The thing is, every now and then, in mainstream media, we see mention of children’s books. They’re usually rather intermittent mentions, reminiscent of birds caught on a pocket of hot air. They spiral fleetingly, gorgeously, temptingly, and then they wheel away. Children’s books don’t get covered in mainstream media, not easily, not comfortably. Julia Donaldson talks about it here. And she’s right, in so many ways.
The other thing is, as the comments on the bottom of that piece show, children’s literature is mis-perceived. Often foolishly so, because to disregard this genre is to disregard work being written for one of the great tribes of our time.
Children are wild, unfathomable creatures. For a long time they don’t talk, they don’t verbalise their feelings. They are the great unknown, the last great tribe of humanity that could, quite easily, turn the world upside down if they wanted to.
And they’re great; wondrous, passionate, funny and smart, being shaped every day that sees them progress through childhood. How can you not see the literature that guides, aids, abets and challenges that progression as being worthy of import?
Everything comes from children’s literature, everything comes from stories. Your words that you write now, the way you look at a teddy bear in a window, the way you suddenly long to fly a kite on a windy hillside, the need to hold somebody tight when you feel sad. It is all part of our humanity, and our humanity is built on stories and storying and the undeniable need to understand who we are. And we do this through words, through questions, through throwing our belief against the world and seeing if it sticks.
We do this through stories. We do this through expressing what we are, who we are and what we want to be. And children’s literature does that, does that and more. It holds our hands through the darknesses and it brings you towards the light. It tells you that things can be okay, that things can be sad, that things can hurt, and it gives you a power through that telling.
It tells you that you are not alone.
How can you even begin to say that that does not matter?
(Edit: I wrote this to explain why I studied children’s literature. It still stands.)