut up now. Perception is a nasty thing.

Leila

Wow. That's a seriously long comment on an eight word post! But, yeah -- there is a lot to mull over there. I certainly think that children's literature has changed and broadened -- it was the sweeping generalization about death that surprised me.

I wondered about the age range, too -- as it was The Bower Bird (which just won the Costa), that seemed to have inspired the essay, I decided to assume that she was talking about chapter books (I'm thinking for the 8-12 range) rather than teen fiction.

Though she doesn't say it, it does seem like she's focusing more on Deaths That The Kids See Coming, rather than Sudden/Accidental Death. Those (DTTKSC) might be more unusual than S/AD, and maybe there are more of those than there used to be.

Andrew Karre

Comments on the actual Guardian blog post are interesting . . .

Little Willow

More like a staple.

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GA

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