Sunday, September 25, 2011

Classic Kid Lit Rant

On Friday, The Independent featured an article called "Why do adults read children's books? Blame modern life".  According to Dr. Louise Joy from Cambridge University, adults read classic children's books (and modern books that resemble older children's classics) because they represent a "symbolic retreat from the disappointment of reality".

More gems from the article:
"Books such as Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach offer a world where self-consciousness is overthrown and relationships are straightforward," says Dr Joy. "But relationships in the real adult world are often fraught by miscommunication and the impossibility of understanding one another properly."
Dr Joy claims The Hobbit's characters hanker after simple meals, whereas "in the real world we rarely sit to down to a home-cooked meal".
Really?  Give me a break!  I understand that Dr. Joy trying to promote her forthcoming book Literature's Children, but come on.  You can use an "escaping reality" argument for reading in any genre, not just classic children's books...or any hobby could be seen as an escapist activity from watching TV to playing a sport. Your focus is on the show or game, not dwelling on life's stresses.  While some classic kid lit plots seem straightforward or idealistic, that doesn't mean the story is one dimensional or without relationship conflicts.  It sounds like Joy's theory over-analyzes scenes and character traits in children's literature to justify that seemingly needy adults use it as a method to escape their terrible reality.

I'm a YA lit fan but I don't read these stories because they give me things I don't have in my everyday "real adult" life.  I cook meals with my husband.  I communicate with my family and friends.  I didn't want a soul mate who could be my identical twin. I simply enjoy reading children and young adult books because the stories are fun. I agree with children's author Charlie Higson who's quoted in the article as saying:
"I get irritated when people try to come up with great theories... The nostalgia which inspires us to read children's books written 100 years ago is the same as what attracts us to watch period dramas on television."
Thank you Charlie. 

P.S. Charlie Higson's book The Enemy is on my TBR list. I love zombies, especially YA zombie novels since it's fun to read. :)   

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