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Rereading Childhood Books: A Poetics

Bloomsbury Academic, 2019

Childhood books play a special role in reading histories, providing touchstones for our future tastes and giving shape to our ongoing identities. Bringing the latest work in Memory Studies to bear on writers' memoirs, autobiographical accounts of reading, and interviews with readers, Rereading Childhood Books explores how adults remember, revisit, and sometimes forget, these significant books. 

Asking what it means to return to familiar works by well-known authors such as Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis and Enid Blyton, as well as popular and ephemeral material not often considered as part of the canon, Alison Waller develops a poetics of rereading and presents a new model for understanding lifelong reading. As such she reconceives the history of children's literature through the shared and individual experiences of the readers who carry these books with them throughout their lives.

In this original study, Alison Waller proposes a new critical term to categorize a popular and established genre in literature for teenagers: young adult fantastic realism. Constructing Adolescence in Fantastic Realism examines the fundamental themes that inform our understanding of "the teenager” – developmentalism, identity formation, social agency, and subjectivity in cultural space – and shows how they can also be found represented symbolically in fantastic tropes such as metamorphosis, time-slip, hauntings, doppelgangers, invisibility, magic gifts, and witchcraft.

Though fantastic realism plays a crucial part in the short history of young adult literature, up until now this genre has typically been overlooked or subsumed into the wider class of fantasy. Touching on well-known authors including Robert Cormier, Melvin Burgess, Gillian Cross, Margaret Mahy, K.M. Peyton and Robert Westall, as well as previously unexamined writers, Waller explores the themes and ideological perspectives embedded in fantastic realist novels in order to ask whether parallel realities and fantastic identities produce forms of adolescence that are dynamic and subversive.

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Melvin Burgess

Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

Melvin Burgess has made a powerful name for himself in the world of children's and young adult literature, emerging in the 1990s as the author of over twenty critically acclaimed novels. This collection of original essays by a team of established and new scholars introduces readers to the key debates surrounding Burgess's most challenging work, including controversial young adult novels Junk and Doing It. Covering a variety of critical and theoretical perspectives, the volume also presents exciting new readings of some of his less familiar fiction for children, and features an introduction by Alison Waller and interview with the author.