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.
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.
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.
This article explores illustrated children’s books that were published in Soviet Russia during the first five-year plan (1928–1932). Targeting mostly preschool and elementary school children, these books are creatively illustrated, offering their readers highly detailed accounts of economic and political development in the country. Soviet pedagogues perceived this literature as a tool for training “literate spectators,” able to discern social and political importance of images. The article follows this idea, using the books for tracing visual regimes that represented class and ethnicity in the 1920s–1930s. Picture books for children successfully reflected the dual nature of socialist transformations in the USSR, where building new sites of industrial production were closely linked with the building of new nations. Very early on, this literature also documented the bifurcation of this dual process. The detailed portrayal of ethnic distinctions was paralleled by the visual disappearance of the working class, producing a stream of illustrations in which technology and ethnic groups emerged as self-sufficient visual fields, ostensibly disconnected from class, labor, and history.
This article discusses the formal similarities and distinctions between comic strips and narrative children's books, exploring the historical development of the “comic strip child,” especially in the context of the Peanuts strip (1950–2000). Charles M. Schulz's vision and aesthetic in Peanuts were fundamental to the construction of childhood in the postwar era. Schulz's achievement offers an opportune way of undertaking that larger task. Some Peanuts gags revolve around the disparity between the kids' smallness and the overwhelming size of their surroundings. The Peanuts kids developed conflicted and believably complex personalities. Their concerns were genuine and relatable. What made Peanuts groundbreaking was its knowing, sometimes surprising revision of the comic-strip child, the fact that Schulz's “li'l folks” spoke for children and adults alike. Peanuts reached grown-ups through its recollections of childhood and reached children by recognizing the seriousness of their social and emotional lives.
This article introduces the graphic novel, and Asian-American children's literature more generally, through Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese. It also describes the importance of folklore to Yang's narrative and, in so doing, places ancient mythology in conversation with postmodern popular culture, highlighting ethnic stereotypes in order to call them into question. American Born Chinese retells the Chinese folk story of the Monkey King in a new light in terms of both its content and format. The tale of the Monkey King has gained a significant position in Asian-diasporic and Asian-American communities as a result of numerous literary reconfigurations. Yang has presented American Born Chinese to young adults as well as to other readers, with an invitation to rethink the implications of children's literature within the context of identity formation and transnational mythology.
This article shifts the conversation about Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (1970) from the controversy over its discussions of puberty to the postwar debate over American identity engaged in by popular sociologists such as David Riesman. It also argues that Margaret's struggles with religious identity may be read as an early meditation on a post-ethnic identity widely embraced today. Blume's recognition of her childhood connection to Riesman's work is telling, for Riesman focuses recurrently on children throughout his book. In Are You There God?, Blume often seems to argue with Riesman as she develops characters and situations that demonstrate constant negotiations of the tension between individualism and conformity in American identity rather than simply illustrating them. Margaret's forays into varying religions are both funny and touching. The enduring popularity of Are You There God? has much to do with the universal interest in puberty.