Cecil Bødker

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Lucia Binder

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Even though Cecil Bødker turned to children's books relatively late in her writing career … this branch of literature has become the core of her creative work….

Her popularity can be traced back to her subject matters as well as her style of presentation.

Research in reading has repeatedly shown that young readers between the ages of 12 and 14—the reading public addressed by Cecil Bødker's juvenile books—look first of all for suspense, action and atmosphere…. [In Cecil] Bødker's books they find all three of these elements. (p. 4)

The setting of her first book, Silas and the Black Mare, is the circus, but the story is far removed from the romantic stereotypes which so often characterize books about circus people. The life lead by Silas after his flight from the circus is also anything but romantic. The author depicts the light as well as the dark aspects of life. The boy Silas has to fight against hardships and financial need, but also against the injustice which is being done to him. That he thereby has to do things which are "not right", according to middle-class concepts, is a natural consequence.

It is a general characteristic of Cecil Bødker's human portrayals that there are no black-white depictions. Her narratives always remain grounded in reality and show how an unmerciful environment can produce unscrupulous people.

Besides the very lively action which can be found in most of Cecil Bødker's books, her unsparing candor and the unrestrained desire for freedom and independence of her characters have no doubt also contributed to their popularity among young readers. Her outstanding ability to understand young people, their behaviour and their problems comes from the fact that she had contact with a great many other young people in her childhood … and that she now has four teenage daughters.

Some critics have characterized her works—particularly the "Silas" books—as anti-authoritarian. This is not true, however. They merely dispense with the teaching of all lessons and morals and attempt to come to grips with the world in a very realistic way.

Even the early Timmerlis, which appeared in 1969, suggests the realism of Bødker's children's books. It contains a series of simple, realistic environmental stories of daily life, unsentimental, humorous in parts and very candid.

In spite of the excitement which arises out of her action-packed novels, Cecil Bødker also weaves atmospheric passages and nature descriptions into her works, which fascinate because of their unusualness and accuracy of aim. Such passages are particularly captivating in books such as The Leopard…. Cecil Bødker succeeds not only in painting vivid pictures with few words, but inserts these passages in such a way that the continuity of the plot is not impeded …, but help to carry it forward. They hint at coming developments, which the reader has already half-guessed, whereby the question, if what one has assumed will actually happen, even heightens the suspense. (pp. 4-5)

Lucia Binder, "Cecil Bødker," in Bookbird, Vol. XIII, No. 2, June 15, 1976, pp. 4-5.

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Stan Bochtler


The Junior Bookshelf