My biases in the children’s literature genre

As I mentioned yesterday, there are things I love and things I don’t in children’s books. Here are a few of these:
Don’t like:

  • Counting books (usually too didactic & repetitive)
  • Books that try to teach (colours, numbers, pretty much anything), particularly the authorless “educational” ones like Baby Einstein … shudder
  • Sarcasm and adult humour (so jading for children!)
  • Focusing on “are you good?”, punishments and/or “consequences” (Berenstein Bears books are bad for this) as these feel way too manipulative
  • Male-centric or non-gender equal texts (note: this doesn’t mean that every book needs a female carpenter or a working mother, but please, try to transcend gender stereotypes a bit. And write about girls: they have adventures too!)
  • When things have to fall apart too far (e.g., the first half of the book is a big fight) before they get better, and the getting better part isn’t very well-developed or long
  • Leveled reading books, with their corresponding lack of any literary value (some exceptions, notably the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems)
  • A good portion of computer-generated illustrations and some mixed media (nothing wrong with these, but I just don’t enjoy the juxtaposition, for example, of fabric samples with photos with computer art. Mo Willems & the Knuffle Bunny books are again an exception)

What I love:

  • Real art for the illustrations, in widely varying styles
  • Humour
  • Stories with a twist, imaginative adventures, and/or a focus on relationships, friendship & family
  • Stories about girls and women
  • Evocations of home and family

In summary: I love real stories, put together with care and skill, that see children as imaginative and discerning readers. I shy away from books that seem designed to manipulate children’s behaviour or act as disguised rote learning activities, put together on the quick and cheap.

Long live children’s literature!

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