While skimming through Zoe Brooks’ online feed of articles about the genre of magic realism (or magical realism) — where Zoe had kindly referenced my post on Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop — I came across an interesting if perhaps contentious article. Colleen Gillard dared to tell us ‘Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories’ in The Atlantic (January 6th) by claiming that British history has encouraged fantastical myths and legends while American tales, coming from a Protestant tradition which saw itself as escaping from insular superstition, tended to focus on moral realism.
The article lines up an impressive array of examples from both sides of the divide. On the one hand you have The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan, The Hobbit, James and the Giant Peach, Harry Potter, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; and on the other you have classics like The Call of the Wild, Charlotte’s Web, Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Pollyanna, The Little Engine That Could, even The Wizard of Oz and The Cat in the Hat.
From my point of view I can see exceptions, especially in British children’s fiction.