Voice in children’s literature : Power, space and place

One of the big things I’m passionate about (and you may have gathered this) is the demystification of children’s literature. Of literature, really, of the breaking down of the fear of it and the awe of it and the preconceptions of it. Doing my MA in Children’s Literature (with the rather superb department at Roehampton) was one of the greatest things I did. It helped give me confidence in talking about this great love of my life – and it gave me confidence in dealing with that great love of my life. I genuinely think that in a way it gave me my voice.

Voice. That’s a big thing in children’s literature. You’ll hear a lot about it everywhere, in agents wishlists and in reviews. The voice. We search for it because it is a way to connect with something. It is not about what is said (as we all know, an unreliable narrator can shift and spin the narrative to their own ends) but rather it is about how it is said. How a word is in the text and how it touches the left and right space of that word. How a story aches to be complete, and how it rages against being fenced in. How a paragraph can be everything and nothing and a world can be caught in that space between where it starts and ends.

So I want you to think about voice, I think, in the next book you’re reading. But I don’t want you to stop at the voice of the words inside the book. I want you to think about the whole of the book, the sense of it. I want you to taste it. I want you to push at it and find your space in it.  I want you to hold that book in your hand, be it a picture book you’re reading with your children, or a dystopia you’re devouring on the commute, and think about how it feels in your grip. About the sense of it, about the emotion 

Because I believe that understanding and being able to touch literature, to feel it, makes you strong. Being able to understand how you feel about something makes you powerful. Your voice is constructed of a thousand shards of you and the discovering of that voice is maybe one of the hardest things in the world to do. But it’s also one of the most valuable.

The understanding of voice, the experience of voice can give you your voice.

This is why literacy matters. This is what it can do.

This is what it does. 

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9 thoughts on “Voice in children’s literature : Power, space and place

  1. whew – this was a potent little post!!! and two favorite parts of it
    “an unreliable narrator can shift and spin the narrative to their own ends” (indeed….)
    and then this zinger

    “understanding and being able to touch literature, to feel it, makes you strong”

    and if it is okay with you – I am going to quote you on this in a future post – whew – sooooo good. I will give you credit of course – but your passion is wonderful. inspiring.
    ~y.

      • thx – and I have to tell you that this post reminded me of how “short”posts can still say so much – and it reminded me of how a post under 500 words may get read more than longer ones. Because I may not have actually gotten to this post if it was – let’s say – 1,000 words. Because anytime I run across really long posts that I cannot read while going through the feed (which is usually the 900+ word ones) well I will put that in a “need to read” folder – I do that because I know I ail benefit from any gems someone has posted – but the problem is a matte rod “when” I get to them – hmmmm
        and all that to say – the best part of this post was how you said so much in 500 words. I know that is impossible to do with certain thoughts and issues, but the times when it can be done has many perks.

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday Elinor M. Brent-Dyer | Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?

  3. Pingback: The physicality of reading | Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?

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