Talking lions, philosophical bears, very hungry caterpillars, wise spiders, altruistic trees, companionable moles, urbane elephants: this is the magnificent menagerie that delights our children at bedtime. Within the entertaining pages of many children’s books, however, also lie profound teachings about the natural world that can help children develop an educated and engaged appreciation of the dynamic environment they inhabit.
In Beasts at Bedtime, scientist (and father) Liam Heneghan examines the environmental underpinnings of children’s stories. From Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories. Some of the largest environmental challenges in coming years—from climate instability, the extinction crisis, freshwater depletion, and deforestation—are likely to become even more severe as this generation of children grows up. Though today’s young readers will bear the brunt of these environmental calamities, they will also be able to contribute to environmental solutions if prepared properly. And all it takes is an attentive eye: Heneghan shows how the nature curriculum is already embedded in bedtime stories, from the earliest board books like The Rainbow Fish to contemporary young adult classics like The Hunger Games.
Beasts at Bedtime is an awakening to the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide—from the misadventures of The Runaway Bunny to more overt tales like The Lorax. Heneghan serves as our guide, drawing richly upon his own adolescent and parental experiences, as well as his travels in landscapes both experienced and imagined. Organized into thematic sections, the work winds its way through literary forests, colorful characters, and global environments.
This book enthralls as it engages. Heneghan as a guide is as charming as he is insightful, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Beasts at Bedtime will help parents, teachers, and guardians extend those cozy times curled up together with a good book into a lifetime of caring for our planet.
Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children’s literature. Children’s Literature charts the makings of the Western literary imagination from Aesop’s fables to Mother Goose, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to Peter Pan, from Where the Wild Things Are to Harry Potter.
The only single-volume work to capture the rich and diverse history of children’s literature in its full panorama, this extraordinary book reveals why J. R. R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, and many others, despite their divergent styles and subject matter, have all resonated with generations of readers. Children’s Literature is an exhilarating quest across centuries, continents, and genres to discover how, and why, we first fall in love with the written word.
“Lerer has accomplished something magical. Unlike the many handbooks to children’s literature that synopsize, evaluate, or otherwise guide adults in the selection of materials for children, this work presents a true critical history of the genre. . . . Scholarly, erudite, and all but exhaustive, it is also entertaining and accessible. Lerer takes his subject seriously without making it dull.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Lerer’s history reminds us of the wealth of literature written during the past 2,600 years. . . . With his vast and multidimensional knowledge of literature, he underscores the vital role it plays in forming a child’s imagination. We are made, he suggests, by the books we read.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“There are dazzling chapters on John Locke and Empire, and nonsense, and Darwin, but Lerer’s most interesting chapter focuses on girls’ fiction. . . . A brilliant series of readings.”—Diane Purkiss, Times Literary Supplement
Between 1933 and 1945, National Socialists enacted a focused effort to propagandize children’s literature by distorting existing German values and traditions with the aim of creating a homogenous “folk community.” A vast censorship committee in Berlin oversaw the publication, revision, and distribution of books and textbooks for young readers, exercising its control over library and bookstore content as well as over new manuscripts, so as to redirect the cultural consumption of the nation’s children. In particular, the Nazis emphasized Nordic myths and legends with a focus on the fighting spirit of the saga heroes, their community loyalty, and a fierce spirit of revenge—elements that were then applied to the concepts of loyalty to and sacrifice for the Führer and the fatherland. They also tolerated select popular series, even though these were meant to be replaced by modern Hitler Youth camping stories.
In this important book, first published in 1984 and now back in print, Christa Kamenetsky demonstrates how Nazis used children’s literature to selectively shape a “Nordic Germanic” worldview that was intended to strengthen the German folk community, the Führer, and the fatherland by imposing a racial perspective on mankind. Their efforts corroded the last remnants of the Weimar Republic’s liberal education, while promoting an enthusiastic following for Hitler.
Children’s literature has spent decades on the psychiatrist’s couch, submitting to psychoanalysis by scores of scholars and popular writers alike. Freud in Oz turns the tables, suggesting that psychoanalysts owe a significant and largely unacknowledged debt to books ostensibly written for children. In fact, Kenneth B. Kidd argues, children’s literature and psychoanalysis have influenced and interacted with each other since Freud published his first case studies.
In Freud in Oz, Kidd shows how psychoanalysis developed in part through its engagement with children’s literature, which it used to articulate and dramatize its themes and methods, turning first to folklore and fairy tales, then to materials from psychoanalysis of children, and thence to children’s literary texts, especially such classic fantasies as Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He traces how children’s literature, and critical response to it, aided the popularization of psychoanalytic theory. With increasing acceptance of psychoanalysis came two new genres of children’s literature—known today as picture books and young adult novels—that were frequently fashioned as psychological in their forms and functions.
Freud in Oz offers a history of reigning theories in the study of children’s literature and psychoanalysis, providing fresh insights on a diversity of topics, including the view that Maurice Sendak and Bruno Bettelheim can be thought of as rivals, that Sendak’s makeover of monstrosity helped lead to the likes of the Muppets, and that “Poohology” is its own kind of literary criticism—serving up Winnie the Pooh as the poster bear for theorists of widely varying stripes.
American children need books that draw on their own history and circumstances, not just the classic European fairy tales. They need books that enlist them in the great democratic experiment that is the United States. These were the beliefs of many of the authors, illustrators, editors, librarians, and teachers who expanded and transformed children’s book publishing between the 1930s and the 1960s.
Although some later critics have argued that the books published in this era offered a vision of a safe, secure, simple world without injustice or unhappy endings, Gary D. Schmidt shows that the progressive political agenda shared by many Americans who wrote, illustrated, published, and taught children’s books had a powerful effect. Authors like James Daugherty, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, Virginia Lee Burton, Robert McCloskey, and many others addressed directly and indirectly the major social issues of a turbulent time: racism, immigration and assimilation, sexism, poverty, the Great Depression, World War II, the atomic bomb, and the threat of a global cold war.
The central concern that many children’s book authors and illustrators wrestled with was the meaning of America and democracy itself, especially the tension between individual freedoms and community ties. That process produced a flood of books focused on the American experience and intent on defining it in terms of progress toward inclusivity and social justice. Again and again, children’s books addressed racial discrimination and segregation, gender roles, class differences, the fate of Native Americans, immigration and assimilation, war, and the role of the United States in the world. Fiction and nonfiction for children urged them to see these issues as theirs to understand, and in some ways, theirs to resolve. Making Americans is a study of a time when the authors and illustrators of children’s books consciously set their eyes on national and international sights, with the hope of bringing the next generation into a sense of full citizenship.
Dr. Seuss's classic character the Lorax has delighted children for decades while passing along a powerful message about environmental responsibility. The book's young readers, and their parents, would likely be surprised by the emergence of a new character, Truax, a kindly logger created by a longtime employee of the wood products industry, who, not surprisingly, has a far different viewpoint to share. Yet the Truax character, and the book of the same name, is just one example of a growing genre of conservative-themed narratives for young readers spawned by the continuing strength of the American political right.
Highlighting the works of William Bennett, Lynne Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, and others, Michelle Ann Abate brings together such diverse fields as cultural studies, literary criticism, political science, childhood studies, brand marketing, and the cult of celebrity. Raising Your Kids Right dispels lingering societal attitudes that narratives for young readers are unworthy of serious political study by examining a variety of texts that offer information, ideology, and even instructions on how to raise kids right, not just figuratively but politically.
Original and thought-provoking, You're Only Young Twice reveals the complexities that underlie even the sparest picture book text and the lessons that reside in even the most familiar family movie plots.
Moving from classic texts (The Secret Garden, Goodnight Moon) to ephemera (the Hardy Boys, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter series), from the printed page to the silver screen (Willie Wonka, Jumanji, 101 Dalmatians, Beethoven), Tim Morris employs his experience as a parent and teacher to interrogate children's culture and reveal its conflicting messages.
Books and films for children--favorites accepted as wholesome fare for impressionable young minds --do not always teach straightforward lessons. Instead, they reflect the anxieties of the times and the desires of adults. At the heart of many a children's classic lies power, often expressed through racism, sexism, or violence. Under Morris's gaze, revered animal stories like Black Beauty turn into litanies of abuse; fantasies of childhood like Big are revealed as patriarchal struggles.
You're Only Young Twice redirects the focus on children's literature, asking not "What messages should children receive?" but "What messages do adults actually send?" For example, Morris recounts his own childhood confusion upon viewing Peter Pan, with its queenish, inept pirate and a grown woman (Mary Martin) in tights who pretends to be a crowing boy.
Morris shatters our long-held assumptions and challenges our best intentions, demonstrating how children's literature and films lay bare a troubled and troubling worldview.