Lee Kingman Critical Essays

Introduction

Lee Kingman 1919–

American novelist for young adults and younger children, picture book creator, playwright, and editor.

Kingman writes a wide variety of titles for all age ranges. She places her works in both historical and contemporary periods, and sets them in places both exotic and familiar to her readers. Her books for young adults deal most often with the search for identity with which all adolescents are involved. Kingman explores not only the reactions of young adults to those events that change their lives, but also describes the effect they have on other family members. Her books have been praised for their accuracy by both young people and their parents.

Kingman's earliest works deal with the touching, humorous adventures of a Finnish-American family off the New England seacoast, and often include strong elements of mystery. In her Saturday Gang series she showed a talent for depicting the actions and feelings of boys in their early teens. With The Year of the Raccoon she broadened her scope to include the world of the young adult male and his parents. It is often considered her finest work, along with the myth-like adventure stories set in Iceland such as The Secret Journey of the Silver Reindeer. Kingman's successful depiction of young adults is, however, not limited to male characters. Georgina and the Dragon is a humorous story with feminist overtones, and The Peter Pan Bag shows the effects of the generation gap on a young woman and her family.

Although not a moralistic writer, Kingman stresses conservative values in her books. For instance, after Wendy in The Peter Pan Bag experiences the never-never-land of the Boston hippie community, she accepts herself as she is and returns home. Although Kingman has been accused of contrivance, her books are often praised for their realistic dialogue and characterization. She is especially noted for her attention to detail, gained perhaps through her early experience as a playwright for younger children, and for her ability to consider larger issues in her works while still telling an exciting story. (See also Something about the Author, Vol. 1.)