Depression, Recession, and Other Kid Stuff

In what seems to be Economic Depression Week here on my blog, another interesting thinglet via Critique de Mr. Chompchomp:

What happens to kids’ lit during times of economic collapse, hardship, and woe? If you’re like me, you’re thinking about Ramona Quimby (one of the characters I grew up reading about, bless Beverly Cleary) and Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Well, the former comes up in this excellent slide show by Erica S. Perl detailing the intersections between economic poverty and kidlit.

And by the way, there’s a great interview with Beverly Cleary here. Cleary seems exactly like the kind of person you want writing books for kids.

“I haven’t been very enthusiastic about the commercialization of children’s literature,” she says. “Kids should borrow books from the library and not necessarily be buying them.”

Perched on Cleary’s bookshelves are a few stringy-haired dolls and sculptures of Ramona that have been sent to her by toy makers and fans. “A few companies have made prototypes of Ramona dolls for me, but one looked too grouchy and another just wasn’t right,” she says.

Cleary says she understands the impact tie-ins such as dolls, stuffed animals and other toys can have on books sales, but is “not interested in making kids into consumers.”

I certainly have fond memories of spending time with Ramona, Beezus, Henry, and the other kids. And, like, there’s a film of Ramona and her Father in development, too. (Maybe it’ll even be good.)

By the way, I also liked the Superfudge books that Judy Blume put out around the same time. And the first SF books I ever read date back to around that time, in the early 80s… The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree series, by Louis Slobodkin. Oh, and the Encyclopedia Brown books, though they were often a bit cheaty and annoyed me on occasion. I think I started in on the Gordon Korman books, too, by then — especially the Bruno and Boots books.

Which reminds me, there’s a great — but also slightly depressing — interview with Maurice Sendak in the NYT, here.The fact that the man can even doubt for a moment his own artistry is a crime of culture and history, and he has been failed by a culture that would rather be turning kids into consumers than celebrating the people who turn help kids into thinking, feeling, courageous people.

All of which, by the way, gets me wondering about the state of YA fiction in South Korea. I wonder if that literary genre exists in quite the way it does in English. Especially in the 70s-onward form, where kids are not necessarily idealized, where authority is questioned or challenged, where the frustrations and annoyance of being somewhere between baby and adult are admitted and embraced and growled over. I’d be very curious to see YA fiction where, for example, some kid complains about how she has to hide her English ability to avoid peer envy, or where some kid complains about a teacher hitting him with a stick in the hallway for being late for school, or about mom and dad’s impending/potential/recent divorce, or whatever.

Anyone know more about that?

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