Three children’s authors on the importance of tough topics in young people’s literature

Three children’s authors on the importance of tough topics in young people’s literature

Almost three years ago, I began writing what would eventually become my first book for middle-grade readers: “ Riverland .” I did so despite having sworn to myself long ago that this was the story I would never tell. Deciding to write this book, in which two sisters navigate a dangerous household and a fantastical dream realm, eventually saving each other and the world, was a matter of waking up one morning and knowing I needed to tell the story after all. However, writing the book became a difficult journey, filled with revision after revision until I got Eleanor and Mike’s story right. That’s because, with “Riverland,” I didn’t want to write an issue book about domestic violence, necessarily. I wanted to write an adventure: one with two sisters as heroes and survivors. Children’s literature has a long history of engaging tough topics in small and large ways and wrapping them up in adventure. Books as beloved as Katherine Paterson’s “ Bridge to Terabithia, ” all the way up through recent stories such as Patrick Ness’s “ A Monster Calls ” and “ Amal, Unbound ,” by Aisha Saeed, engage and entertain on many levels while doing important work. For me, and for many readers and the authors who write for them, there isn’t always a divide between issue books and adventure or escape. Often books that fall on the lighter side of “just for fun” literature have a serious point at their core, while many books regularly address tough topics with magic and wonder. For additional perspectives, I asked fellow fantasy and science fiction children’s literature authors Carlos Hernandez (“ Sal and Gabi Break the Universe ”) and Rachel Hartman (“ Tess of the Road ”) to talk with me about the importance of magic and adventure when it comes to tough topics and themes. We each wrote different types of adventures — navigating a new school after a move and the death of a parent, when you can accidentally alter physics and open wormholes to different universes; traversing a countryside in search of mythical creatures following emotional trauma and sexual assault; falling into a dream river and having to stop it — and the creatures that live on it — from leaking into the real world while avoiding making your dad angry. And we all agreed that the quests offered readers something important: empathy, connection and powerful tools. “What fiction does best is create a space for readers to gain empathy with others, even if their situations are different,” Hernandez says. “When readers and characters do share similar situations, fiction can create spaces that are specifically useful. Reading offers children options that might never have occurred to them otherwise, which helps them feel less isolated,” Hartman says. “For children — and adults too — often the only thing worse than going through something difficult is going through it completely alone. The feeling of being seen and understood in fiction is transformative. These kinds of stories are a […]

Full article on original web page… www.washingtonpost.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *