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Bloody Murder

, 280 pages
February 2013



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Bloody Murder

The Homicide Tradition in Children's Literature

Given the long-standing belief that children ought to be shielded from disturbing life events, it is surprising to see how many stories for kids involve killing. Bloody Murder is the first full-length critical study of this pervasive theme of murder in children’s literature. Through rereadings of well-known works, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, and The Outsiders, Michelle Ann Abate explores how acts of homicide connect these works with an array of previously unforeseen literary, social, political, and cultural issues. Topics range from changes in the America criminal justice system, the rise of forensic science, and shifting attitudes about crime and punishment to changing cultural conceptions about the nature of evil and the different ways that murder has been popularly presented and socially interpreted.

Bloody Murder adds to the body of inquiry into America's ongoing fascination with violent crime. Abate argues that when narratives for children are considered along with other representations of homicide in the United States, they not only provide a more accurate portrait of the range, depth, and variety of crime literature, they also alter existing ideas about the meaning of violence, the emotional appeal of fear, and the cultural construction of death and dying.

Michelle Ann Abate is an associate professor of English at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

"Abate is very persuasive about the value of bringing children's literature into a scholarly conversation with other disciplines."

"Thought-provoking... Bloody Murder is excellent for Abate's interrogation of the genre. She has an eye for the unexpected literary influences lurking behind well-known texts"

"A compelling study of the ways in which the specter of violent death looms large in books for children, both historically and in modern literature."

" Bloody Murder is another fine example of Abate's signature ability to take cultural elements on the periphery of children's literature scholarship and show their relevance to the field's central questions. Her examination of murder culture's influence is more than just a skillful exposition of a prominent theme in plots for young readers; by locating homicide in the earliest distinct children's and young adult texts, abate effectively demonstrates that the beginnings of these two genres are far more complex and interconnected with American popular culture than has traditionally been supposed. In addition, she opens an important new frontier for crime studies, confidently displaying how often children's texts explore murder, as well as how crucial their representations are to understanding the American relationship with violence and death. Her engaging, rigorously researched, and accessible chapters make for engrossing reading useful for scholars and students alike. This study is a significant contribution, sure to spark further research on children's murder culture."

"Abate's close readings of texts and of the specific discourses with which they are paired in individual chapters gives readers new literary and social perspectives to consider as they think about the forms and functions of literature for children."

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