Here's something that's been gnawing at me: what do you think explains the preponderance of super-brilliant characters in kids books? And is there something funky going on along gender lines?
I ask this because Chestnut has been gripped by two books of late: Someday, Angeline, which is awesome, and The Report Card, which I haven't read but Chestnut assures me is also awesome. Both books concern girls who are geniuses, but who for various reasons hide their genius, intentionally scoring low on their report cards.
There are all sorts of things this makes me think: how strange it is that intentionally tanking a test is so transgressive. I wonder about the allure of the genius; so many kids books talk about people skipping grades or knowing so much more than the teacher, and kids eat it up and it seems odd to me, given the actual way school works which is that the genius kids tend to be, hmm, unloved is the best way to put it. Nonetheless, in kids books geniuses are apparently fascinating. I guess school is the only realm kids really have knowledge of, and it's compelling to think about someone who could master the realm.
But as Chestnut and I talked about it, we also ended up talking about boy geniuses in kids books. There's Encyclopedia Brown, there's Artemis Fowl—and what struck me was that they never hide their genius, and they use it to flourish outside the realm of school. They use it to dominate.
Know this: I am not accusing any authors of sexism. And even if I were, it wouldn't take away from the fact that these books are great. But I am trying to uncover what might be going on, invisibly.
I don't know if this is just these books I've encountered, or if it's more endemic to the form. What do you guys think? Girl geniuses, boy geniuses, in school or out—what does it all mean?