This article argues that the Frog and Toad books function as useful literary “primers,” not just for young children, but for college students as well. It also shows that Frog and Toad Together (1972) by Arnold Lobel provides an accessible introduction to critical reading practices and multiple theoretical paradigms. Following the practice of formalism, and particularly of New Criticism, the starting point for analyzing Frog and Toad Together is to look closely at how literary elements convey unity and complexities. One of its complexities is that nearly all the descriptive details, whether about setting or character, come from the visual text. The effect on Frog shows the problematic nature of Toad's assertion of superiority. The ideological constructions of culture and society about children often block deeper critical thought about children's literature.
Karin E. Westman
This article describes J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series' (1997–2007) generic hybridity, focusing on elements of the school story, bildungsroman, and fantasy in the texts. It specifically illustrates how Rowling plays with generic forms and boundaries toward a similar theme: the value of moral agency, born from sympathy for others. The implications such generic hybridity has for a fourth genre are provided. The bildung that Rowling emphasizes is Harry's moral and emotional development, as her choice of narrative style places the emphasis upon subjective, internal experience as much as external actions within the world. Throughout his school years at Hogwarts, all that Harry can be certain of is uncertainty, as he struggles to make the best decision within a complex and competing array of choices. Rowling reveals the dual role children's literature currently serves in contemporary culture, particularly contemporary British culture.
This article explores the work of two generations of children in a Boston family who created their own books by taking the history of Johann David Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson (1812, 1814) as the starting point. The Swiss Family Robinson is surely one of the most adapted and adaptable of childhood texts, and so proves a perfect site for this inquiry. The Hales offer a particularly vivid instance of literary salvaging. The Swiss Family Robinson is explicitly named and frequently alluded to in the Hale children's homemade books, and sea travel, shipwrecks, and deserted-island survival stories are a favorite genre for these children. The Swiss Family Robinson calls attention to the ties between the construction efforts that build their island home and the work of imagination. Its island world celebrates domesticity, ingenuity, and abundance, and equates colonial power with the power of the imagination.
This article shows that the works of Dr. Seuss, the most beloved bard of children's nonsense—and especially The Cat in the Hat (TCITH) (1957)—can be read within the context of the dramatic cultural changes which paved the way for and grew out of the rebellions of the 1960s. Seuss's anarchic nonsense fostered a sensibility conducive to the New Left ideal of participatory democracy. A carnivalesque setting is a locus of social formation that fosters an atmosphere within which controversial topics and utopian desires may be confronted. TCITH also awakens in its readers the possibility of seeing themselves in a profoundly new way, and this is achieved through exposure to existential dilemmas and enigmas typical of nonsense. Seuss's texts arguably bestowed political agency on that generation “most critical of the Vietnam War,” whose perhaps unwitting parents supplied them with Seuss texts in piles throughout their formative years.
This chapter summarizes the history of science fiction comics from early newspaper comic strips through comic books up to recent graphic novels. Noting that science fiction comics are prominent in many national traditions, such as Japanese manga, it argues that the formal elements of comics have played a specific role in the construction of fandom, and that these elements can play a distinctive role in the representation of tropes and icons central to the science fiction genre. Overall, the chapter argues that comics have maintained a more significant and persistent role in the history of science fiction than is commonly recognized.
Katharine Capshaw Smith
This article opens up the literary, aesthetic, and cultural contexts of the Harlem Renaissance by discussing how children were imagined within this movement and by examining in particular Langston Hughes' The Dream Keeper (1932). It also argues that both literature and children were crucial vehicles for social change. Hughes' poetry collection, The Dream Keeper, is a landmark publication within the field of American children's literature. This collection contains poems that remain frequently anthologized, and reflects the genius of the artist and the range of his attention and productivity during the 1920s. It enables us to understand the significance of childhood to black cultural reinvention in the 1920s and 1930s. Additionally, the collection conveys the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance and speaks to the particular position of children within that movement. Hughes' poetry seeks to bridge divides between the old and the young, between the folk and the progressive.
This article reviews the documentary evidence against Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908) to argue that the figure of the adopted (white, Canadian) child—and the British child emigrants and aboriginal Canadians who this figure erases—encapsulate ideas about belonging and acceptance within the home and within Canadian national identity. The title of Anne of Green Gables indicates the primary context for Anne's identity as the member of a community—that of the house and the family in the house. Its plot spans the distance Marilla travels from understanding the child who is to enter her home as a farm worker in terms of the child's economic worth to understanding the child as an emotional resource. Additionally, its iconic status as a text in and of Canada suggests the naturalized power of this image of the happy daughter of a happy house.
This article examines the ways in which Walt Disney created a cinematic empire by selling his creations as “good for children.” It links them to classic children's literature and incorporates popular child-rearing wisdom. The article also investigates the ways in which the animated film Dumbo (1941) functioned as a dialog with World War II. Dumbo was released a little more than a month before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the cultural field into which the film entered, at least in terms of understandings about children and child-rearing, was in transition. The world of Dumbo counterposed the overweening social policing of the conformist elephants against the blind self-interest of the union-organizing clowns, and it marked a humble, talented, and unique Dumbo as the happy medium.
This article analyzes representative topoi or traditions emanating from the so-called golden age of children’s writing in the late Victorian era that feature encounters with the physical environment. It traces the emergence of modern (Western) environmentally oriented children’s literature and examines the permutations of two overlapping topoi that have served as carriers of environmental concern since the late nineteenth century. It reviews works that purport to imagine nonhuman life-worlds from the standpoint of the creatures themselves and those that deal with the discovery or construction of special, often hidden outdoor places by children that are shown to have catalytic significance in bonding them to the natural environment.
Froggy’s Little Brother: Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Writing for Children and the Politics of Poverty
This article addresses Froggy's Little Brother (1875), a British nineteenth-century “street arab” novel about destitute London children, through the lens of postcolonial theory. It illustrates how fictional conventions magnifying the plight of the poor child helped focus the debate over the “politics of poverty” at issue in Victorian society. In Froggy's Little Brother, the author, Brenda, had to navigate the waters of public opinion very carefully. The book also makes use of conventions to underline the urgent need to attend to the poor. It may often misrepresent Victorian London's poor children, but it is one of the key texts that sought to carve out a place for them in culture and helped create pathways by which their stories were gathered and told.