Telling Children's Stories
Narrative Theory and Children's Literature
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
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Table of Contents
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To introduce this collection of essays on narrative theory and childrenâs literature, Iâd like your indulgence as I discuss one area of narrative theory that takes on different implications when discussed in the context of childrenâs literature: the peritext...
Part One: Genre Templates and Transformations
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Part 1 takes on the large matter of genre as a narrative consideration in childrenâs and young adult literature. The opening essay by Elisabeth Rose Gruner examines how the overt and covert fairy-tale structures used in young adult realism and fantasy for girls continue to attempt to offer models of behavior...
1. Telling Old Tales Newly: Intertextuality in Young Adult Fiction for Girls
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In one of the inaugural articles in feminist literary criticism, âFeminism and Fairy Tales,â Karen Rowe followed Simone de Beauvoirâs lead in claiming that fairy tales structure the consciousness of girls and women, and in a negative way. As Donald Haase has noted, âIn Roweâs view, the fairy taleâperhaps precisely because of its âawesome imaginative powerââhad a role to play in cultivating equality among men and women...
2. Familiarity Breeds a Following: Transcending the Formulaicin the Snicket Series
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The fiction series stands out in the realm of childrenâs literature for several reasons. A popular format since its inception in the nineteenth century, series books have always targeted children.1 Twentieth-century series, Deirdre Johnson asserts, ârest firmly on a nineteenth-century foundationâ (147)...
3. The Power of Secrets: Backwards Construction and the Childrenâs Detective Story
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As a narrative form, the mystery is structured around the distance between an event, most often a crime, and the revelation of secrets surrounding that event by the end of the story. Mysteries function by suspending knowledge, prolonging the uncertainty for pleasure. The joys of reading a good mystery reside in our drive to discover...
Part Two: Approaches to the Picture Book
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This part moves us from a larger discussion of genre into a more specific look at the structural form that is unique to childrenâs literature. This part is the bookâs largest in acknowledgment of the picture bookâs importance as a unique genre within a genre. In fact the picture book in many ways defines the larger genre and points...
4. Focalization in Childrenâs Picture Books: Who Sees in Words and Pictures?
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In our image-dominated era, it is important to examine who sees, since, as Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen note, âSeeing has, in our culture, become synonymous with understanding. We âlookâ at a problem. We âseeâ the point. We adopt a âviewpoint.â We âfocusâ on an issue. We âsee things in perspective.â The world âas we see itâ (rather than âas we know itâ...
5. No Consonance, No Consolation: John Burninghamâs Time to Get Out of the Bath, Shirley
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The interpretation of childhood and childrenâs literature seems to be immune to change, at least a radical change, and traditions and stereotypes appear to dwell longer than in other social and cultural areas.1 This is most probably why much of the subversiveness embedded in childhood and its folklore, culture, and literature passes unnoticed...
6. Telling the Story, Breaking the Boundaries: Metafiction and the Enhancement of Childrenâs Literary Development in The Bravest Ever Bear and The Story of the Falling Star
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Recent cultural interest in metafictionâfiction about fictionâhas found a strong voice in childrenâs literature.1 The Bravest Ever Bear (text by Allan Ahlberg and illustrations by Paul Howard, 1999) simultaneously pays attention to this interest and to the needs and understanding of its primary audience of young readers with great success...
7. Perceiving The Red Tree: Narrative Repair, Writerly Metaphor, and Sensible Anarchy
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âSometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to / things go from bad to worse / darkness overcomes youâ: The Red Tree is a picture book that dismantles dichotomies and hierarchies of certainty and invokes the muses of perception. Readers must open themselves to the unusual. Shaun Tanâs allegorical narrative and profoundly affecting page openings...
8. Now Playing: Silent Cinema and Picture-Book Montage
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In 1926, after illustrating an edition of George MacDonaldâs The Light Princess, childrenâs artist Dorothy P. Lathrop compared the artistic imagination and film spectatorship: âTo think in terms of illustration is to put oneâs self in a projection room, where the story unfolds in a series of pictures which leap into the mind as complete and as silently as if falling upon a moving picture screen...
Part Three: Narrators and Implied Readers
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As Chris McGeeâs essay in the previous part considers the blending of forms from different times, the opening essay in this part, Holly Blackfordâs âUncle Tom Melodrama with a Modern Point of View: Harper Leeâs To Kill a Mockingbird,â considers the implications for the interplay of a Victorian story pattern of reform with the modernist strategy of using an alienated narrator...
9. Uncle Tom Melodrama with a Modern Point of View: Harper Leeâs To Kill a Mockingbird
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Because of Harper Leeâs carefully controlled narrative strategy, young readers feel a great sense of pleasure and accomplishment when reading To Kill a Mockingbird. My recent interview project involving sixty-eight readers of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn...
10. The Identification Fallacy: Perspective and Subjectivity in Childrenâs Literature
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In Winnie-the-Pooh, chapter 3, âin which Pooh and Piglet go hunting and nearly catch a Woozle,â the two characters, one of which is a Bear with a Very Little Brain, follow some tracks in the snow. They think they are hunting first a Woozle, then two Woozles, then âtwo Woozles and one, as it might be, Wizzle, or two, as it might be, Wizzles and one, if so it is Woozleâ (Milne 35)...
11. The Development of Hebrew Childrenâs Literature: From Men Pulling Children Along to Women Meeting Them Where They Are
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Jewish women began writing in Hebrew not long before the birth of Hebrew childrenâs literature. Hebrew childrenâs literature, that is, texts for children written in the Hebrew language, was born in the framework of the modern revolutions of the Jewish Enlightenment and Hebrew nationalism (Ofek 12â24)...
Part Four: Narrative Time
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This last section, devoted to narrative time, begins with Susan Stewartâs âShifting Worlds: Constructing the Subject, Narrative, and History in Historical Time Shifts,â a study of the ways childrenâs historical timeshift narratives make visible the constructedness of storytelling to the child reader. The role of the metafictive continues in Martha Hixonâs discussion...
12. Shifting Worlds: Constructing the Subject, Narrative, and History in Historical Time Shifts
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There are generally two ways in which time is handled in historical fiction written for young readers. Perhaps the most common occurs when the plot is fully positioned in the past. That is, the characters are born and stay in that time period, and the plot reflects their world. There are no explicit intrusions from the present. While the present informs these novels...
13. âWhose Woods These Are I Think I Knowâ: Narrative Theory and Diana Wynne Jonesâs Hexwood
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Young adults, and the books written for and about them, are keenly interested in growing up or in achieving autonomy through the development of an individual sense of self and how that self connects to the world in which the young adult is expected to function. In other words young adults are very much engaged in the writing...
14. âTime No Longer: The Context(s) of Time in Tomâs Midnight Garden
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In Tomâs Midnight Garden wishes magically come true: when Tom Long arrives at his aunt and uncleâs flat, he longs for a garden (his âlongingâ is even expressed in his name), and then he finds one; in a manner familiar from fairy tales, the wish for something leads to its appearance. Yet he can only enter the garden at midnight; during daytime it is gone, and all that Tom finds in its place is a backyard with dustbins...
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Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 7 illustrations
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Frontiers of Narrative