Literary role models needed

How do juveniles in today’s complex world find a hero – or at least a role model – they can relate to?

Certainly, growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, one was taught such ideals exist. For males, there were literary heroes like Chip Hilton and Bronc Burnett. If you were female, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden filled the bill.

Chip and Bronc always won the game, as well as championing friendship and teamwork. Nancy and Trixie (along with the Hardy Boys) always solved the mystery – and showed that clever minds and hard work were the keys to success.

While a couple of the Hilton books dealt with racism, bullying and gangs, the other literary role models seldom addressed social calamities. Hilton’s mother was also a single parent (his father died in an industrial accident).

Where does today’s juvenile turn to find a role model?

There exists a need for a new breed of novel writer for preteen and teen. Not one who glorifies teen pregnancy or single parenthood, but one who addresses the challenges those conditions present. If such novels are done well, they can preach the rewards of redemption – there is no greater reward than a child well raised.

Granted, such novels would be a far cry from Chip Hilton or Nancy Drew. They would not be about a game won or a mystery solved, but about the salvation of a child born to an unready, scared parent.

Two glories would be celebrated in this kind of writing – the redemption of the parent who devotes a life to a child born in these circumstances. And, the child himself, who rises out of such a beginning to flourish.

Novels like these may seem to flow more from a modern Charles Dickens than last century’s Clair Bee. But, facing the realities of today’s society, someone has to emerge as not only a chronicler of today’s social problems, but a champion of what can be accomplished when the human heart is challenged.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.