Towards an Overview of Scottish Children's Literature from 1823–2010
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Here is an illustrative indication of some of the earlier texts analysed in Treasure Islands:
Each of the guide's 200 brief critiques offers cautious advice on reading and interest levels. Some of the older titles such as those listed above, seem time-bound in their language and assumptions, and could therefore be off-putting today. Nevertheless they merit their place on the historical record, and may well prove attractive to adventurous readers.
Of the two hundred books reviewed in the Treasure Islands project:
These figures reflect only the books selected for review; and factors such as the compilers' judgements and availability of texts are clearly operating. Though a limited sample, they do nonetheless suggest in general terms a slow, fits-and-starts, growth in the publication of imaginative writing for young readers in Scotland.
Within the selection 135 authors are represented, with men and women in roughly equal numbers. There are very few women in the 19th century category but their contribution increases steadily thereafter until today female authors are in the majority. In productivity there is a range from occasional, one-or-two book authors such as J J Bell, J B S Haldane and Marion Campbell to skilled professionals who have sustained work of impressive quality over a period of years—Honor Arundel , Mollie Hunter, Allan Campbell McLean, Eleanor Lyon, Kathleen Fidler, Joan Lingard, Iona Mcgregor, Eileen Dunlop, Hugh Scott, Theresa Breslin, Elizabeth Laird and Alison Prince. Some, like Jane Duncan, Nigel Tranter, Naomi Mitchison, Eric Linklater and Jackie Kay have moved successfully between adult and younger readerships.
Since the completion of the ASLS survey in 2005 younger contemporary writers such as Cathy MacPhail, Julie Bertagna, Cathy Forde, Keith Gray, Nicola Morgan, and Gill Arbuthnott have extended their range and new talent continues to emerge, for example, in the work of J A Henderson, Cathy Cassidy and Alex Nye.
The world of Scottish children's writing is not hermetically sealed and impermeable to external forces. Its current novels show influences from adult fiction and from other literature, English and American. They are responsive to the powerful narratives of contemporary film, TV and computer games. The styles of prolific, internationally popular authors such as Jacqueline Wilson, Eoin Coiffer, Lemony Snicket and Anthony Horowitz are also making their impact. Over the years there has been dramatic shifting towards more frank dealings with sexual development, personal and social problems, violence, war and environmental issues. Structure and language have become more stripped down, informal and direct.
The characteristic preoccupations of Scottish junior fiction are, as we would expect, the universal and perennial themes of growing up, romance, family, conflict, outsiders, comedy, supernatural and horror, fantasy, adventure and sport—but these are set in distinctive Scottish contexts. Two clusters of titles will serve to illustrate the point. [...]