The Family in English Children's Literature by Ann Alston
This is a most curious and unsatisfactory book. Its thesis is that wicked children's authors perpetuate the ideal of family in order to control children and socialise them. The author never, ever, even once, considers that children choose what they read. Any teacher could tell her that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get children to read what they don't like. Any child could tell her, if she asked a real live one. Children are real. They exist and are articulate. They write Amazon reviews.
Children are real. They are alive. They have individual characters. This book treats them as if they were robots to be programmed by (the author's concept of) children's writers to uphold conventional social values - Do these really exist today? - and the nuclear family.
Children's writers are real. Each has their own life experiences on which they draw. Children's writers today are subversive. They write to empower children, to offer them resources in a difficult world, not to control them or to support a conventional society - whatever that is today.
As an example of the superficiality of this book, the author has no understanding of stories about a journey, a very frequent theme in all literature, not only children's. These stories take children out of their family, put them through trials and adventures, and then bring them home. The author criticises these books because they bring children home. In her understanding, this part of the children's author's plot to socialise them. She has no insight into the metaphor involved. When books about a journey bring children "home," they first bring them home to themselves enriched by the deeper authenticity and greater empowerment they have gained through their adventures. This is what they bring home to their original family. This is what has changed the children and will change the family. The children come home enriched through having surmounted dangers. They have acquired new and better resources including more skilful coping strategies. And these new attainments are to be used in their home because children live in homes, and because story demands that a journey end where it began.
This author has no understanding of Story. Story is real. Story makes its own demands. Plots have to be interesting and endings have to be satisfactory otherwise stories don't get read. A story demands its own appropriate ending. This author should study The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. Then she should take a course in writing stories for children. And then she'll get closer to understanding what she wants to write about.