British and American Kid Lit.

The Atlantic has a great read about Kids Lit by Colleen Gillard. It examines the origins and influences of British and American culture on the kid lit produced in each country. I need to read it again to clarify a few questions I have, but it’s a fascinating piece for any kids lit folks.

It does touch on one issue that bugs me with tales like Harry Potter. Harry is wonderful and meaningful and important – BECAUSE of who his parents were. That bugs me to no end. Sure he’s nice and fights for good, but his importance comes from his bloodline. That’s certainly ingrained in a culture where your King and Queen are who they are – only because of who their fathers and mothers were. I’d call it the aristocratic solution to the issue of why a main character is important. they are BECAUSE they were MEANT to be. I much prefer the notion that anyone can and will make a difference no matter what station of life they come from.


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7 Responses to British and American Kid Lit.

  1. That’s a very interesting point I have never considered. I think you are spot on about the British obsession with heredity filtering into books. I must find time to read the article.

    • mfearing says:

      It’s a good read and I will probably talk more about it once I collect my thoughts. I know, so rare to take time writing something on the internet! But there are a few things in the article (and not in the article) I’d like to comment on.

  2. Lance says:

    I don’t think it is only British, but much deeper ingrained. One of my favorite authors, David Brin , centers his criticisms of most fantasy (and much “sci-fi”) due to the stories being about a “Chosen One” (who is usually a Prince or of some other special bloodline). Star Wars is one of his favorite targets 🙂

    • mfearing says:

      Good point. I think Lucas more or less stumbled into that aspect because it’s a cheap easy way to build drama an a sense of history. Star Wars (the first film) is obviously very inspired by Lord of the Rings, and what I loved about that Tolkien story is that Bilbo and Frodo were exceptional because of their lack of being exceptional. But smart average hobbits with a bit more curiosity than the average Hobbit. It’s not unlike the mythology behind the ‘average’ Joe drafted into WWII who when pressed did remarkable things and acted with great integrity. * See Saving Private Ryan. I can speak mostly of the European traditions and I think Star Wars fits perfectly in line with the longer, larger mythos of special men who come from the bloodline of true gods.

  3. I see what you mean. I would love to read a story where the whole “Chosen One” thing is abolished – or just made fun of. (the “Chosen One” doesn’t do a thing, for whatever reason, and a character just steps up and does it.

    • mfearing says:

      Well, that’s what I tried to do with Earthling! though it was;t as effective as I wish it had been. You have to have an organic reason for the protagonist to be involved, but much like in The Hobbit, it doesn’t have to be that they are especially special. I’d rather look for characters that are special because of what they decide, and the actions they take. Not that they are in a bloodline from a Norse God!

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