Is Violence Necessary in Children’s Literature?

Conflict is the essence of story, but does conflict need to include violence and physical aggression in children’s and young-adult literature? I’ve discussed this issue before in a youtube video and take the issue up in print over at Blogging Authors in a guest post published today. My short answer is “yes.”

As much as we may want to purge violence from our lives and our kids lives, the truth is that violence is a part of our reality. The recent shocking videos of bullying ranging from Karen Kleiner bus monitor case in Greece, New York to an ambush of a kid in Chillicothe, Ohio High School are ample evidence of this. But, it’s not just bullying–child soldiers populate rebel armies in Africa, children are being massacred in Syria, the drug trade ravages inner-city neighborhoods in the US as well as abroad. Systematically ignoring this violence when it is part of our every day lives does a disservice to our readers.

I know this might sound self-serving–after all I write young adult novels about pirates, bullies and martial arts–but I also think the forthright way in which my stories grapple with real world violence is one of the reasons why readers (and parents) appreciate them. Indeed, several of the reviews of A Warrior’s Soul have recognized that the main theme is that violence is not the answer.

Dealing with violence is inevitable if authors want to seriously address real issues facing kids (and their families). Our responsibility as authors is to embrace this as fact and deal with it in an ethically and morally responsible way by writing engaging stories with characters that either make the right decisions or face the consequences of making the wrong ones.

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