Childlike Parents in Guus Kuijer’s Polleke Series and Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum


  • Vanessa Joosen Antwerp University





In this article, theories from age studies and children’s literature studies are combined to shed light on the construction of adulthood in books for young readers. The article begins with the sociological shift from a traditional model of adulthood with fxed benchmarks and increased commitment to a new ideal of fexibility in adulthood, as described by Harry Blatterer. It then explores how three acclaimed children’s books by Guus Kuijer and Jacqueline Wilson respond to this shift. The narratives all feature parents who display features that are explicitly labeled as “childlike” or that can be interpreted as diverging from the traditional model of “full” adulthood that Blatterer describes. As a result, the child protagonists are shown to experience stress and grief. Although the novels stress the
playfulness of childlike adults as enjoyable, they ultimately promote a traditional model of responsible adulthood, even if few adult characters can actually live up to it.

Author Biography

Vanessa Joosen, Antwerp University

is a postdoctoral researcher at Tillburg University and an associate professor of English literature at Antwerp University. She is the author of Critical and Creative Perspectives on Fairy Tales (Wayne State UP
2011, Choice Award 2011) and Wit als sneeuw, zwart als inkt: De sprookjes van Grimm in de Nederlandstalige literatuur, a study of the Dutch reception of Grimm’s fairy tales. She is currently completing an NWO-funded research project on the construction of adulthood in children’s literature. Readers may write to Vanessa Joosen at 


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How to Cite

Joosen, V. . “Childlike Parents in Guus Kuijer’s Polleke Series and Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 2, Jan. 2015, pp. 203-24, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v2i.130747.