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CHILDREN-LITERATURE-UK  September 2008

CHILDREN-LITERATURE-UK September 2008

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Subject:

Re: scientists up to good?

From:

Rachel Falconer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Academic discussion of all aspects of children's literature <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 14 Sep 2008 23:56:49 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Hi Alice, 

These are excellent suggestions! I should think a female cat would count. 
Complex scientists who place discovery of the unknown over care for
people/world seem the classic bad type to me, - though you're right that
good vs. bad oversimplifies the issue. 

Overall, I suppose, it's about whether the book as a whole stimulates or
stifles an interest in science that counts, and even then, a reader might
not have a simple either-or response... 

Best, 
R

-----Original Message-----
From: Academic discussion of all aspects of children's literature
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of alice bell
Sent: 14 September 2008 23:43
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: scientists up to good?

Generally, the research consensus is that kids science literature is
even more anti science than adult genres. So such people are hard to
find.

Also, in defining 'good' its worth thinking carefully as scientists
characters are often complexly drawn as a mix. they might not do 'bad'
deliberately, but be (in Rosalind Haynes' words) a moral failure by
default because they are driven by a desire to discover rather than
care for the environment and/ or their social relationships.

(It is worth reading Haynes' book, From Faust to Strangelove, though
as some reviewers pointed out, she missed a trick in ignoring about
kids books)

Examples though:

Professor Branestawm, though he is more benign than good I guess. Also
the guild of Alchemists in Pratchett?

Russell Stannard's Uncle Albert  - from the Uncle Albert series, these
books also have a girl doing scientific work, but she is very clearly
defined as not-yet-scientist (this is often the problem in finding the
'child scientist' character) There are also a few of the other books
by Stannard deliberately have postivei female scientist characters
because is on a bit of a mission. The Night of 1001 Mysteries and his
re-write of Mr Tompkins come to mind. I think his picture book series
has a female scientist character too, but it is also a cat.

I suppose the mum in Phillip Reeve's Larklight books could be
considered a scientist. If memory serves, I think there are a few
"good" scientists in those books too, though also bad ones.

If you don't mind tv fiction, it might be worth contacting Elizabeth
Whitelegg at the OU who is doing research on children's science
television linked to gendered images of scientists. Some of her work
can be downloaded here:
http://www.ukrc4setwomen.org/html/research-and-statistics/ukrc-research

There are also loads of good doctor characters, but doctors aren't
always 'scientists'.

Alice


2008/9/14 Rachel Falconer <[log in to unmask]>:
> Hello,
>
> Can anyone think of images of good scientists in children's and young
adult
> fiction? I find it easy to think of evil ones (the uncle in The Magician's
> Nephew, etc), but hard to think of good ones.
>
> Bonus points if anyone knows of good female scientists (but no points for
> Philip Pullman's Mary Malone, because she's already top of the list).
>
> Best wishes,
> Rachel
>



-- 
Alice Bell
work: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/people/alice.bell
knit: http://slippedstitch.blogspot.com/
research: http://www.echae.com/scienceproject/

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