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Children's Literature - instruction through delight - Essay Example

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The literary label of crossover fiction to contemporary children’s literature is commonly associated with J K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” phenomenon. However, arguably it was Phillip Pullman’s “Dark Materials” trilogy that operated as a catalyst for this change in…
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Childrens Literature - instruction through delight
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Download file to see previous pages And hope that they’d tell their parents…which is what happened” (In Beckett, 2008:118).
Interestingly, in the UK, Northern Lights was marketed for children however it was marketed for both adult and child markets in the US. It was only when the book received outstanding reviews in the US that it attracted adult readership in the UK. As a result “many critics feel that Pullman’s work can lay better claim to the crossover label because it is much more sophisticated, complex and multi-layered” (Beckett, 2008:117). Moreover, in considering the crossover phenomenon, a British journalist in 1999 commented that “the real barrier to overcome is not one of the possibilities of the genre but the judges reluctance to value something that could also be valued by a child, believing that if a child could like it, it must be childish for an adult to like it” (In Beckett: 2008:118).
To this end, Pullman’s books clearly challenged orthodox attitudes towards children and adult fiction and further forced the literary establishment to acknowledge that “books published for children are literary works worthy of attention of adults” (In Beckett, 2008:119). However, in turn, this changing shape of children’s literature has fuelled academic debate as to whether Pullman’s dystopian work can correctly be viewed as a children’s book as it confounds the archetypal format of children’s literature that focus on fairytales, utopian ideals and happy endings (Silvey, 2002: 341).
Appurtenant to this debate is the contention as to whether the growing phenomenon of such crossover fiction is anti-educational as a result of the instruction through delight paradigm. The focus of this paper is to critically evaluate this debate with contextual reference to Pullman’s “Northern Lights”, which is the first book in the Dark Materials Trilogy.
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