The Children's Literature and Culture series from Routledge, edited by lack Zipes, is known for its excellent and tightly-focused critical volumes, and Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults is a fine addition to that series. This volume features a foreword by Zipes, a substantial and thoroughly-documented introduction by the editors, ten essays by children's literature scholars, four essays by fiction writers, an interview with Lois Lowry focusing on The Giver and Gathering Blue, a substantial annotated bibliography of young adult utopian and dystopian fiction, and an oddly-placed afterword by Lyman Tower Sargent, a noted utopian literature scholar.
After wrestling with various definitions early in their introduction, Hintz and Ostry settle on the following: "We use 'utopia' . . . to signify a non-existent society that is posited as significantly better than that of the reader" and dystopia as a society "in which the ideals for improvement have gone tragically amok" (3). Further, they establish the critical stance for this volume by arguing, "Utopian writing for children and young adults examines the roots of social behavior and encourages the child to question his or her own society" (1). The rest of the introduction deals with reasons for studying utopian literature for children and young adults, the ability of such literature to teach readers about society, about themselves, and about the nature of technological advance. The introduction concludes with a brief explanation of the major sections of the book and the essays in those sections.
As with any collection of scholarly essays, they vary in terms of both style and relevance (or, perhaps, usefulness to the reader, be he or she critic or student), and while all of the essays have something to offer, I was particularly taken by certain ones.
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