Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    The unreal, whizzpopping goose-sitters club: popular children's fiction: an analysis of structure, literary features and ideology
    Brownscombe, Sandra M. ( 2000)
    Children are not so serious as grownups and they love to laugh (Dahl 1988, p81). A survey of children's choices of fiction from their school libraries over a 15 month period revealed six authors who were more popular than all others. The works of these popular authors were the subject of analysis in this study. The aim of the study was to identify characteristics which might explain the popularity of this fiction, and to recognize literary features which may indicate a change taking place in the whole body of children's literature. To achieve this aim the study proposed the benefits of taking an inclusive view of the canon of children's literature. Three aspects of the fiction were then subjected to the analysis tools of literary criticism. Some factors of overall significance emerged from the research. A number of these indicate reasons for children's choice of these authors. It was found that the use of textual support structures was common to the work of more than half of the authors, who then constructed simple linear plots, using devices such as exclamation to maintain interest. However, the research also revealed that it was possible for support structures to be used innovatively to construct more complex plots. Another important factor was the use of humour which could be combined with other genres and literary features to create a complex literary experience. Elements indicative of change in the whole body of children's literature were identified in the works of two authors, but did not feature strongly in any other. Analysis of ideology revealed support for the status quo or tolerance of antisocial behaviour. Only one author advocated respect for all others, perhaps indicating that negative values are not an essential element for popularity. Other significant factors emerging from the research support adoption of the inclusive view of canon in regard to children's literature. This view allows recognition and acknowledgment of authors of popular fiction through literary criticism and has positive implications for young readers.