Alternate Histories in Children’s Literature
Historical fiction as a genre within children’s and young adult literature has been traditionally viewed by some as unpopular. Alternate History is fiction where something has changed in the historical timeline: take a known and tweak it. The resulting story can be about that change or the backdrop for a story, where the “what if” is less about the Changed World Event and more how that Changed World Event changed the world, people, culture and their points of view. It can also be great fun for the person who is familiar with the history, to find references to famous people, places, and things that are now just a bit different.
Surprisingly Bellairs’ name was mentioned in connection to something that Dr. Elizabeth H. Kelly-Vals, the Johan Fabricius Endowed Chair of Children’s Literature, at the University of Western Ontario (Canada), had contributed.
Kelly-Vals' piece surrounds the Shakespeare authorship debate and how children authors have incorporated the topic in their stories. Her entire article is not online so we’re only able to view a brief snippet but she postulates Bellairs’ 30-year-old The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt is part of this genre. Kelly-Vals notes three prominent Shakespeare lines in Bellairs’ text but says each one corresponds to one of the objects from the title. Apparently this was discovered when she realized the Bard’s name was part of Bellairs’ title (Will) and the line from Julius Caesar (“…men have lost their reason…”) spoke to the absurdness of believing the Stratfordian case. Bellairs’ book is one of the examples she uses, though we sort of question how she jumped from the Shakespeare authorship question to a book about a mad cereal magnate’s last testament. It almost daggers the mind, but....
It sounds as if her full text - and the other assembled essays - will be included in a future edition of Shakespeare Quarterly later this year…which we look forward to taking a look at for ourselves. Stay tuned!