Views on age not only determine the stories in children’s books, but also have an impact on the field of children’s literature. A lot of attention is paid to the dynamics between children and adults. While you could consider children and adults as two different age groups, you could also see them as part of a continuum made up of an array of age phases that gradually merge into each other and that show many similarities. The ‘difference model’, ‘deficit model’, and ‘kinship model’ are approaches that are used to research such topics. Bart Moeyaert has always criticised the distinction between children’s literature and adult literature. Throughout his writing career he has been through different age stages while expressing varying age norms. As he got older, he put more emphasis on the kinship between children and adults. In his novels, he depicts adults who missed out on a lot because they didn’t spend enough time with their children, but he also evokes role models who show what is to be gained by the kinship between young and old.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Van kind naar kinship : de constructie van leeftijd in de literatuuropvattingen van Bart Moeyaert in de loop van zijn schrijverschap’.
Spiegel der Letteren 63: 1-2 (2021), p. 89-112.
Duet met valse noten (1983) started as a diary when Bart Moeyaert was twelve years old. When it was discovered by an older brother, Moeyaert transformed it into a novel about first love. Young authors who use experiences and desires prompted by real life as material for stories are often considered experts on such matters. Given the fact that they are young themselves, they are said to attract readers in a special way. Texts by young authors are often adjusted and marketed by adults working in the field. For some researchers, such adult interferences impede the authenticity of the young author’s voice. When examining the writing process of Duet met valse noten, it appears that quite a few people had a say in adjustments to the manuscript, including young people. Apparently, Moeyaert himself was not happy with some revisions, although they did influence his development as a poetic writer.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Writing when Young: Bart Moeyaert as A Young Adult Author’.
European Journal of Life Writing 10 (2021): BB65-BB83.
How can you show which ideas regarding age are passed on in and via children’s using digital tools, among other methodologies? A first step is the assembling of digitised texts, which we acquired thanks to publishers, authors and the DBNL. Those texts generate masses of data, which means that it comes down to making choices. We looked into how often characters from certain age groups are depicted speaking in books, and whether differences are to be found regarding gender. We also wanted to find out which topics these characters talked about, and whether differences in age could be revealed. Books by Bart Moeyaert and La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman formed touchstones for these first steps. The observations and hypotheses that were the result of this particular study serve as guidelines for further research.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Constructing Age for Young Readers’.
International Research in Children’s literature 14.3 (2021): 252-268.
Bart Moeyaert has been writing for decennia. Ever since his debut, Duet met valse noten (which was published when he was nineteen years old), he has acquired great fame both in Belgium and internationally. In 2019, he won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, perhaps the most important international prize voor children’s literature. His personalexperiences and the age phases he went through influenced the ways in which his authorship evolved. Four experiences were especially important: meeting the British children’s literature author Aidan Chambers, writing early reader books, performing for broad audiences, and being the Antwerp city poet. These factors all contributed greatly to his personal and artistic beliefs, and to his ideas on what his readers and society in general were in need of.
Joosen, Vanessa. Bart Moeyaert as writer, author, performer, and public figure: “That’s Also What Literature Can Be”
Bookbird: a journal of international children’s literature 58:3 (2020), pp. 38-41.
Age determines the form and content of children’s books in many ways. People havexed ideas about what is suitable for a particular age and what is not, and digital tools can help to map and ask questions about such age norms on a large scale. For this project, the computer ‘read’ 32 Dutch-language children’s books published between 1975 and 2018, and it appears that explicit comments are often made about age in children’s books. Not only do we pay attention to childhood in the project, other life stages are explored as well. It seems that children’s books guard age norms the most, but these comments are often coloured by conflicts, humour, and irony.
Joosen Vanessa. ‘Te kinderachtig voor de kinderen? Leeftijdsnormen in jeugdliteratuur digitaal onderzocht’.
Vooys: tijdschrift voor letteren 37:3(2019), p. 1-9.