V.C. Andrews is practically an institution. Her young adult gothic horror novels have sold more than 106 million copies, been translated into 24 languages, and educated generations of adolescent girls about consensual incest. Hers is the longest-running literary franchise in history and she’s one of the most popular authors working todayâexcept that she’s been dead for 27 years.
Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I never read a book with a Korean American character. I read about Shirley Temple Wong, Chinese immigrant to New York in The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, and Claudia Kishi, Japanese American teenage fashionista in The Baby-Sitters Club series. They did not provide a mirror to my experiences. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school, when I discovered An Na’s A Step from Heaven (2001), that I truly saw a reflection of my Korean American upbringing in youth literature.
"partly because children’s books provided a hiding place for a while, the early Soviet period was a miraculously rich time for children’s books and their illustration. A new book, Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children’s Literature 1920-1935 offers a glimpse into that astonishing world"
Read enough middle grade children’s literature and it all begins to blend. In 2013 I’ve noticed the occasional odd trend here and there, but when it comes to a post like this one I fall back on an old reliable: Terrible parental units. They’re staples. They’re what keep us going. Admittedly they’re far more common in young adult literature than children’s literature (the general tone in children’s books is just the kill them off early) but once in a while you get a real baddie. What does this say about the role of parents in books for children? Indeed, what does it mean for a story when the greatest protagonist is often one’s own parent? From the depressing to the deplorable, sometimes I like to catalog the worst of the worst and assess what it might mean about parents in books for kids at all.
Nearly a quarter of all public school kids are Latino, but only 3 percent of kids’ books are by or about Latinos. There’s a similar dearth of Native American, black and Asian characters. Why? One editor says librarians, with their high demand for multicultural books, don’t drive best-seller lists.
Johnson started out with an idle musing on Twitter: “I do wish I had a dime for every email I get that says: ‘Please put a non-girly cover on your book so I can read it – signed, A Guy.’”
She pointed to one of her own covers as an example – showing, on a neon pink background, an image of an attractive teenage girl displaying part of her stomach, with the words “a novel” in a dark pink heart. “This is The Key to the Golden Firebird. It’s about three sisters who are dealing with the sudden death of their father. May, the middle sister, is trying to hold her family together and learn how to drive. This is the cover,” said Johnson.
She was inundated with support, prompting her to ask her fans to redesign books by male authors, imagining them as by and for female readers. “Take a well-known book … Imagine that book was written by an author of the opposite gender. Or a genderqueer author. Imagine all the things you think of when you think girl book or boy book or genderless book (do they exist?). And I’m not saying that these categorisations are right – but make no mistake, they’re there,” Johnson urged.
You can check out responses to Johnson’s challenge at:
Suddenly, it seems like gay characters are everywhere in Y.A. literature. Or, if not everywhere, certainly in far more places and in a greater variety than ever before. Perhaps the most eye-catching recent example, which preceded Time's controversial new issue, is David Levithan’s upcoming Two Boys Kissing—and its cover with, yes, two boys kissing. But beyond the covers, plots involving LGBT characters are twisting and turning and emerging anew from the traditional coming-out story of years past.
"Anyone who tells you they know what’s coming, what things will be like in 10 years’ time, is simply lying to you," according to the author Neil Gaiman, fresh from a provocative speech at this week’s London Book Fair where he urged major figures in the book business to “try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else. Fail. Fail better. And succeed in ways we never would have imagined a year or a week ago.”
Having lately been examining two versions of Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle (1920, 1988) and three versions of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964, 1973, 1998), we’ve been addressing this question: Do Bowdlerized texts alter the ideological assumptions of the original? The answer is more complicated than you might think.