Grieve examines the role of metafiction in children's literature and its reliance on reader participation and interaction, by looking at textual strategies that construct the 'game' as text or fiction. These strategies include structuring the narrative around the rules of an actual game, constructing either the physical book or the text as a game, and/or representing characters as 'players in a game' (5). The discussion is a response to critics who question the value of child-focused metafictional texts and of narrative techniques that demystify fictional illusions (such as multiple narrative endings, unreliable narrators and characters, linguistic play, and the reworking of established literary codes and conventions through parody and intertextuality).
Grieve explores a number of texts based on the 'interrogative or metafictional play' and self-reflexivity the narratives offer, which, she argues, 'makes the reader aware of the interplay between reality and illusion' (6). As well as novels from the UK and the USA, Grieves discusses a number of Australian texts: Power and Glory (Emily Rodda and Geoff Kelly), Beyond the Labyrinth (Gillian Rubinstein), Inventing Anthony West (Gary Crew), and The Water Tower (Gary Crew and Steven Woolman).
Metafiction challenges the dominant humanist literary tradition, which posits 'stable, knowable texts' (5), by 'problematizing mimetic illusion' and questioning the 'nature and existence of reality, the creation of literary universes and the nature of human artefacts' (13). This is the value of metafictive narratives for children that Grieve elucidates and ultimately supports.
Pope's detailed analysis of the novel, The Kangaroo Hunters, or, Adventures in the Bush, contends that while author Bowman 'makes her protest about received ideas regarding masculinity and empire, it is a modified statement which is itself subverted by the power of the dominant discourses which construct imperial discourse.' (46). Pope discusses the composition of Bowman's fictive constructions arguing that stories offer 'moral' truths rather than verifiable truths or probabilities and links this to the tendency of women writers to (traditionally) write in genres in which the 'truth status of the work was less questioned', such as nursery rhymes and fairy tales. In 1858, women writing about travel adventures for the young was rare and 'probably risky' considering that 'accounts of travel which demonstrated women as confronting and overcoming difficult circumstances in their own were presumed to be lies or gross exaggerations' (36-37). Pope critiques the text from the position that 'within imperial discourse other discourses circulate within their own systematic sets of ideas' and establishes how Bowman engages with discourses of race and (white) racial superiority, religion and Christianity, science and class in ways which 'frequently exceed or transgress the limits and conventions of what was accepted at the time' (37). However Pope argues that the discursive frameworks which the text attempts to challenge ultimately prevail in reinforcing the fundamental ideologies of masculine dominance (46).