‘Roads’ in children’s books

As I’m sure you’ll know, I have a particular interest in the representation of landscape in children’s books. Landscape tells you everything, and yet it’s often one of the more forgotten elements when people talk about a book. Consider the difference between the two sentences below.

The cat sat on the mat in a field.

The cat sat on the mat in the ocean.

Two entirely, viscerally different scenarios and all of that comes from adding a little bit of context. Location. Landscape. Setting.

I’ve been thinking about roads at the moment, and in particular stories where roads form a key point of the narrative. I don’t want books where roads appear in the background or as a vague element in the illustration, I want them to be centralised within the text. Characters, if you will, in their own right.

So this post is essentially to ask for some help! Do you know of any children’s books – picture book through to YA – that might fit the bill? If you do, please let me know in a comment below and I’ll collate the results into a reading list . Thank you!

5 Life Lessons Children’s Literature Taught Me (with a little help from Buffy)

1. bravery is not what you think it is

tumblr_m3dcp6gQHr1qihsweo4_250.gif

I think, in a way, this is one of the more important and perhaps the most important message that any book can tell anyone. As Buffy says in the above gif that sort of reduces me to an emotional wreck every time I look at it, the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. And it’s even harder to do that as a child with all of the power and control that you lack in that position. Life is horrible, sometimes, and to live in that – to be able to be brave within that? To show your reader that there’s a light in the darkness, however dark your darkness is? That’s a gift.

Reading suggestions: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, There May be a Castle by Piers Torday.

2. it’s all about the journey

Image result for buffy travel gif

It’s too easy to shift life into a series of moments. Of goals. And they don’t get easier when you get older, but somehow they’re more sharp when you’re a child. Exams. Grades. Friendship. The shattering moment when your friend plays with somebody else on the playground or that moment when your social media is full of people having a better life than you. So this is where the books step in to show you that there is something else out there and that’s the journey. You may be all heading towards the grim inevitability of SATS or A-Levels or university or the first job, but these books remind you to enjoy the process of getting there. To party, to laugh, to love, to live. Sometimes your destination will wait.

Reading suggestions: Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, My Name is Mina by David Almond

3. you matter

Image result for buffy kind gif

You’ll see it on the front of certain magazines and you’ll know it, straight away. It’s that urge to mould a million faces into a concept of perfection that, often, bears a mad disconnect from reality. It’s in the urge to deny the voice of the individual. The urge to laugh at people who get upset when their favourite band breaks up. The urge to mock otherness, to deny otherness within the world. This is the point where young adult literature comes out fighting: it is the space for otherness to thrive. It is a space for that otherness to exist.

Reading suggestions: What’s a girl gotta do? by Holly Bourne, A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian

4. be kind

Image result for buffy kind gif

Life isn’t about isolation but isolation is often a part of life. Anxiety, fear, terror; teenagers today face pressures that adults can’t often begin to fathom. I know it works the other way too (let me tell you about the wonder that is imposter syndrome some time), so these books work both ways. They talk to adults and to teens. Let’s phrase that a little bit better: these books talk to people. They make connections and ask you to see beyond the edges of your own world. To be kind within the context of yourself and to others. To be part of the world.

Reading suggestions: Girl with a white dog by Anne Booth, An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls

5. love is love is love

Image result for buffy love gif

The shape of love. To know what it is before you have it, to find it andto hold it. Questions that I still can’t answer, not wholly, not easily, but questions that exist. The limit of love. What is love? Who gets to love? How do I love? What can I love? Who loves me? What if I don’t want to love anything at all? Questions, questions, and sometimes we need to allow the space for those questions to be formed. And to not be afraid of that. The safety of the unknown is, I think, a rarity. We urge ourselves to answer the question, to find an answer and to not allow that silence. And we try to provide clarity to children, to others, to ourselves. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. And this is where these books step in.

Reading suggestions:  I capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Unhooking the moon by Gregory Hughes.

 

Remember that list I keep of children’s books set in the UK?

Did you know that I keep a few reading lists here and update them when I come across something relevant? One of those lists was a list of titles set in the UK. This all came from one of those late night conversations on Twitter where I and a few others wondered whether you could read your way around the UK. Turns out you can. You so can and should. Really, there’s some splendid books out there. We’re so incredibly lucky with what’s out there.

Well, that was then and this was now. Today, I’m letting you know that that list has evolved. Basically, it was once a Pikachu and now it’s gone all Raichu. As part of my PhD (I’m doing a Phd, have I mentioned it? 😉 ), it’s evolving into a much more specific and user friendly sheet. The data on this sheet is free of duplicates, of typos (there were a lot…), and all those lovely white gaps are going to get filled in with some very specific data – such as full citation details, actual specifics of locations features, and their real life equivalents where applicable.

And I thought I’d let you have a look at it now in a sort of covert, sneaky peek sort of manner. Shush. Keep it under your hat. Don’t tell anyone. 🙂

Politics / Politicians in Young Adult Literature

Just a quick news in brief sort of article for today, but last night I was wondering a bit about politics and politicians in young adult literature so I asked for some suggestions of titles on Twitter. Here’s the storify of what I was recommended. I hope it proves of interest ! 🙂

Read Your Way Around the UK

You can blame David Almond for this. I was reading one of his rich nuanced books, that sing of love and of humanity and of life, and I thought wait a minute. Wait a minute, I thought, I wonder if these books that are so richly of his North (and not in the Game of Thrones style, of his Actual North), I wonder if there’s something in that.

I wondered if it was possible to read your way around the UK? And not just any old books. Children’s books. Anything from board book up to Young Adult. Bath books, even, whatever, as long as it had a suitably county-specific identity.

Firstly, I congratulated myself for thinking it in such a Seussical manner that I had a rhyming name for the challenge. And then I thought, wait, that’s a lot of counties.

And then I thought, well, I do enjoy a challenge…. 😉

This, therefore, is your official announcement of the DYESTTAFTSA READ YOUR WAY AROUND THE UK Challenge! The challenge itself is split into three parts; the sourcing of the titles (which will all live here in a handy spreadsheet), the actual reading of the books, and the posting of the review. I would LOVE it if people were to join in with this so please do tweet me (@chaletfan), comment or send a carrier pigeon with your recommended books and reviews.

So let’s begin, shall we? READ YOUR WAY AROUND THE UK begins today. (YAY) (HEY, HEY, HEY) (KALLOO KALLAY) (I SHOULD PROBABLY STOP RHYMING NOW).

(Also while I have your attention, may I ask ‘what are you and yours doing November 9th 2013? David Almond aka one of the greatest writers of children’s literature of our time is speaking in Birmingham at this festival and you really, really ought to be there to hear him and also spend the day wallowing in children’s books with some very like-minded folk. I am going. I am very excited about it.)