Harry Potter at 20: the wonder of children’s literature
We remain in a golden age of children’s literature, with more books and more readers every year. Picture books proliferate, and the classics – by Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and more – are all alive and well. It is the twentieth anniversary of the start of the Harry Potter phenomenon, and tens of thousands of new titles appear every year to cater for every possible taste and topic.
Yet some perennial questions remain. What is the purpose of children’s literature, and why do an increasing number of authors choose to write it? Is it just escapism (maybe for the author as well as the readers), or are there important moral and social lessons imparted? Young adult fiction has introduced progressively realistic and often harrowing themes, which seems to indicate a shift towards more purposive or instrumentalist children’s fiction. Is there still the thirst for the balance of magic and realism that defines much of the best children’s literature? Do we still cater for children’s sense of wonder?