On NPR’s All Things Considered, Barbara Feinberg talks about her book, Welcome to Lizard Motel, which argues for children’s stories that rely on imagination and fantasy. Feinberg’s son, an avid reader, hated school-assigned “problem” books that feature adolescents coping with abuse, dying parents, kidnapping, alcoholism, etc.
Pre-adolescents, these novels seem to suggest, ought to be confronted in fiction with “real life problems” straight on, with no magical dimension and limited imaginative scope. In fact, the child characters in these books often must face their stark circumstances nearly alone, without adult shelter. You have only yourself, these novels seem to say. Adults cannot help you; they are often the source of your troubles.
My daughter read dozens of these novels, and enjoyed them. I’ve always preferred dragons and enchanted wardrobes.