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Collaborating with the Authorities

Collaborating with the Authorities

Children as Authors, Experts, and Critics

(p.142) Chapter Three Collaborating with the Authorities
Between Generations
Victoria Ford Smith
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines Golden Age authors for children who invited young people into roles of authority through creative collaboration. It traces how Charles Dickens, William Brighty Rands, J. M. Barrie, and others consulted children, real and imagined, as experts who might support or critique the expectations of adults, upending traditional adult-child relationships to entertain the possibility of child agency—especially in topsy-turvy children’s literature plots. While the upside-down logic of the child in charge was a quaint notion for many Victorians, a survey of real and imagined child authorities reveals that adults considered complete child autonomy undesirable or impossible. Authors, librarians, and book reviewers therefore did not cede power to children but negotiated shared authority—a partnership between generations in which adults recognize children as experts and adapt to their perspectives. Such partnerships introduce anxieties about how to access children’s voices in their most pristine form.

Keywords:   collaboration, Dickens, Barrie, child agency, children’s literature

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