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when did children's books stop having upper/middle class characters?

(13 Posts)
Thesnowmansnose Fri 23-Jan-15 21:22:35

DS's class are doing the Victorians this term, and it got me thinking - when did books start being written with heroes/heroines who weren't well off (or at least fallen on hard times)? Was there anything much before The Family at One End Street? I couldn't think of anything Victorian...

Skatingfastonthinice Fri 23-Jan-15 21:39:39

Victorian children's books were largely written with the idea of having a moral purpose. So if you were poor and virtuous, you had a happy ending. Sometimes the happy ending was heaven, but that's the Victorians for you.
The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley 1862 had a chimney sweep as the main character. Adventure thrillers like The Coral Island had robust and working class heroes.

Skatingfastonthinice Fri 23-Jan-15 21:42:57

The Princess and Curdie, Curdie was a miner's son.
Jungle book and Kim by Kipling.
And all those fairy tales, HCA, Grimm, Andrew Lang's fairy tale collections.

Thesnowmansnose Fri 23-Jan-15 22:15:47

Oh yes, I did think of the Water Babies and then forgot it again. And I'd totally forgotten The Princess and Curdie. Must reread it.
Am going to think about this some more. Don't know The Coral Island (any good? worth reading?) but aren't wc children often there as poor and worthy foils to the better-off children with whom readers would presumably identify?

Skatingfastonthinice Sat 24-Jan-15 07:33:27

I was a child and an avid reader before the huge boom in children's books. What I identified with was the male action hero types, rather than the passive and uninteresting females in many books.
I enjoyed Coral Island when I was at primary school, shipwreck and survival on a tropical island by three young sailors. Very Victorian language though. smile
' aren't wc children often there as poor and worthy foils '
Back to the purpose of the novel for a Victorian child. What will they learn from it, and what sort of values?

Skatingfastonthinice Sat 24-Jan-15 07:38:09

Knowing the place of the order in society was one of concepts pushed.
In the Secret Garden, the knowledgeable child is Dickon who is working class, and his sister Martha. But they are clearly still servants throughout, and stay within those boundaries. Mary will never marry Dickon.
That is Edwardian (1911), rather than Victorian.

HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs Sat 24-Jan-15 07:42:29

Dickens wrote about very poor people didn't he? Often the rich characters were the baddies.

PrincessSmartipants Sat 24-Jan-15 07:44:58

What about The Railway Children? When was that written as that features a family fallen on hard times.

Footle Sat 24-Jan-15 08:01:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LePetitMarseillais Sun 25-Jan-15 10:49:02

A Little Princess focused on characters in hard times and servants.

Thesnowmansnose Mon 26-Jan-15 12:27:35

Skating, of course you're right: the purpose of many stories was teaching a child their place within society, where they belong, good values etc etc. And the imagined reader was the MC/UC child.

So, another question - what is the first book you can think of where the imagined reader is not necessarily MC/UC? And when did the change come, when children's books stopped being mainly/solely about imparting Good Values?

BlueChampagne Mon 26-Jan-15 13:13:16

Daisy May by Jean Ure
Black Beauty covers all strata of society
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (which was first serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine from 1887 to 1888 - thanks Wikipedia!)

BlueChampagne Mon 26-Jan-15 13:14:30

Treasure Island?

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