Different aspects of age in the oeuvre of David Almond
In recent decades, age studies has started to emerge as a new approach to study children’s literature. This book is co-authored by several members of the CAFYR team and builds on that scholarship but also significantly extends it by exploring age in various aspects of children’s literature: the age of the author, the characters, the writing style, the intended readership and the real reader. Moreover, the authors explore what different theories and methods can be used to study age in children’s literature, and what their affordances and limits are. The analyses combine age studies with life writing studies, cognitive narratology, digital humanities, comparative literary studies, reader-response research and media studies. To ensure coherence, the book offers an in-depth exploration of the oeuvre of a single author, David Almond. The aesthetic and thematic richness of Almond’s works has been widely recognised. This book adds to the understanding of his oeuvre by offering a multi-faceted analysis of age. In addition to discussing the film adaptation of his best-known novel Skellig, this book also offers analyses of works that have received less attention, such as Counting Stars, Clay and Bone Music. Readers will also get a fuller understanding of Almond as a crosswriter of literature for children, adolescents and adults.
Joosen, Vanessa, Michelle Anya Anjirbag, Leander Duthoy, Lindsey Geybels, Frauke Pauwels & Emma-Louise Silva. ‘Age in David Almond’s Oeuvre: A Multi-Method to Studying Age and the Life Course in Children’s Literature’.
Dreams can function in children’s books as a means to connect young characters and older figures in the story. In this article, Vanessa Joosen presents three methods to study intergenerational encounters in and through dreams in a selection of contemporary Dutch children’s books. She does this by means of a digital analysis of a corpus of 81 books to shows that the older the characters are, the less they are described as dreaming. Next, a close reading of intergenerational dreams lays bare, amongst others, the associations of dreaming with healing and death. Finally, a reader response study reveals that young children already understand some dream mechanisms and that older readers sometimes may draw on Freudian theory to interpret dreams, but that some also resist that.
Joosen, Vanessa. ‘Encounters of a Dreamy Kind: Dreams as Spaces for Intergenerational Play and Healing in Dutch Children’s Literature’.
Traum und Träumen in Kinder- und Jugendmedien, edited by Iris Schäfer, Brill, 2023, pp. 35–49.
David Almond’s The Savage (2008), illustrated by Dave McKean, demonstrates how narrating enables the adolescent protagonist, Blue Baker, to explore themes of loss, grief and bullying in the embedded graphic narrative he creates about a savage boy, a story Blue calls ‘The Savage’. The metanarrative utterances in The Savage not only reveal Blue’s reflections regarding his role as narrator of ‘The Savage’, they are vital for understanding his experience of continuity-in-change. The Savage, which is ultimately a book about storytelling and illustrating, shows Blue engaging in reflective and transformative ‘narrative self-shaping’ (Hutto 2016). Based on narrative medicine, cognitive narratology, age studies and children’s literature studies, this essay underscores the importance of analysing age-related metanarrative comments in characters’ creative acts of shaping the self via narratives, ultimately showing how narrating tales and sharing stories can be empowering, and this across the lifespan.
Silva, Emma-Louise. ‘Continuity-in-Change in David Almond’s The Savage: Narrative Self-Shaping in Moments of Metanarrative’.
European Journal of Life Writing, vol. 11, 2022, pp. 93–111.
Adult authors and child characters experiencing memory
This essay demonstrates the fruitfulness of applying a lens based on 4E-inspired cognitive narratology to David Almond’s My Name is Mina (2010) in order to illuminate how the so-called cognitive-affective imbalance between children and adults needs reassessing, especially when it comes to memory. Merging recent developments in 4E – or embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive – approaches to cognition as proposed in philosophy of mind, with concepts such as fictional minds and storyworlds as discussed in cognitive narratology, I engage in close readings of My Name is Mina that reveal kinship between the adult author and his child character. Adults and children alike are “memorial fabulators” (Chambers), and 4E approaches to the cognitive study of literature can enrich the field of children’s literature studies and its considerations of adult authors’ mind depictions of child characters.
Silva, Emma-Louise. ‘Cognitive Narratology and the 4Es: Memorial Fabulation in David Almond’s My Name is Mina’.
With this essay, Vanessa Joosen wants to contribute to greater awareness regarding age. She argues for more openness about age norms and more dialogue between different generations. To this end, she focuses on people who engage in such a dialogue on a daily basis. For this book, she interviewed twelve British, Dutch and Flemish authors: David Almond, Aidan Chambers, Anne Fine, Ed Franck, Guus Kuijer, Bart Moeyaert, Aline Sax, Hilde Vandermeeren, Joke van Leeuwen, Edward van de Vendel, Jacqueline Wilson and Anna Woltz. Most of them wrote books for both children and adults. Joosen specifically went looking for authors who debuted at a very young age or who have a long writing career behind them. How do they manage to bridge that distance?
The oeuvres of ‘crosswriters’ or ‘dual audience authors’ who write for both children and adults form the perfect touchstones for research on the similarities and differences between children’s literature and literature for adults. By means of stylometry, a digital research method that aids in studying style, the works of ten Dutch and English language dual audience authors were examined. Are there similarities to be found across the oeuvres of these authors? And are there differences within one author’s books that are targeted at different age groups? To research these questions, the target audience and the publication date were factors that were taken into account. By including interviews with the authors, the researchers also considered the writers’ views on style and readers. The main conclusion drawn from the case studies is that the style of the texts usually correlates more strongly with the age of the intended reader than with the time period in which the texts were written. In other words, books for young readers share more similarities than those for adult readers.
Haverals, Wouter, Lindsey Geybels & Vanessa Joosen. ‘A Style for Every Age: A Stylometric Inquiry into Crosswriters for Children, Adolescents and Adults’.
Language and Literature, vol. 31, no. 1, 2022, pp. 1–23.