About Me

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Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
Hello, and welcome to my blog! I like to write about children's literature, fandom studies, video games, feminism, and pop culture in general. I've recently earned my Ph.D. in children's literature ( Fall 2012) at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I also teach English (composition, British literature, and women's literature) at Sowela Technical Community College. Oh, and I like cats! [Banner image artwork by Yuki Midorikawa]

Monday, September 6, 2010

Metafiction in Children's Literature

Just wanted to quickly share a great video that I came across via child_lit:

Metafiction for Children (4 minute video by Philip Nel)

I've honestly never thought of children's metafiction, and yet I grew up with it. Think of all those "pat the soft bunny" style books we read as children (and now continue to read to our own children)! I'm also thinking of books like The Monster at the End of This Book: books that actually confront young readers by saying, "Hey! Yes, that's right! I'm a BOOK!"

It's harder (but not impossible) to find metafiction in intermediate and young adult fiction. Would Dianne Wynne Jone's The Dark Lord of Derkholm count? How often do characters in a book reveal the fact that they know they are characters? And how do young readers respond to this revelation?

Surprisingly (or perhaps surprisingly not), it happens quite frequently in anime and manga. Hideaki Sorachi's Gintama is the example that comes most readily to mind. "That sounds like something out of a manga," quips the main character at one point. And, well, he should know. He's an avid reader of Shounen Jump -- the serial magazine in which Gintama is published each week.


  1. You're so right! Have you read I am the Messanger by Markus Zusak? It has a faboulous metafictional twist.
    Metafictionoccurs in film as well. I think immediately of of Shrek and the Emperor's New Grove. Would you consider Meyers' reference to Wuthering Heights in Twilight because Bella and Edward's own romance parallels that novel? Or is that simple allusion?

  2. I haven't read the Messenger, but I've HEARD of it, believe it or not! I think I read a review that criticized the ending... maybe s/he didn't like the metafictional elements?!

    Oh you need to tell me more about Shrek and Emperor's New Groove ... how are they metafiction? Haven't seen either in awhile, but I have always had a weird soft spot for Emperor's New Groove ... don't know why!

    Well I would say it's up to the individual as to whether or not Twilight would be considered straight-up metafiction (I wouldn't, I mean, at least until I heard a mildly compelling argument to the contrary :p) BUT you could certainly get away with saying it contains, again, "metafictional elements" (at least I think so).

  3. Emperor's New Groove has that moment when they do that track the characters across the map with the dotted line and then they break the suspension of disbelief when they refer to the fact that it's not possible for the bad guys to have arrived first.

    Shrek is just highly aware that it's a mash up of fairy tales, like in that scene where they're rounding up the fairy tale characters and the old man is trying to convince them that Donkey is a talking donkey? Or the whole story book beginning that Shrek uses to wipe his ass with? Love that BTW.

    OOh, I just thought about Men in Tights, during the archery contest, Robin Hood refers to the script to prove he gets another shot.

    Have you read Marvelous Geometry?(http://www.amazon.com/Marvelous-Geometry-Narrative-Metafiction-Fairy-Tale/dp/0814332625/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284087452&sr=8-1 ) I just got it in the mail today and it's about metafiction in modern fairy tales. Can't wait to read it.

  4. Have you read Sophie's World? It's a book on the history of philosophy, told through the story of a girl named Sophie, but it is also a metabook. I won't say how this is so, lest I spoil the ending, but it made me think a lot about what happens when book characters figure out that they're living in a story. It would probably count as Young Adult. It's not that appealing to children, and, although adults would probably read it, I think the aim is to make philosophy more appealing to the teenage age group.

    So, if you notice this comment (despite the fact that it's on a blog 1 1/2 years old), definitely check it out.

  5. I have not, but I've definitely heard of it! I'll add it to my Goodreads. And I get email notifications every time someone comments, so comment away! :)