I’ve just been reading Natasha Walters’ article in The Guardian, concerning fiction for pre teen girls. She has noticed a new genre of fiction for this age group, which she dubs chicklet lit (I’m sorry Natasha, but that smacks of incredibly lazy journalism to me) Chicklet lit is exemplified by books such as the recent Daisy Meadows fairies books, according to Walters, and revolves around fairies, designer clothes, looking pretty, etc. Whilst the teenage version of the chick lit novel has been around for a few years now, chicklet lit is comparatively new, and Walters finds it to be a disturbing phenomenon. No wonder boys won’t read books by female authors, she seems to be arguing, look at the trash that’s being published for young girls.
To a degree, I can see her point, but only to a degree. For one thing, I don’t believe it’s fair to dub The Princess Diaries chicklet lit when it’s far more subversive than shopping and frocks. Also, I don’t believe that children’s fiction, whether it’s for boys or girls, is in as woeful a state as Walters believes. Yes, there is some trash out there (Mary Kate and Ashley anyone?) but there has always been trash out there: Sweet Valley High and it’s junior versions, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley Kids, have been around for years, and show no sign of going away. These kind of books appeal to the inner cheerleader in young girls (and if you have no inner cheerleader, there really is no point in reading these books…) they are Buffy without the satire. But what Natasha Walter appears to have failed to spot is that childrens fiction has a much wider scope than this. To be honest, at the moment, childrens fiction and teenage fiction has a much wider scope than adult fiction. There is more variety and, quite often, the quality is better. Can you really write off completely books such as Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, or Geraldine McCraughton’s Six Storey House purely because of Mary Kate and Ashley and some fashion obsessed fairies? If you really want to find some good quality junior fiction for your daughter to read, Natasha, then you could do a lot worse than buy her a book by Anne Fine (a past Children’s Laureate) or by Jacqueline Wilson (the current Children’s Laureate) Look beyond the glossy covers, and the hype, to what’s hiding behind the chicklet lit, neglected on the shelves. Maybe then you’ll find something with a bit more substance.
(Slight update after having slept on the matter)
Here, after much thought, are five books for the pre teen age group (about 7-11, depending upon reading age and parental strictness) and five books for the teenage age group (11+, again, depending upon reading age and parental strictness) that I believe could probably be read by girls and boys equally and which, I would say, are well written, innovative, and are not what Natasha Walter would call chicklet lit. I’ve also tried to list books that were published comparatively recently, though I’ll admit that it’s harder to come up with five teenage books that boys and girls would both read, and one of them (The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants) does have a pink cover. Still, Feeling Sorry For Celia has a blue cover, so that probably cancels it out.
Geraldine McCraughton – Six Storey House (Hodder Children’s Books, 2002)
Gennifer Choldenko – Notes From A Liar And Her Dog (Bloomsbury, 2002)
Hilary McKay – Permanent Rose (Hodder Children’s Books, 2005)
Anne Fine – The More The Merrier (Doubleday, 2003)
Polly Horvath – Everything On A Waffle (Scholastic, 2003)
Meg Rosoff – How I Live Now (Puffin, 2004)
Jaclyn Moriarty – Feeling Sorry For Celia (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2001)
Tamora Pierce – Trickster’s Choice (Scholastic, 2004)
Sharon Creech – Bloomability (Macmillan Children’s Books, 1998)
Ann Brasheres – The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants (Corgi, 2002)
I don’t imagine Natasha Walter is reading this anyway, but I wanted to make my point as I get fed up of being accused of peddling trash to minors.