Saturday 7 March 2015

The Anti-Good Kids Book Rant

Just recently I read a book in a children's series titled The Anti-Princess Club published by one of Australia's top publishing houses. It was the author’s attempt to indoctrinate young girl readers into feminism. Basically, the idea is take a trio of girls who want to overcome parental expectations (that is, parents treating them like princesses) and have them figure out ways in which they can be ‘themselves.’

I agree that all young people – boys as well as girls – ought to be raised without stereotypical, sexist expectations, but this book seemed to be just ticking all of the boxes. At the moment, too, there are (and I counted) over a dozen book series for girls who have happy adventures with minor hiccups they need to explore and come to terms with.

I have to say it or I’ll explode! I am heartily sick of children’s books like those above, especially novels for pre-teens, which are about middle-class children with middle-class expectations and petty problems. Sadly, books these days are written by middle-class authors, accepted for publication by middle-class editors and chosen for children by middle-class parents, grand-parents and librarians.

Where are the junior novels about children from dysfunctional or disadvantaged children, and/or children from working class families? Where can a child who’s in care read a book about herself? 

What book can the child whose parents are unemployed or who drink too much, or take drugs, have mental illness, or live their lives in confusion, find another child like himself? Which books can these unfortunate children read about kids like themselves which show how those kids manage to find hope in what might seem like a hopeless world?

I want to see – I demand to see -- books which challenge young readers to go beyond their comfortable, middle-class existences. I want young readers to see children like some of their peers who struggle on a daily basis. Where are the publishers brave enough to take on such novels? Where are the writers prepared to go beyond the boundaries of their safe little worlds?

Yes, reader, I am writing them! Nobody’s Boy (Celapene Press), A Game of Keeps (Celapene Press), Here Comes Trouble! (Dragon Tales Publishing) – and two more which are currently looking for a publisher: The Very Best Teacher and To the Moon and Back

The only children’s author of novels for younger readers I can name is the UK’s Jacquelyn Wilson whose books – like The Illustrated Mum, The Suitcase Kid, Tracey Beaker -- are immensely popular. Check out her books me know if you have read any books such as I’ve described – I want to read them, too!


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