She wants authors to realise that “the power of picture books is to not only reflect childhood, but to influence it”. “If our children are reading books where the characters are surrounded by heaps of toys, then those readers without excessive amounts of toys around them might feel as if they are not normal. Creating and promoting more interpretive children’s books that challenge damaging norms while helping children develop critical thinking skills is going to be an essential task for authors, publishers, and other book-related industries in the future,” she says.
It would be hard for me to disagree with this more. No matter how noble your cause, if you try to shoehorn an agenda into an artform, the end result is always decline and mediocrity. And if children’s book authors end up following this scholar’s advice, they may create books that “challenge damaging norms”, but these books will be, without a doubt, aesthetically null and completely forgotten in ten years’ time.
But I guess these blatant displays of ressentiment by the so-called scholars (and all others who do not love the artform) are to be expected by this point. What actually bothers me more are the children’s book authors’ responses. No one even questioned the presumed moral high-ground of the scholar here. They took her critique as a given and allowed themselves to be bullied by it. Even Klassen, who offered the best defense, gave her position too much credit. The better response would’ve been to laugh and say, “Kindly keep your politics away from my work, thankyouverymuch.” But I really can’t blame them for not saying so. Their inability to defend their work is a result of this medium lacking a proper critical culture. And the way it’s going, it will lack one for a very long time.