The Hidden Satire in Eva Ibbotson’s Novels
Dr. Stephen Hemenway
How young is too young? With the release of such young adult novels as The Hunger Games and Divergent, both of which contained very adult situations, parents (and Disney producers) have been struggling to redefine what adolescent children can handle in their literature and media. Violence and relationships, in particular, have come under scrutiny, but what about satire? Are satirical elements too far over the heads of young readers? Can such elements serve any purpose in young adult literature? This project deals with two specific examples of young adult satire by British author Eva Ibbotson: Which Witch? and The Secret of Platform 13. Among the topics addressed are how satire is scaled down to become more accessible to the younger audience and what the use of satire in the books intends to teach readers. For example, what purpose does the gender satire of Which Witch? serve? What does the political satire of The Secret of Platform 13 say about the real-life competition of various lifestyles within a single nation?
Eva Ibbotson, who died in 2010, was shortlisted for multiple children’s book awards, including the Smarties Prize (which she won in 2001), the Guardian Prize, and the Carnegie and Whitbread prizes. The Secret of Platform 13 was said to be the inspiration for part of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, yet very little has been written about her. Database searches have turned up nothing on her as a satirist or an influential children’s author. This paper hopes to correct the oversight. In addition, a creative component to the project hopes to reflect the various methods of satire used in Ibbotson’s work.
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