Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

And the Oscar Goes To… Children’s Lit!

Say what you will about the ceremony itself (I actually found it to be refreshingly tender and dignified, for the most part), Sunday night’s Academy Awards were a tribute to Oscar’s own medium – the history, customs, elders, and influence of cinema.  From the retro popcorn girls in the aisles and the live band in the balcony, to the themes of the films and the longevity of the careers that were saluted, Oscar celebrated his own crib and the significant contribution the film industry has made to our lives.

For many of us, though, there was another medium honored throughout a surprisingly large portion of the evening – children’s books.  Back in January, Publishers Weekly noted that 21 of the nominations were ‘nods for films based on kids books,’ specifically Hugo (11 nominations), War Horse (6), Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (3), and Tin Tin (1).

I would argue the number to be 24, if you count Puss in Boots, Jane Eyre (now widely considered to be a YA novel) and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a children’s book app as well as a short film, that in and of itself celebrates books and reading.

This is great news for children’s book authors of all stripes (though it would have been nice – and politic – to hear Brian Selznick’s name mentioned at least once over the course of the evening’s 5 awards given to Hugo.)  It demonstrates the enduring appeal of stories for and about young people, from classic fairy tales, novels and comics to the richness of today’s middle grade and YA fiction and the exciting possibilities that new media represents for the entire genre.

But for me there was a subtler connection at play between the mediums of film and childrens literature on Sunday night.  The films on offer this year were notably less snarky, trendy or cynical than those of recent years. Those familiar Hollywood qualities were largely replaced by conscience, compassion and – dare I say it – hope.  What’s going on?  Even in the darkest realms of YA, these are the universal themes of childrens lit!

Whatever it is, I like it. Let’s hope it sticks around awhile… or at least for as long as some of Sunday night’s honorees have.


2 Responses to “And the Oscar Goes To… Children’s Lit!”
  1. Beth says:

    I enjoyed Sunday evening’s ceremony so much more than I have done in recent years. This year’s production was imaginative, more subtle, and with a touch of elegance and grace. Very refreshing. Your highlighting of the children’s lit themes that pervaded the ceremony and so many of the nominations, is spot on, and I’m glad you drew that to our attention.

    Interesting that you mention that Jane Eyre is widely considered YA. I hadn’t realized that, but that suggestion brought back a memory of a school “field trip” to see the George C. Scott/Susannah York version of Jane Eyre (which had some theatrical release prior to being released in the US as a TV movie). I was in grade nine, in a small town school in Saskatchewan in 1970 or 71, and field trips of any sort, much less to see a movie, were practically unheard of. I’m grateful to a creative teacher who saw the value in introducing literature to teens through the medium of film.

    I hope that the trend of bringing children’s literature to the screen in an eloquent, vibrant and creative way will continue — and will draw children and adults to the books, in turn.

  2. Diane says:

    While we see next to nothing of the Oscars on our TV Screens only what we can find on the internet down here, it is nice to know there is that connection between some of the highly honoured movies and childrens literature. I had not thought of it that way. Glad to hear of the slight trend change, Emma, and I love Jane Eyre. Thankyou.

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