|dc.description.abstract||This exegesis is an examination of the critical commentary on children’s literature, young-adult fiction, historical fiction and speculative fiction and provides an overview of the generic conventions and characteristics that make children’s literature a good environment in which to explore history. It also reveals critics’ concern that children’s historical fiction has not been keeping pace with the disciplinary developments in historiography.
Chapter One takes up this concern, exploring the debates of the critical literature, identifying and drawing together the generic conventions and characteristics under four broad themes. Theme One—Evoking history, place and time; Theme Two—Sharing truths of life and other knowledge; Theme Three —Experience; and Theme Four—Blurred boundaries. By bringing together the most relevant conventions and characteristics from children’s literature, young-adult fiction, historical fiction and speculative fiction I create a hybrid model or framework against which a selection of books can then be analysed.
Chapter Two examines a set of books against this framework. The books have been selected on the basis of three criteria: they were written for children, they incorporate history as a major component of their storyline, and they display variation in their engagement with history. Four books and their relationship to the four themes and the characteristics of the hybrid model are discussed in detail. My Australian Story: New Gold Mountain, the diary of Shu Cheong by Christopher Chen looks at the miners’ riot at Lambing Flat in 1861 from a Chinese migrant’s point-of-view; King of Shadows by Susan Cooper takes its main character back in time to 1599 to work with Will Shakespeare; Scarecrow Army: The ANZACS at Gallipoli by Leon Davidson is an information book that pulls back the veil of myths surrounding events at Anzac Cove in 1915; and Macbeth and Son by Jackie French tells an alternate story of Macbeth’s rise to the leadership of Scotland through a dream-connection between his step-son and a boy in modern New South Wales.
Of the four books, only Macbeth and Son raises the issue of how history can be manipulated to serve particular interests as part of its storyline. This is, however, a major theme in my accompanying novel and is the ground upon which the claim for advancing practice in this area rests. Chapter Three therefore focuses on The History Hunters and King Arthur’s Lost Kingdom to show how it differs from the cognate examples in explicitly exploring the writing and writers of history. The analysis engages with the themes identified in the critical literature, particularly to the critique that the idea of history and how it is produced has not been widely addressed in children’s historical books. In exploring the novel’s relationship to the hybrid model I show how it extends some of the generic conventions and characteristics and introduces others.
The exegesis argues that the conventions that make the various genres of children’s literature, distinct can be mobilised imaginatively and creatively to introduce young readers not only to history but also to historiography. The History Hunters and King Arthur’s Lost Kingdom demonstrates this: it uses hands-on experiences that connect the past to the present, and explores at its core the very idea of history and its contentious production.||