As Killjoy critics we have a special interest in one of the newest fields of literary criticism, namely, children’s literature. However, there has been a disturbing trend in lit for children that cannot continue. If any grave, solemn, stern, earnest, weighty, meaningful study of children’s Literature is to carry on we must staunch and stifle this movement. Perhaps I might be better served calling it a “demographic,” for it is a group—a group of individuals—individuals who are tracking mud all through the halls of academia and wiping their snotty little noses on our pristine tweed suits. Who is this fiendish flock threatening children’s lit? This ghastly gathering, this loathsome lot you ask? Well, they are only the single-most dire threat to the seriousness of children’s literature and, by default, the future of children’s literature since the writing of George MacDonald. Their very presence is perilous to any supercilious scholar wishing unravel the mysteries of books for children, for when in the company of even one individual in this pusillanimous pack one suddenly fills with unexplainable warm joy and cosmic hope: the two emotional arch-enemies of the Killjoy critic.
Yes, the one group that should never be welcome in the study of Children’s literature is . . . real children. They cannot understand the deeply subversive and dark meanings in their own books. Expose a serious children’s literature scholar to a single real child, and within the hour that scholar will begin asking such absurd questions of herself or himself as, “Is my work deconstructing—through an eco-Marxist lens—the definition of the word “definition” as defined by children’s dictionaries printed on March 4th in 1974 really that important?” Expose that same scholar to two real children and the questions will grow ludicrous, like, “Does it matter if the Little Engine that Could only could because it embraced its true gender identity halfway up the hill?”
Just imagine if children were asked what they thought of Children’s literature. They might tell you Green Eggs and Ham is a funny book, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs makes them happy. Funny? Happy? How about twisted, existentially problematic, dark to the core, patriarchal, dangerously positivist, and full of phallic images demonstrating unjust male dominance and the author’s latent chauvinism? If children had their way with children’s literature they would enjoy reading the books; they would think princesses and princes were different because they were “made that way;” they would think good and evil were real and not just social constructs. In short, academia would fall like Rome to . . . whoever sacked Rome; I don’t read history. Imagine a world full of people who believed Beauty and the Beast demonstrates selfless love to a father and an unlovely creature instead of what it obviously teaches—strong female agency and praiseworthy self-love and self-interest in the face of a father and a beast-of-a-man who are out to stifle Belle’s self-expression and the power of her matriarchal will.
Although there have been encouraging signs in Universities all over the country of late, our institutions of higher learning will always be in danger of infant infiltration, because—alas, it cannot be avoided—there will always be children.
It is time to send out a strong call to action, so we Killjoy Critics here and now pick up that proverbial megaphone and send out that call: “Keep children out of children’s literature.” They have no place in it. They will only be responsible enough to read children’s books when they have grown up and learned the seriousness of life generally and their books specifically.
A Killjoy Critic
In An Undisclosed Location
"A Corsican Child"
Oil on Canvas - 1901
James Abbot McNeill Whistler