An analysis of award-winning children’s literature has identified a massive change in the stories which young people are reading nowadays. Modern books are much more likely to feature children who are abandoned, alienated and have no home to return to, according to Professor Kathy Short, President of the International Board of Books for Young People.

In a comparison with Dorothy from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, she said “For today’s children, childhood is not the happy, carefree time it is supposed to be. Children are thrust out. These children are not wild things. They are too busy taking care of their troubled parents to have time to follow a rabbit down a hole, too frightened of abuse to trust the Tinman and too fearful to set out on an adventure for fear that their unreliable parent might not be there when they return. These children have been caught in the crossfire of the gender, race, class and culture clashes between adults”.

Professor Melissa Wilson, assistant professor at the University of Texas, co-author of the analysis said that modern children’s literature revealed a deep anxiety about childhood.

Steven Butler, author of The Wrong Pong – a book based on a boy who leaves his selfish parents for a new family said “Authors now blossoming into writers are the Roald Dahl generation. It’s comletely acceptable to write in a macabre, horrific and exciting way.

However, Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry series, does not agree. She believes that parents would be likely to receive a visit from Social Services if they left a child roam about like literary characters such as Tom Sawyer or the children in Swallows & Amazons.