Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I usually like the book news from The Guardian--I like it enough that I added it to my feed reader. But this just seems clueless: Just a few short years ago, while teen sex had long been OK-ed and drug use was creeping in "for authenticity", death was cited as the last taboo. Now, death seems to positively stalk children's books, with characters confronting the grave with sometimes alarming abandon.

I'm not going to argue about whether there's a lot of child/teen death in novels for kids and teens right now--I haven't read enough to know whether it seems excessive. But the notion that it had previously been a taboo just seems bizarre and ahistorical to me. Child death is the central topic of much early literature for and about children, as some of the commenters on the Guardian blog have already noted. And canonical authors for kids and teens in the latter half of the twentieth century--Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, John Knowles, to name only three--certainly deal with child death in their works. Where has Julia Eccleshare been?

1 comment:

  1. Something as old-fashioned and presumed-innocuous as Betsy-Tacy features the death of Tacy's baby sister, and devotes pages to two five-year olds grappling with what that means. Death is the last taboo? Huh.