Tracy Beaker’s characterisation of her own life as ‘a fairy story’ may seem at odds with Jacqueline Wilson’s reputation as a realist writer. Both Wilson’s champions and her critics comment on lack of easy ‘happily ever afters’ in Wilson’s books and her willingness to ‘lift the curtain on subjects once seldom discussed in literature aimed at the young’.1 Proponents of her work often praise these qualities in terms which emphasise their potentially therapeutic value for young readers: her novels frequently appear on lists of recommended titles for children experiencing problems in their own lives. Such lists are premised on the assumption that ‘reading about experiences which mirror aspects of their own experience can help them feel less isolated and more able to think about what is happening’.2 This assumption also underpins a more formal understanding of ‘bibliotherapy’ which seeks to use books in a therapeutic context to enable both children and adults to grapple with particular problems.3 This approach suggests that books which deal with particular problems are both necessary and important; nevertheless, Wilson’s realistic portrayal of topics such as bereavement, family breakups and child abuse has provoked discomfort in some critics.
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