Children's Fiction Exam 2020 Q1



  • Children's literature can quite often offer 'happy endings' and rather bleak ones
  • This essay will explore a number of texts encountered on the module
  • including 'happy' endings such as Streatfield's 'Ballet Shoes' and Wilson's 'The Illustrated Mum'
  • and 'unhappy' endings such as Morimoto's 'My Hiroshima' and Briggs' 'When the Wind Blows'
  • These texts demonstrate the social, moral and economic complexities of what makes a 'happy' ending
  • Aswell as how texts share unhappy, taboo subject matter with children in order to demonstrate a realistic depiction of the world for all the good and the bad
1 of 6

Paragraph 1

  • Streatfield's 'Ballet Shoes' undoubtedly has 'happiest' ending
  • female run family, all three Fossil sisters help eachother to become self relant and eventually able to fulfill their dreams
  • each child encounters difficulties on their journey
  • father figure GUM = unreliable
  • with support from Nana and Sylvia they all work hard to support themselves financially
  • sibling rivalry but ultimately overwhelming encouragement between the sisters
  • "We three Fossils vow to put out names in history books" (Streatfield)
  • the tale of sisterhood promotes perseverance amongst young girls and embraces the notion of growing up as opposed to shying away from it
  • Huse suggest Streatfield identifies the children's needs to grow up and mature in to healthy adults
  • Petrova becomes aviator, Posy a ballerina and Pauline an actress makes the ending unquestionably uplifting
  • reflects the type of novel that Nodelman describes as 'clearly positive on their outlook on life - optimistic, with happy endings'
2 of 6

Paragraph 3

  • Alternatively, Wilson's 'The Illustrated Mum' offers an alternative type of happy ending
  • Eccleshare in a radio interview stated 'Wilson offers a contemporary fairy-tale which reflects the social and economic problems recognisable to modern children'
  • the story is miserable, uncomfortable and sobering as Marigold's mental health declines and the children face neglect
  • but it demonstrates the different types of love that hold families together in times of difficulties
  • Dolphin's optimistic and child-like narrative as the protagonist is immediately engaging
  • As an adult reader, it would be easy to as Nodelman argues make 'pessimisstic qualifications of the apparent optimism' in the terrible situation Dolphin and her family were in
  • But Dolphin's positivity reflects how children are often robust survivors
  • The ending provides optimism, security and support in the form of Marigold's motherly love
  • As dolphin and star visit Marigold in hospital, the bond between them all provides enough emotional sustenance to prevent the ending from being depressing
  • But ultimately the single parent family model failed and the family is presented as essential to happily-ever-after
  • This supports Alston's claim that 'the family in children's literature is, at the heart, deeply conservative'
  • Nevertheless, family happier at end than at beginning
3 of 6

Paragraph 3

  • On the other hand, there are a number of texts that do not have 'happy endings' at all
  • Cormier, who wrote pessimisstic young adult novels in which the protagonist does not over come the darkness, argued that 'there are enough books with happy endings. I think its time for the realistic novel about things that really go on in the world'
  • Indeed, more texts are published which discuss taboo subject and more 'adult' themes to present a realistic depiction of the world
  • Morimoto's 'My Hiroshima' is a children's picture book telling of the author's childhood memories of the both the bombing of Hiroshima and the devastating aftermath
  • The simple and elegant illustrations portray the quiet, peaceful life before the bomb and then the horrific devastation, injuries and fatalities that ensued
  • Morimoto's story clearly doesn't have a 'happy ending' but instead acts as an educational anecdote showing children the devastating effects of nuclear warfare
  • For Morimoto and many others, childhood was not innocent and happy but devastatingly traumatic
  • Nodelman's essay focuses on 'optimistic' happy endings in children's text but fails to acknowledge more gritty tets with realistic depiction of horrific historical events
4 of 6

Paragraph 4

  • Furthermore, Briggs' fictive text 'When the Wind Blows' is similarly to Morimoto's text beautifully illustrated but with a grim ending due to nuclear warfare
  • The illustrations show the same heart-warming and comforting style as they did in Briggs' earlier work 'The Snowman' but the Bloggs couple in the story do not have a cosy ending
  • the story tells of the couple trying to carry on life as normal in the aftermath of a nuclear bomb, eventually dying of radiation sickness
  • When interviewed, Briggs said 'I don't have happy endings'
  • This type of graphic text with horrendous subject-matter, whether non-fictive in the case of Morimoto or conceptual in the case of Briggs, definitely 'resonate[s]' (Nodelman) with both the child and adult reader
5 of 6


  • It is reasonable to argue that Streatfiel's 'Ballet Shoes' undoubtedly offers the happiest ending out of the novels encountered, with its embracement of sisterhood, mutual support and young women making their dreams happen
  • However, Wilson's 'The Illustrated Mum' offers a non-conventional happy ending in which less advantaed children struggle against social and economic difficulties, but ultimately make good things happen for themselves despite a bad situation
  • However, unlike the female run family in Streatfield's 'Ballet Shoes', the single parent family model headed by Marigold is presented as lesser than the nuclear family model (societies ideal)
  • Therefore, despite Wilson's attempt to normalise Marigold's motherhood, she is ultimately criticised in her failure to provide financial and emotional support for the children
  • But overall, the children are happy with their new foster mother
  • There also clearly a variety of texts where the endings are not happy
  • The non-fictive 'My Hiroshima' (Miromoto) and the conceptual 'When the Wind Blows' (Briggs) offer a bleak depiction of the disastrous effects of nuclear warfare
  • There has been a clear move to sharing more taboo subjects with children to demonstrate a realistic depiction of the world and not neccessarily always provide a conventional H-E-A.
6 of 6


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all Revision resources »