We live in exciting times. You know that, right? Right now, the dialogue and the productivity and the talent that forms the world of children’s literature is amazing. Outstanding, even. I’d argue we’re living in a new Golden Age Of Children’s Literature. We really, really are.
I’ve been reminded of that recently when following the debate inspired by this (outstanding) article: “I hate strong female characters”. In it, the author talks about how male characters get – well, for want of a better phrase, facets. In comparison, female characters get to be strong . Lucy Coats responds to it over on An Awfully Big Blog and asks “Do you hate strong female characters?” (Sidebar: we’re discussing this topic on Twitter this Thursday 22nd Aug @ 9pm. Join in with #kidbkgrp ).
I don’t think I have answers to this discussion (and I don’t think I should have answers). But I do have questions and thoughts.
So here they are.
- “It’s about power – who’s got it, who knows how to use it.”
- There’s a moment in Persepolis, a book wrapped in war and puberty and angst, that makes me catch my breath every time. It is when Marjane’s parents send her out of the country. Sometimes strength is about smiling when your heart is breaking.
- The thing is, sometimes, we forget (and sometimes we’re scared to remember) that language is here to serve us. It is ours. And controlling it, shaping it, is probably one of the greatest superpowers you’ll ever have. Period.
- Is there such a thing as a Byronic heroine? I want a heroine who’s sad, who’s broken and yet still underneath it all, powerful as hell. And sexy, and brave, and enigmatic, and just – different and bold and strong and faceted.
- Maria Nikolajeva describes all young adult literature as a “bildungsroman”. And as part of that saga of growing up, we face our demons, our piteous fragile three am fears, and our exultant joys. I want big books. Big, bold books that go to the sadness and take you with them. I want Daphne Du Maurier wrapped up in a YA jacket. God I’d love a Daphne Du Maurier YA.
- Strength isn’t just about physicality. It’s about words, using words when they’re the only thing left to you in a world that’s gone mad. It’s about falling in love, in hate, in raging raging indifference. It’s about falling, about picking yourself back up again.
- Words are what we make them.
(Do you want to know something?
You’ve got the power. Right now, in this connected world, in this online instant world, you have the power. You had the power ever since you opened that book, ever since you picked it up off the shelf, ever since you opened your eyes this damn morning. And my GOD, how that excites me. The way people, out there, are constructing stories, are shaping stories, how they are living their life with a Maureen Johnson at their side or a Patrick Ness, and how they’re navigating the streets of Oxford and when the light hits at the right angle they can see their daemon, and how they’re playing Quidditch at the uni, and how they’re Nerdfighters and how they’re engaging in clever, smart dialogue on Tumblr and owning their world and understanding their world and planting two feet square in the middle of it and saying I matter and you matter and we all damn well matter.
I love how people are stories, and how they own stories and how they make stories every damn day.
I have questions. But I think – no – I know that you’ve got answers.)
“So here’s the part where you make a choice.
Are you ready to be strong?”