Romanticized rural storytelling creates difficulties for rural children in finding mirrors, seeing people like themselves and places like their homes as principal characters and settings in picturebooks. The same romanticism likewise makes it unlikely for picturebook readers in cities and suburbs to find realistic windows into rural life. Despite children’s book publishers’ purposeful increases in realistic representations of children across racial and cultural groups in recent decades, realistic and diverse narratives within rural spaces remain underrepresented, if not invisible. Drawing on critical rural theory (Fulkerson & Thomas, 2014; Williams, 1973) and tenets of nostalgia and the rural idyll (Boym, 2001, 2007; Sanders, 2013), this article examines representations of rural life in picturebooks with integral rural settings, focusing on stereotypical representations of isolation, nostalgia, and rural childhoods. The analysis highlights how depictions of movement have a direct effect on how characters interact across the rural space and how movement from one place to another, or lack thereof, influences agency, time, and story endings. The authors call for more diverse books focused on rural narratives that would work to dismantle the single story that stereotypes contribute to and to do justice to the complexity and diversity of rural life.
Youngs, S., Erekson, J. A., & Kyser, C. (2021). Moving Across Rural Spaces: A Content Analysis of Contemporary Realistic Fiction Picturebooks With Rural Settings. Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, 60 (3). Retrieved from https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol60/iss3/3