Explore the Wonderous World of Children's Literature

Saturday, July 14, 2007
A few months ago when I was choosing my courses for my Spring/Summer session at University, I came across a full-year course called, “Children’s Literature”. My first thoughts were, “Man, this will be a breeze! After all, how difficult can it be to study children’s literature?”

The following week when the postman brought a box - heavier than my oldest child - filled to the brim with children and youth books, I knew how wrong my initial statement had been. First, this course was not going to be “a breeze”. Second, children’s literature has many colorful layers within it the same as other genres. Third, and a point I’d forgotten when registering for the course, children’s books are filled with fantasy – a genre I hadn’t ventured into much.

With an open mind, I dove head first into the deep pools of this wonderful area of writing I hadn’t explored before and was pleasantly surprised. So far, I’ve been taken on adventures in alternative worlds [The Princess and the Goblin (George MacDonald), The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis), The Tombs of Atuan (Ursula K. Le Guin)]; brought along on quests [The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, (J.K. Rowling)]; had my eyes opened in Realistic Fiction [The Great Gilly Hopkins (Katherine Paterson), The Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)]; taken back in time [Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)]; and reminded of the preciousness of life [Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbit)].

Even though each of these books are very different in terms of characterization, voice, setting and plot, all share a common theme: they explore different parts of a child’s vivid imagination. Fantasy isn’t all “Star Wars-like”, as I mistakenly thought. It’s being taken away to a different place, a different time or being able to see the world through another person’s eyes. Isn’t that what reading is all about? And isn’t that what we, as writers, try to achieve in our work – no matter what the genre we represent?

This has been the most difficult course I’ve ever taken (which says a lot considering I’m majoring in Psychology). Not because the work is hard but more because the readings challenge me to do what we sadly forget to as we get older: explore the world through a child’s eyes.
My course took me back to younger days when I was a gangly freckle-faced girl who would go to the library every week and take out as many books as my scrawny arms could carry home. It reminded me of why I fell in love with books in the first place and why I wanted to become a writer. Why not take a trip to your local library or bookstore and delve into the glorious world of Children’s Literature and Fantasy? Go on an adventure, follow a quest or just get comfy and allow yourself to be absorbed between the pages.

OH! And don’t forget to check out WOW’s October issue where the ladies will be exploring the world of Children/YA Literature. Maybe I’ll have a book review or two to check out. =o)


Sue said...

Thank you, Chynna, for this wonderful post! Children's books have dominated my reading time for years. My two kids are at the age where fantasy peaks their interest and, therefore, mine. I love to read what they read: Dragon Rider, Inkheart, Eragon, Spiderwick Chronicles, Maximum Ride, the Pendragon series, the Harry Potter series, and so many more. The world of children's fantasy books are so vital to children (and their parents), especially the older ones who, for various reasons, are pulled into the digital role-playing worlds offered by computers and various game consoles.

Also, as a mom, I see my kids often "running out" of these books. More need to be written. The possibilities are endless!

Jean said...

Another great read is the "Warrior" series by Erin Hunter. My kids (and I) have read all 6 of the "Warrior" series and are waiting to get the last of the "Prophecy" series.

If you or your kids love cats, I highly recommend these!!!

One thing really interesting about the series is that Erin Hunter is actually two writers. They take turns writing the books.


Sue said...

Thanks, Jean, for the next series suggestion. My son prefers the series books so he can just keep rolling...this is great!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to the post on Children's Lit.

My recent favorite:

Story of a Girl

It's YA, definitely not kid stuff, and it is excellent.

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