University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

'Ghosts, murder and mutation': The portrayal of pandemics in children’s and YA fiction

Webb, Jean ORCID: (2021) 'Ghosts, murder and mutation': The portrayal of pandemics in children’s and YA fiction. Book 2.0, 11 (1). pp. 65-79. ISSN Print: 2042-8022 Online: 2042-8030

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The coronavirus pandemic has stimulated a number of texts, which are aimed at helping children to cope with situations alien to them. For example, the picture book Staying Home by Sally Nichols and Vivienne Schwarz (2020) deals with the conditions of lockdown and family isolation, whilst Piperpotamus by Annis Watts endeavours to explain COVID-19. This pandemic is not the only such event in history. The Black Death swept across Europe (1347–51) followed by the Spanish flu pandemic (1918–20). Both of these have stimulated historical fiction for older children and Young Adults and have done so by employing differing literary approaches. For instance, Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds(2013) incorporates a ghost story set against the contexts of séances and spirit photographers as the bereaved hope to gain comfort, whilst Charles Todd’s AnUnmarked Grave (2012) is a murder mystery. Dystopian science fiction has also been employed to examine the equivalent circumstances of such pandemics. The plague in Gone (2008–14) by Michael Grant follows a nuclear disaster, which has produced a world where only those under fifteen have survived beneath a dome created by a young autistic child at the point of the explosion. Unforeseen forces have erupted resulting in mutation where individuals have supernatural powers taking them into a posthuman state. Their world is later blighted by plague and the children have to deal with remaking their lives and their society without the help of adults. This article will consider the various ways that such texts have approached these world-changing disasters and the common themes, which emerge to give our current generation of children ways of thinking about their present and their future.

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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: children's literature, Young Adult, picture books, historical fiction, COVID-19, plague
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
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Copyright Info: © 2021 Intellect Ltd.
Depositing User: Jean Webb
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2021 07:53
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 14:46

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