22 July, 2006

The politics of children's books

I've been rereading You're a brick, Angela! which is a lovely second wave feminist critique of fiction written for girls from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. It's a very funny and political critique of books which are often very superficial and patronising but which surprisingly often have remained classics and children's favourites. A lot of the books it criticises, I haven't read, but some I'm very familiar with - the Chalet School books, Anne of Green Gables, Little Woman, Frances Hodgson Burnett's novels.

Having reread it, I think I might start collecting the children's novels of Edith Nesbit, because I'd like to write something about the occasional politics of her children's stories and how she reconciles adventure stories about rather bourgeois children in late Victorian/early Edwardian London with her radical, reforming socialist politics as a prominent member of the Fabian Society. So as a note to myself: a list of her novels.

Series

Psammead
1. Five Children and It (1902)
2. The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)
3. The Story of the Amulet (1906)
House of Arden
1. The House of Arden (1908)
2. Harding's Luck (1909)

Novels

The Pilot (1893)
The Story of the Treasure-Seekers (1899)
The Would-be-goods (1901)
New Treasure Seekers (1904)
The Railway Children (1906)
The Enchanted Castle (1907)
The Three Mothers (1908)
These Little Ones (1909)
The House With No Address (1909)
The Magic City (1910)
Dormant (1911)
Wet Magic (1913)
The Deliverers of Their Country (1985)
The Book of Dragons (1986)
Cockatoucan (1988)
The Book of Beasts (1988)
The Town in the Library (1988)
The Children's Shakespeare (2000)



2 comments:

problemshelved said...

They were showing The Railway Children the other day on tv, I've seen it loads of times but I only just noticed how ambiguous the ending is. I always assumed the father didn't do it. But this time when he came home he seemed really guilty and the mother really long-suffering. Am I reading too much, or does everyone know that, or what?

woodscolt said...

I haven't seen the film, but I think if there is some ambiguity it's the film makers who have chosen to add it, I don't think it comes from Nesbit's book where it's pretty clear that the father didn't do it.

Interestingly I didn't realise until some years later that the russian guy that they rescue from the station and who the mother nurses back to health must have been a revolutionary or at least a dissident against the Tsar. This is what I mean about the politics - they're really fascinating how she adds in the texture and background in support of her socialism.