Thursday, March 31, 2005

Golden Age of Children's Literature

Terrific article, "The greatest stories ever told," in The Guardian, highlights the wealth of talent writing for children today. Read the whole thing!

Every once in a while - not at regular intervals, not even every century - one literary form comes to dominate. When that happens, all the other practising artists are pulled towards the dominant form. In Elizabethan and Jacobean England, drama became primary; in the 19th century, it was the novel. So strong were the writers in these fields that all other writing took on some of the qualities of the dominant genre; practitioners in other fields turned to playwriting, poets experimented with the novel. So in a decade in which Salman Rushdie has produced a children's book, the question is whether children's fiction is exercising that gravitational pull right now.

The answer has echoes in that previous time. What made Elizabethan England a golden age of literature? It was because there wasn't just Shakespeare - who raised standards higher than they'd been before - but the plethora of other brilliant playwrights (Marlowe, Middleton, and later Webster and Ford); authors who in any other age would be hogging the limelight all to themselves.

That is the situation in today's world of children's literature. Not just Rowling but several other names are at the top of their game: in no particular order, Lauren Child, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jerry Spinelli, Ann Brashares, Michael Morpurgo, Mark Haddon, Philip Ridley, Neil Gaiman, Joel Stewart, Eva Ibbotson, Michael Rosen. The talent out there is dazzling.
I have always said that children's and YA books are the best reading around, no matter what age you are.

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