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TheRejectAmidHair

Marjorie Blackman - the new Children's Laureate

Marjorie Blackman is, I see, now the Children’s Laureate.

I’m afraid, though, that much of what she says does rub me up the wrong way. The implicit idea that literature (or indeed history) is only of interest - is only “relevant”, as she puts it - when it depicts people of our own ethnic and cultural background seems to me to display a lack of understanding of how we relate either to literature or to history, and panders merely to divisive identity politics. Enough already, as they say.

And I do wonder what the point is of statements such as this:

Quote:
"I can't be doing with this stuffiness about only reading classics," she said in her acceptance speech


It’s a strawman, for a start: no-one, not even Gove (boo! hiss!), is insisting that anyone read only the classics. And one might have hoped also that a Children’s Laureate would express herself a bit more elegantly than “I can’t be doing with…” And most of all, one might have hoped that a Children’s Laureate would extol the classics, and encourage children to read them, rather than reinforce the lazy stereotype of their being “stuffy”.

I haven’t read anything by Marjorie Blackman, but I am not too impressed by this, I must admit.
Chibiabos83

Malorie, not Marjorie, I think. I know people who rate her highly as a writer. I'm not very interested in modern children's fiction, or I suppose I would have read her myself. Perhaps her reign will turn out to be a distinguished one...
TheRejectAmidHair

Chibiabos83 wrote:
Malorie, not Marjorie, I think.


Oops! Sorry!

Chibiabos83 wrote:
I know people who rate her highly as a writer. I'm not very interested in modern children's fiction...


It's probably because you're stuffy!
Caro

Her Nought and Crosses series was very highly regarded, I think.  Set in a systopian world, so she doesn't just write of things completely familiar to her readers' lives.  I think a Children's Laureate probably needs to be fairly connected to what the majority of their readers are concerned with, rather than writing for a smaller subset.

"I can't be doing with" fascinates me.  I actually mentioned it on a language board recently.  It's not a phrase ever used by a New Zealander, though we would all understand and recognise it.  Just one of those British phrases that hasn't made it here.  I wrote: So is it confined to particular areas of Britain, or a particular class (this woman seems middle-class), or what other reason would there be for this to have never penetrated NZ speech? Our British ancestors came from all over Britain, so I might have thought dialect phrases would have come here too. I don't think of it as a modern phrase.  People seemed to suggest it wasn't attached to any particular area or class (and the book I was reading put it in the mouth of a middle-class female protagonist from London).
TheRejectAmidHair

Caro wrote:
Her Nought and Crosses series was very highly regarded, I think.  Set in a systopian world, so she doesn't just write of things completely familiar to her readers' lives.  I think a Children's Laureate probably needs to be fairly connected to what the majority of their readers are concerned with, rather than writing for a smaller subset.


Literature has the ability to expand our consciousness, and hence, our range of concerns. And also our range of expression, by showing us what language is capable of expressing. But maybe Malorie Blackman can't be doing with that.

I was thinking of going into a bookshop and browsing some of her books. But right now, I can't be doing with that.
MikeAlx

Hi Caro, the phrase has been on my radar for a good 20 years or so. It's certainly common in the southeast and London, though it may well originate from elsewhere. I don't have any problem with a writer using it, if they're writing in an informal, conversational style.

I think Blackman's target audience is 11-12-year-olds (more "mid-grade" than "young adult"), which is probably, a tiny minority excepted, slightly too young for most serious classics.
TheRejectAmidHair

MikeAlx wrote:
I think Blackman's target audience is 11-12-year-olds (more "mid-grade" than "young adult"), which is probably, a tiny minority excepted, slightly too young for most serious classics.


Perhaps, but the equating of "classics" with "stuffy" is a damaging stereotype that I would have hoped a Children's Laureate would be keen to avoid, not reinforce.
Sandraseahorse

I think by using the word "stuffiness" she was referring to the attitude towards the classics rather than the classics themselves.  I was slightly annoyed by her trotting out the old cliché about history teaching should be made more "relevant" than teaching the kings and queens of England.  I support teaching of social history in schools but to dismiss teaching about the monarchy as having no relevance (whatever that means) is a very glib assertion.

I saw her being interview on BBC "Breakfast" and she did show an enthusiasm for literacy so I shall be cautiously optimistic.
TheRejectAmidHair

Whatever she may have meant, she should, as Children's Laureate, have been articulate enough to express herself clearly. If it is indeed some attitude to the classics she finds stuffy, I for one would like to know precisely what "attitude" it is she is objecting to.

Judging purely from that article, I'm afraid just about everyting she is reported as saying annoyed me intensely.

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