Monday, October 10, 2011

No More Adventures in Wonderland by Maria Tatar

Speaking of the dark (see my previous post), Maria Tatar had an op-ed piece in the New York Times over the weekend about the dark in children's literature.

From No More Adventures in Wonderland by MARIA TATAR:

J. M. Barrie’s Neverland, like Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland before it, delivers on the luminous promise of magic, with fairy dust and rainbow water, in a world ablaze with color and expressive energy. Yet the authors of “Peter Pan” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” also understood that “what if?” had a dark side: the Queen of Hearts ritually demands nearly everyone’s head and Captain Hook repeatedly brandishes his trademark weapon, while a clock ticking inside a crocodile reminds us that time is running out.

These are the traditional villains of children’s books — fabulous monsters with a touch of the absurd. Like Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things and countless others, they walk a fine line between horror and zany eccentricity. They may frighten young readers, but their juvenile antics strip them of any real authority. Alice shrieks with delight when she learns that the Duchess has boxed the Queen’s ears and shouts words like “Nonsense!” to banish threats, while Peter triumphs over a pirate who undermines himself by worrying about “good form” and then resorting to childish practices like biting.

Many authors of more recent books for children and teenagers have similarly crossed over to the dark side, and we applaud them for it. But the savagery we offer children today is more unforgiving than it once was, and the shadows are rarely banished by comic relief. Instead of stories about children who will not grow up, we have stories about children who struggle to survive.

You'll have to click through to read more and Tatar's final opinions, but it is certainly worth the time. Feel free to come back here and share any thoughts.

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