- Growing Up with Vampires: Essays on the Undead in Children’s Media ed. by Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in research on horror in both [End Page 128] children’s literature and vampire studies; however, there is little scholarship that specifically explores vampires in children’s literature. This gap is somewhat surprising given that vampires are so prevalent in children’s stories. Rather than frightening children, the vampire has become a monster that fascinates them. Children have long had vampiric characters to delight them, such as Sesame Street’s Count von Count and Count Chocula cereal’s eponymous mascot. Such figures are a far cry from the sinister monster of the nineteenth century, and scholarship exploring how that change occurred as well as how the vampire functions today is a welcome addition.
Editors Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk hope that this book will function “as an opening foray into the possible uses, meanings and symbolism of the vampire in western culture across various media and historical periods” (1). Specifically, they point out in their introduction how the vampire functions as a character that has the capacity not only to frighten children but also to relate to them; vampires “equally embody the notion of being trapped in a world they have no control over and yet are not of that world; something that children trying to find their place in the world can often experience” (3). The vampire is thus an unexpected but effective metaphor through which children can experience the world.
The book is laid out in three sections. The first, “Children’s Media—Chronologies and Mediums,” contextualizes vampires in children’s literature by discussing how the vampire evolved into a character understood by children over the course of two centuries and in various media. In the first chapter, “Children of the Night: Mainstreaming Vampires Through Children’s Media,” Andrew M. Boylan offers a thorough examination of the relationship between children and the image of vampires since the nineteenth century. The essay is laid out chronologically, offering an excellent starting point for exploring the many ways in which the vampire appears in children’s media. Specific genres are explored more thoroughly in the next chapters, including Jen Baker’s “An Invitation to a Beheading (and Another to a Birthday Bash): Encountering Dracula in Contemporary Metamorphoses Books” and Jack Fennell’s “The Drawn Daughters of Dracula: Vampire Girlhood in British Comics of the 1970s and 1980s.”
The second section, “Negotiating Femininity and Identity,” considers gender and how the role of vampires in children’s media can negotiate otherness, the female body, and transitioning into adulthood. Sharon Pajka’s “Jeepers Creepers: The American Vampirization of the Female Immigrant Teacher in Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots” is an interesting look at the depiction of the schoolteacher as a study in gender and otherness by analyzing the teacher’s character as an immigrant female. Chapters in this section continue to explore how vampires in fiction affect girlhood, whether younger children through shows such as Monster High and My Little Pony in Jacqueline E. Bent’s essay or older ones in Leslie J. Ormandy’s “Problematic Parenting: Tweens and Vampire Fiction.” This section also [End Page 129] includes Chloé Germaine Buckley’s “Metamorphosis of the Blood: Vampiric Femininity in Contemporary Fiction,” which compares nineteenth-century vampire fiction, specifically Dracula and Carmilla, to three modern young adult novels, creating an interesting study in how early vampire fiction informs modern narratives.
The third and final section, “Symbolism, Meanings and Interpretations,” is made up of five chapters that examine different appearances of the vampire in various children’s texts as well as what it means for different generations. Allison Moore’s chapter, “Every Generation Gets the Vampire It Needs: What Can Vampire Narratives in Children’s Films Tell Us About Childhood in the Twenty-First Century?,” argues that even while vampire fiction is written by adults for children to reinforce social norms, the vampire narratives “open up space in which...