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Kid’s books and place

June 27, 2010 Leave a comment

How did it become something of a given that children’s literature should be deeply rooted in place? Is the specificity of setting somehow aimed at the adult reader/companion: the Cumbrian setting of Postman Pat, the Welsh one of Ivor the Engine, they add something to otherwise fairly inane material. And then there are the invented landscapes: the strange world of Tubbyland, which is also somehow partly the middle England where I understand the set was created. And the Real Literature settings, like that of Watership Down, which my daughter and I retraced, and found it by turns accurate down to the blade of grass and completely reengineered. And what does Oxford do to get Lewis Carroll and Philip Pullman riffing their way out from actual to fantastically imagined? Cambridge has no equivalent I am aware of. Perhaps its something in the subaqueous nature of that landscape, of south/central Oxfordshire’s palbably origins as the setting of a great pre-glacial lake, a lake in turn at once backwards-evoked and forwards-prophesised in Richard Jefferies’ After London. But that’s one for another day…