Domestic Abuse Addressed In Children’s Books

If you’re looking for children’s book which deal with domestic abuse, there are many examples at all reading levels across various genres. While young adult authors are well-known for their willingness to confront difficult subject matter head on, readers can also find domestic abuse addressed in picture books.

Read through the marketing copy of the books below and you’ll notice a few tropes heavily utilised in stories about domestic abuse.

Secret-keeping is a major part of stories about domestic abuse. When to keep a secret and when to share? This is a huge (impossible) moral dilemma for the children of abusive homes.

Stories about domestic abuse and stories which address homelessness overlap.

There is often a harrowing chase sequence in which the children leave home, perhaps with the abused parent, mostly the mother. Sometimes the characters leave home on a mythic journey near the beginning of the story. In other stories there is a long build up in which the young person feels trapped and longs to escape but can’t.

Most domestic abuse victims in children’s stories are girls, though there are some standout examples of boy victims, and ocassionally a few abusive mothers, who line up with the wicked (step-)mother fairytale archetype.

Some domestic abuse stories are told via fantasy, in which the child character escapes into some other world in order to find the strength they need to survive. Boy characters sometimes take on the fantasy persona of superheroes in order to cope, under pressure to protect other members of their family from a coercively controlling male.

The anagnorisis phase of these stories often involves the young person finding their voice which was previously silenced. This type of self-revelation is commonly preceded by a wish on the main character’s part to remain invisible.

Sometimes child victims in stories of domestic abuse — especially girls — find something in common with animals (commonly foxes, owls and other fairytale creatures) because, like animals, they have developed a sixth sense to predict impending danger.

Monsters are also common, and the monsters can be coded as a representation of fear.

Stories about domestic abuse typically end with one or more of the following messages for young readers:

  • You are not alone.
  • It’s not your fault.
  • You must tell someone you trust.
  • It doesn’t have to be this way!

THE BOOK OF EVERYTHING BY GUUS KUIJER

Faith is joy is love is hope in this novel of exquisite power and everyday miracles, reminiscent of Barbara Kingsolver’s THE POISONWOOD BIBLE.

Thomas can see things no one else can see. Tropical fish swimming in the canals. The magic of Mrs. Van Amersfoort, the Beethoven-loving witch next door. The fierce beauty of Eliza with her artificial leg. And the Lord Jesus, who tells him, “Just call me Jesus.”
Thomas records these visions in his “Book of Everything.” They comfort him when his father beats him, when the angels weep for his mother’s black eyes. And they give him the strength to finally confront his father and become what he wants to be when he grows up:

“Happy.”

MARY UNDERWATER BY SHANNON DOLESKI

Mary Murphy feels like she’s drowning. Her violent father is home from prison, and the social worker is suspicious of her new bruises. An aunt she’s never met keeps calling. And if she can’t get a good grade on her science project, she’ll fail her favorite class.

But Mary doesn’t want to be a victim anymore. She has a plan: build a real submarine, like the model she’s been making with Kip Dwyer, the secretly sweet class clown.

Gaining courage from her heroine, Joan of Arc, Mary vows to pilot a sub across the Chesapeake Bay, risking her life in a modern crusade to save herself.

THE SKY IS MINE BY AMY BEASHEL

No one has ever asked Izzy what she wants. She’s about to change all that…

In a house adept at sweeping problems under the carpet, seventeen-year-old Izzy feels silenced. As her safety grows uncertain, Izzy know three things for sure. She knows not to tell her mother that Jacob Mansfield has been threatening to spread those kinds of photos around college. She knows to quiet the grief that she’s been abandoned by her best friend Grace. And, seeing her mother conceal the truth of her stepdad’s control, Izzy also knows not to mention how her heart splinters and her stomach churns whenever he enters a room.

When the flimsy fabric of their life starts to unravel, Izzy and her mum must find their way out of the silence and use the power in their voices to rediscover their worth.

For fans of Sara Barnard, Louise O’Neill and E. Lockhart, The Sky is Mine is a powerful exploration of rape culture and domestic abuse, and a moving story of women learning to love themselves enough to demand to be heard.

MAGPIE BY EVE AINSWORTH

It has been a long time since Alice has felt safe.
Because of him. Ross. But now she, Mum and her little brother Henry have finally moved far away, where Ross will never find them. It’s a fresh start, Mum says. This time, she is never going back.

Slowly Alice starts to build a life for herself, at a new school with new friends. But she can’t escape the feeling she is being watched. That he might be lurking, waiting to ruin everything again. That Mum might be about to break her promise. That, just when Alice is starting to feel safe, everything will be taken away from her.

A story about healing, home and new beginnings from acclaimed author Eve Ainsworth.

HERSHEY HERSELF BY CECILIA GALANTE

I walk up the back steps and then stand there, waiting for the goosebumps on my arms to go away. They don’t. I almost don’t go in. But then I think of Baby Ella. And Mom. I push open the door….

When twelve-year-old Hershey must run away with her mother to a women’s shelter, she wonders how, among other things, she’ll compete in the town talent show with her best friend, Phoebe; who will take care of her cat, Augustus Gloop; and if she’ll survive being on a new bus route with her sworn enemy.

RUN REBEL BY MANJEET MANN

When Amber runs, it’s the only time she feels completely free – far away from her claustrophobic home life. Her father wants her to be a dutiful daughter, waiting for an arranged marriage like her sister Ruby.

Running is a quiet rebellion. But Amber wants so much more – and she’s ready to fight for it.

It’s time for a revolution.

COOKIE BY JACQUELINE WILSON

Frequently berated for breaking his hyper-fussy house rules, as well as for her lack of looks, confidence and friends, Beauty lives in uneasy fear whenever Dad’s home. Her pretty, sweet mum is equally afraid of him.

Eventually, after an unbearable birthday party, amidst fears that Dad’s temper is out of control, Mum and Beauty run away. They find themselves in an idyllic seaside resort where their new-found freedom and a moment of culinary inspiration give them a hobby, an income and even a new nickname for Beauty whose dreams all come true — and she deserves it!

LOLA ROSE BY JACQUELINE WILSON

When life with Jayni’s violent-tempered father becomes too frightening to cope with, Jayni, her mum and her little brother Kenny are forced to escape in the middle of the night. Slipping out of the house unseen, travelling up to London by train and checking into a hotel – it’s almost like playing an elaborate game. They even make up false identities to protect their secret, and Jayni becomes the glamorous-sounding Lola Rose.

But when money runs out and reality bites, what will they do next?

THE SUMMER OF TELLING TALES BY LAURA SUMMERS

Middle grade novels frequently deal with the developmental phase in which children learn that ‘lying’ is not as black and white as adults have been telling them all along.

There are two ways to keep a secret: silence or lies.

I can feel the anger bubbling up inside me. ‘Grace, we’ve got a brand new life now. We can be anyone we want.’

‘So what happens when your new friends find out you’ve just spun them a story?’

‘They won’t. I’m not going to let anyone spoil things. Never again.’

Ellie and Grace have left their old life behind. The future seems better, brighter, more exciting. But as their past threatens to catch up with them, how long can silence and lies keep their dark secret safe?

ME MAM. ME DAD. ME. BY MALCOLM DUFFY

Humorous and heartbreaking debut novel with the fresh, funny, honest voice of a 14-year-old Geordie lad recounting the trials and tribulations of family life and finding first love.

Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him.

But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad.
The Dad he’s never met.

Set in Newcastle and Edinburgh, this supremely readable coming-of-age drama tackles domestic violence head on, but finds humour and hope in the most unlikely of­ places.

ELEANOR & PARK BY RAINBOW ROWELL

Nothing in the marketing copy suggests more than a love story, but Eleanor’s step-father is an example of a coercively controlling abuser.

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

PAPER BUTTERFLIES BY LISA HEATHFIELD

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom… But at what price?

CHINGLISH BY SUE CHEUNG

Jo Kwan is a teenager growing up in 1980s Coventry with her annoying little sister, too-cool older brother, a series of very unlucky pets and utterly bonkers parents. But unlike the other kids at her new school or her posh cousins, Jo lives above her parents’ Chinese takeaway. And things can be tough – whether it’s unruly customers or the snotty popular girls who bully Jo for being different. Even when she does find a BFF who actually likes Jo for herself, she still has to contend with her erratic dad’s behaviour. All Jo dreams of is breaking free and forging a career as an artist.

Told in diary entries and doodles, Jo’s brilliantly funny observations about life, family and char siu make for a searingly honest portrayal of life on the other side of the takeaway counter.

THE BONE DRAGON BY ALEXIA CASALE

Evie’s shattered ribs have been a secret for the last four years. Now she has found the strength to tell her adoptive parents, and the physical traces of her past are fixed – the only remaining signs a scar on her side and a fragment of bone taken home from the hospital, which her uncle Ben helps her to carve into a dragon as a sign of her strength.

Soon this ivory talisman begins to come to life at night, offering wisdom and encouragement in roaming dreams of smoke and moonlight that come to feel ever more real.

As Evie grows stronger there remains one problem her new parents can’t fix for her: a revenge that must be taken. And it seems that the Dragon is the one to take it.

This subtly unsettling novel is told from the viewpoint of a fourteen-year-old girl damaged by a past she can’t talk about, in a hypnotic narrative that, while giving increasing insight, also becomes increasingly unreliable.

A blend of psychological thriller and fairytale, The Bone Dragon explores the fragile boundaries between real life and fantasy, and the darkest corners of the human mind.

GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM BY MICHELLE MAGORIAN

When the Second World War breaks out, young Willie Beech is evacuated to the countryside. A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of kind old Tom Oakley. But then his cruel mother summons him back to war-torn London…

THE STAR OUTSIDE MY WINDOW BY ONJALI RAUF

The domestic abuse in this story may not be obvious to readers who are not yet ready to deal with it.

My mum is up there somewhere. She’s waiting — I can feel it. I just have to find her in time, that’s all … Because when I do, I’ll know the truth about who stole her. ‘

Told through the innocent voice of a child, this is a story that celebrates the power of hope and resilience, from the author of The Boy at the Back of the Class.

On her tenth birthday, Aniyah makes a wish — a wish for her mum. After school that same day, Aniyah and her brother are rushed out of school and driven far, far away.

So Aniyah sets out to find out the truth — about the wish and about what happened to her mother. And in doing so she ends up on an adventure she never could have foreseen…one that involves a very clever squirrel, a homeless man named Harry, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and the biggest star in Hollywood…

In the stunning and hard-hitting sequel to the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin, incarcerated teen Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the American prison system.

Shortly after teenager Quan enters a not guilty plea for the shooting death of a police officer, he is placed in a holding cell to await trial. Through a series of flashbacks and letters to Justyce, the protagonist of Dear Martin, Quan’s story unravels.

From a troubled childhood and bad timing to a coerced confession and prejudiced police work, Nic Stone’s newest novel takes an unflinching look at the flawed practices and ideologies that discriminate against African American boys and minorities in the American justice system.

THE LIGHT JAR BY LISA THOMPSON

Nate and his mother are running away, hiding out in a tumbledown cottage in the middle of a forest. When Mum heads off for provisions, and then doesn’t return, Nate is left alone and afraid, with the dark closing in all around him.

But comfort can come from the most unexpected of places – a mysterious girl trying to solve the clues of a treasure hunt and the reappearance of an old friend from his past.

Will Nate find the bravery needed to face the troubles of his present and ultimately illuminate the future?

A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS BY JENN REESE

After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they’ve never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father’s anger.

When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called “A Game of Fox & Squirrels,” Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.

But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn’t prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she’d ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she’ll lose far more than just a game.

THE YEARBOOK BY HOLLY BOURNE

The dramas, the traumas, the rumours – it’s time to expose it all… The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Mean Girls in this scathingly funny and relatable high-school takedown from the queen of UKYA.

Most likely to…be forgotten

Working on the school newspaper, Paige is used to dealing with fake stories. How popular girl Grace is a such an amazing person (lie). How Laura steals people’s boyfriends (lie). How her own family are so perfect (lie).

Now Grace and friends have picked their “best” high-school moments for Paige to put in the all-important Yearbook. And they’re not just fake. They’re poison.

But Paige has had enough of all the lies in her life. And with the help of Elijah – the only boy who could ever understand her – she’s going to reveal the truth.

TIGER DAUGHTER BY REBECCA LIM

What I feel most days is that nothing is ever
going to change. That my life won’t even start,
and that I’ll be stuck like this forever.

Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances,
and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to
get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

WHERE WE BEGIN BY CHRISTIE NIEMAN

Seventeen-year-old Anna is running into the night. Fleeing her boyfriend, her mother, and everything she has known.

She is travelling into the country, to the land and the grandparents she has never met, looking for answers to questions that have never been asked.

For every family has secrets.

But some secrets —once laid bare — can never be forgiven.

SMASHED BY ANDY ROBB

When his dad moves out, Jamie tries to fill his shoes. He needs to become head of the household — right?

With his mum dealing with the aftermath of toxic masculinity at its finest, and his little sister Bex struggling to understand what’s going on, Jamie has to navigate the choppy waters of what he thinks it means to be a man.

Having learned that the best way to deal with feelings is to push them down as far as they’ll go, he finds help from an unlikely source. Drinking makes him feel invincible — Super Jim can take on anything — and anyone…

But how long will it be before this particular well of wisdom runs dry? And what will it take for Jamie to realise that help was at hand all along?

GHOST BY JASON REYNOLDS

Domestic abuse is a part of the backstory of the main character of Ghost, book one of the Track series.

Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

PET BY AKWAEKE EMEZI

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life.

But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house.

Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

DICEY’S SONG BY CYNTHIA VOIGHT

Cynthia Voight is one of the very few authors of children’s books who dares write absolutely awful mothers. Almost every other neglectful mother in children’s literature ultimately loves her children, despite how flawed she is.

This is book two of The Tillerman Cycle.

Now that the four abandoned Tillerman children are settled in with their grandmother, Dicey finds that their new beginnings require love, trust, humor, and courage.

Notably, the mother in this series is one of the few examples in children’s literature who is wholly irreedemably awful. Most useless mothers in children’s literature eventually reveal their caring side. This mother shows no signs of loving her children.

THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS BY ANN BRADEN

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.

Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.

Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

JOE ALL ALONE BY JOANNA NADIN

When thirteen-year-old Joe is left behind in Peckham while his mum flies to Spain on holiday, he decides to treat it as an adventure, and a welcome break from Dean, her latest boyfriend. Joe begins to explore his neighbourhood, making a tentative friendship with Asha, a fellow fugitive hiding out at her grandfather’s flat.

But when the food and money run out, his mum doesn’t come home, and the local thugs catch up with him, Joe realises time is running out too, and makes a decision that will change his life forever.

THE BOY WHO SAILED THE OCEAN IN AN ARMCHAIR BY LARA WILLIAMSON

All Becket wants is for his family to be whole again. But standing in his way are two things: 1) his dad, his brother and him seem to have run away from home in the middle of the night and 2) Becket’s mum died before he got the chance to say goodbye to her.

Arming himself with an armchair of stories, a snail named Brian and one thousand paper cranes, Becket ploughs on, determined to make his wish come true.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER BY STEPHEN CHBOSKY

standing on the fringes of life…
offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see
what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being A WALLFLOWER

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

ALL YOU KNEAD IS LOVE BY TANYA GUERRERO

Twelve-year-old Alba doesn’t want to live with her estranged grandmother in Barcelona.

But her mother needs her to be far, far away from their home in New York City. Because this is the year that her mother is going to leave Alba’s abusive father. Hopefully. If she’s strong enough to finally, finally do it.

Alba is surprised to find that she loves Barcelona, forming a close relationship with her grandmother, meeting a supportive father figure, and making new friends. Most of all, she discovers a passion and talent for bread baking. When her beloved bakery is threatened with closure, Alba is determined to find a way to save it—and at the same time, she may just come up with a plan to make their family whole again.

From the author of How to Make Friends with the Sea comes a heartfelt story of finding one’s chosen family, healing, and baking.

BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE BY THALIA CHALTAS

Anke’s father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she’s just an invisible witness in a house of horrors, on the brink of disappearing altogether. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. At first just being exhausted after practice feels good, but as Anke becomes part of the team, her confidence builds.

When she learns to yell “Mine!” to call a ball, she finds a voice she didn’t know existed. For the first time, Anke is seen and heard. Soon, she’s imagining a day that her voice will be loud enough to rescue everyone at home—including herself.

THE TULIP TOUCH BY ANNE FINE

The story of a strange and disturbing friendship seen through the eyes of Natalie as she gets to know Tulip Pierce, a deliquent girl most others go out of their way to avoid.

Nobody wants Tulip in their gang. She bunks off school, is rude to the teachers and makes herself unpopular with her classmates by telling awful lies.

But none of this matters to Natalie who finds Tulip’s behaviour exciting and dangerous. At first she doesn’t care that other people are upset by Tulip’s bizarre games but as the games become increasingly dangerous and sinister, Natalie realises that Tulip is going too far. Way too far… Tulip becomes even more destructive and after a row with Natalie she commits a terrible crime.

Anne Fine explores the dark side of a friendship bordering on obsession, and sensitively depicts one girl’s gradual decline into hostility and violence.

NOBODY’S FAMILY IS GOING TO CHANGE BY LOUISE FITZHUGH

Willie, seven years old, wants to dance. Emma, his older sister, wants to be a lawyer. Is there something wrong with them? Or is there something wrong with their parents, whose dreams for their children, the ordinary dreams of New York’s black middle class, have little to do with what the children want? For Willie won’t stop dreaming of the day he will dance with his uncle Dipsey on Broadway, and Emma is determined that someday she will address a courtroom.

Emma finds an answer for children with families that will not change.

GRACE BY MORRIS GLEITZMAN

In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins.

And talk about happy families, we were bountiful.

But it came to pass that I started doing sins.

And lo, that when all our problems began.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW BY LEONIE NORRINGTON

Damien is horrified when his father, a violent man known to his motorcycling peers as 88, moves back to live with him and his mom

88 is angry. Damien can feel it prickling the air between them. Every muscle in his body is taut, ready to run, planning his escape over the fire between those chairs and straight down to the creek. But he can’t run. Not yet. Nothing has happened, yet. He’d just make a fool of himself. Out of the corner of his eye he watches as 88 slowly packs tobacco in a cigarette paper, rolls it into a cylinder, gets up and moves to sit right next to Damien, so close Damien has to clench his teeth and hang onto the chair to stop himself from bolting.

Damien can’t bear the thought of 88 coming back to live with him and mom; memories of past violence are too strong. But there’s glamour in having a father who rides a Harley Davidson, and it leads Damien to run with the in-crowd at school and abandon his real friends. Set in a small-town community in northern Australia, this gripping contemporary tale takes you inside the mind and under the skin of a troubled boy with a vivid imagination who must wrestle with his own violent impulses and minor betrayals.

DEADLY, UNNA? BY PHILLIP GWYNNE

‘Deadly, unna?’ He was always saying that. All the Nungas did, but Dumby more than any of them. Dumby Red and Blacky don’t have a lot in common.

Dumby’s the star of the footy team, he’s got a killer smile and the knack with girls, and he’s a Nunga. Blacky’s a gutless wonder, needs braces, never knows what to say, and he’s white. But they’re friends… and it could be deadly, unna?

This gutsy novel, set in a small coastal town in South Australia is a rite-of-passage story about two boys confronting the depth of racism that exists all around them.

THE SHEPHERD’S CROWN BY TERRY PRATCHETT

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

WHAT MOMMA LEFT ME BY RENEE WATSON

How is it that unsavory raw ingredients come together to form a delicious cake? What is it about life that when you take all the hard stuff and rough stuff and add in a lot of love, you still just might have a wonderful life? For Serenity, these questions rise up early when her father kills her mother, and leaves her and her brother Danny to live with their kind but strict grandparents. Despite the difficulties of a new school, a new church, and a new neighborhood, Serenity gains strength from the family around her, the new friends she finds, and her own careful optimism. Debut author Renée Watson’s talent shines in this powerful and ultimately uplifting novel.

GOSSAMER BY LOIS LOWRY

In a haunting story by Lois Lowry that tiptoes between reality and imagination, two people—a lonely, sensitive woman and a damaged, angry boy—face their own histories and discover what they can be to one another, renewed by the strength that comes from a tiny, caring creature they will never see.

Where do dreams come from? What stealthy nighttime messengers are the guardians of our most deeply hidden hopes and our half-forgotten fears? Drawing on her rich imagination, two-time Newbery winner Lois Lowry confronts these questions and explores the conflicts between the gentle bits and pieces of the past that come to life in dream, and the darker horrors that find their form in nightmare. In a haunting story that tiptoes between reality and imagination, two people—a lonely, sensitive woman and a damaged, angry boy—face their own histories and discover what they can be to one another, renewed by the strength that comes from a tiny, caring creature they will never see.

BRAVE DANNY BY ROBIN ADOLPHS AND NICKY JOHNSTON

Now for some picture book examples.

Danny is frightened of his dad. Every night he goes to bed and pretends to be asleep. He listens to his dad mistreating his mum. Danny thinks his life is normal until he goes on a sleepover at his best friend Alex’s house. Alex’s dad is kind and fun to be with, and Danny feels happy.

Danny wishes his dad could be more like Alex’s dad.

But what can he do?

Brave Danny is about a small boy who makes a difference by being brave enough to speak up.

ANGRYMAN BY GRO DAHLE AND SVEIN NYHUS

There’s someone in the living room. 

It’s Dad. 

It is Angryman.

Boj’s father can be very angry and violent. Boj calls this side of his father’s personality “Angryman.” When Angryman comes no one is safe. Until something powerful happens…

Gro Dahle’s astute text and Svein Nyhus’s bold, evocative art capture the full range of emotions that descend upon a small family as they grapple with “Angryman.”

With an important message to children who experience the same things as Boj: You are not alone. It’s not your fault. You must tell someone you trust. It doesn’t have to be this way!

A double spread from Angryman. Note that the art is not meant to be inviting.

FURTHER READING

CCChat Magazine, the FREE magazine on and around coercive control

For classroom study, I recommend “Daughters Of The Late Colonel” by Katherine Mansfield.

The Problem Novel in children’s literature

This is the first book to critically examine Hollywood films that focus on male partner violence against women. These films include Gaslight, Sleeping with the Enemy, Whats Love Got to Do with It, Dolores Claiborne, Enough, and Safe Haven. Shaped by the contexts of postfeminism, domestic abuse post-awareness, and familiar genre conventions, these films engage in ideological gaslighting that reaffirms our preconceived ideas about men as abusers, women as victims, and the racial and class politics of domestic violence. While the films purport to condemn abuse and empower abused women, this study proposes that they tacitly reinforce the very attitudes that we believe we no longer tolerate. Shoos argues that films like these limit not only popular understanding but also social and institutional interventions.

The ‘Deadly Female’ Trope In Children’s Literature

This trope has real world consequences, as explained below, in a linguist’s breakdown of female politicians in England’s election (the one in which Theresa May won):

The Guardian’s Andrew Rawnsley, for instance, preferred another familiar formula: ‘the female of the species is deadlier than the male’. Her ‘softer side’ conceals a dark heart, and an insatiable hunger for power over men.

In her quiet but deadly way, Mrs May has been the most ruthless player of them all… She waited for the Tory boys to finish knifing each other in their pantomime version ofHouse of Cards and then elegantly stepped over their twitching corpses to seize pole position for the succession.

Apparently we’re supposed to judge May as somehow more ruthless than Gove or Johnson because she stood quietly on the sidelines while they were figuratively killing each other. And then stepped over their dead bodies in a properly ladylike manner. As he reached for his dictionary of sexist clichés, perhaps Rawnsley regretted that May steps out in kitten heels rather than stilettos. Or perhaps his use of a subtly gendered rhetoric (juxtaposing ‘deadly’ and ‘ruthless’ with ‘quiet’ and ‘elegant’) was not the product of deliberate calculation. Perhaps he was just channelling the collective unconscious, where misogyny can flourish unencumbered by logic.

Andrea Leadsom has also been presented as a ‘sinister’ figure, sometimes using a strategy I mentioned in my previous post–comparing her to one of the archetypal female wielders of petty authority (head girl, headmistress, Matron, etc.) who are conventionally depicted as simultaneously ridiculous (their pretensions to power are comical) and repulsive. The Times sketch-writer Patrick Kidd brought these themes together in a comment he made on Twitter:

I can imagine Andrea Leadsom being a very reassuring pharmacist, if not a prime minister. She has something of the Night Nurse about her.

language: a feminist guide

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