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  • Transitions
  • Richard Flynn

With this issue, I begin my final year as editor of the Children's Literature Association Quarterly. At present, I will refrain from the temptations to wax retrospectively introspective. In the spirit of looking forward hopefully, rather than backward nostalgically, I prefer to think of this as the inaugural issue in the journal's transition to new leadership. Beginning with this issue, Katharine Capshaw Smith, who has served ably as an associate editor for the past six years, begins serving as editor elect and acquisitions editor. Joining her editorial team as associate editors are Kenneth Kidd of the University of Florida, Anne K. Phillips of Kansas State University, and Lynne Vallone of Rutgers University. Mark West has agreed to stay on as book review editor. Kate and her editorial team will assume their full editorial duties beginning with the first issue of volume 35.

The present issue, I believe, reflects the strengths of the Quarterly: its interest in both contemporary and historical children's literature, its engagement with current theoretical approaches, and a respect for the individual and often idiosyncratic voices of the critics who write in its pages. The articles included here also attest to the fundamental importance of social and historical contexts in our critical conversations about children's literature.

Charles Butler's playful reading of Anne Fine's Bill's New Frock and Louis Sachar's Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl? is also a sophisticated account of the clash of various feminisms, queer theory, and essentialist and/or constructivist discourses on gender in the 1990s and the ways in which the children's texts both "accommodate" and "resist" those emerging theories. Butler speculates that, perhaps, the "New Gender Politics" that Judith Butler calls for in Undoing Gender might pave the way for new children's texts that resist inscribing a "definitive 'secret difference' between boys and girls," upon which the 1990s texts rely.

In "Historicizing Polio's 'Happy Ending,'" Jacqueline Foertsch examines representations of polio in several recent children's historical works of fiction. While works that are the most historically specific tend to take the most "enlightened outlook [End Page 1] on impairment and disability issues," they nevertheless tend to view polio as an obstacle to be overcome with "the right mental attitude," following a tradition in children's literature "from Heidi to Deenie," and to underplay the realities of polio causing permanent impairment or death.

Supriya Goswami discusses the once well-known, but now seldom-read, Story of Sonny Sahib by Sara Jeanette Duncan, in which the eponymous hero is a paradigmatic "Imperial Boy Hero" able to bridge cultural gaps after the 1857 Mutiny. A precursor to Kipling's Kim, Sonny escapes the bloodbath of the Mutiny, eventually "sav[ing] the day for the British and the Indians" alike in order to "cultivate a mutual regard between colonized Indians and their British rulers," albeit from the privileged position of being English.

Charles Kingsley's Water-Babies is also a work that was once read widely but today is read today in an abridged edition, when it is read at all. Jonathan Padley argues that the apparent discord between the realistic and fantastic sections is far from a flaw; rather, the novel's need to address multiple audiences, its marginality, and, in particular, its status as an example of child-adult cross-writing is what makes it interesting. Padley reads the text in a deft exploration of the novel's "iridescent duality," which he argues is cause for celebration.

The astute reader will have noticed that I have arranged these articles in reverse chronological order. So despite my promise that I would look forward, I have somehow managed to look back as well. Nevertheless, I prefer to think of the year to come as a beginning rather than a swan song, and I look forward to the year and the years ahead. [End Page 2]



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