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Children's Literature

Vol. 1 (1972) through current issue

Encouraging serious scholarship and research, Children's Literature publishes theoretically-based articles that address key issues in the field. Each volume includes articles, essays, and abstracts of dissertations of note. Children's Literature is the annual publication of the Modern Language Association Division on Children's Literature and the Children's Literature Association (ChLA).

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Children's Literature Association Quarterly

Vol. 1 (1976) through current issue

Children's Literature Association Quarterly publishes first-rate scholarship in children's literature studies. Each issue features an editorial introduction, juried articles about research and scholarship in children's literature, and book reviews. The Quarterly is available to members of the Children's Literature Association (ChLA) as a benefit of membership.

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Coining for Capital

Movies, Marketing, and the Transformation of Childhood

Jyotsna Kapur

"This book is a welcome addition to the literature on children and the media, and a most stimulating application of social theory to questions of the child in contemporary film and consumer culture."—Ellen Seiter, author of The Internet Playground: Children's Access, Entertainment and Mis-Education

Since the 1980s, a peculiar paradox has evolved in American film. Hollywood’s children have grown up, and the adults are looking and behaving more and more like children. In popular films such as Harry Potter, Toy Story, Pocahantas, Home Alone, and Jumanji, it is the children who are clever, savvy, and self-sufficient while the adults are often portrayed as bumbling and ineffective.

Is this transformation of children into "little adults" an invention of Hollywood or a product of changing cultural definitions more broadly? In Coining for Capital, Jyostna Kapur explores the evolution of the concept of childhood from its portrayal in the eighteenth century as a pure, innocent, and idyllic state—the opposite of adulthood—to its expression today as a mere variation of adulthood, complete with characteristics of sophistication, temptation, and corruption. Kapur argues that this change in definition is not a media effect, but rather a structural feature of a deeply consumer-driven society.

Providing a new and timely perspective on the current widespread alarm over the loss of childhood, Coining for Capital concludes that our present moment is in fact one of hope and despair. As children are fortunately shedding false definitions of proscribed innocence both in film and in life, they must now also learn to navigate a deeply inequitable, antagonistic, and consumer-driven society of which they are both a part and a target.

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The Colored Car

Gender, Trauma, and Uncanny Films in the Weimar Republic

Jean Alicia Elster

In The Colored Car, Jean Alicia Elster, author of the award-winning Who's Jim Hines?, follows another member of the Ford family coming of age in Depression-era Detroit. In the hot summer of 1937, twelve-year-old Patsy takes care of her three younger sisters and helps her mother put up fresh fruits and vegetables in the family's summer kitchen, adjacent to the wood yard that her father, Douglas Ford, owns. Times are tough, and Patsy's mother, May Ford, helps neighborhood families by sharing the food that she preserves. But May's decision to take a break from canning to take her daughters for a visit to their grandmother's home in Clarksville, Tennessee, sets in motion a series of events that prove to be life-changing for Patsy. After boarding the first-class train car at Michigan Central Station in Detroit and riding comfortably to Cincinnati, Patsy is shocked when her family is led from their seats to change cars. In the dirty, cramped "colored car," Patsy finds that the life she has known in Detroit is very different from life down south, and she can hardly get the experience out of her mind when she returns home-like the soot stain on her finely made dress or the smear on the quilt squares her grandmother taught her to sew. As summer wears on, Patsy must find a way to understand her experience in the colored car and also deal with the more subtle injustices that her family faces in Detroit. By the end of the story, Patsy will never see things the same way that she did before. Elster's engaging narrative illustrates the personal impact of segregation and discrimination and reveals powerful glimpses of everyday life in 1930's Detroit. For young readers interested in American history, The Colored Car is engrossing and informative reading.

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Courting Kids

Inside an Experimental Youth Court

Despite being labeled as adults, the approximately 200,000 youth under the age of 18 who are now prosecuted as adults each year in criminal court are still adolescents, and the contradiction of their legal labeling creates numerous problems and challenges. In Courting Kids Carla Barrett takes us behind the scenes of a unique judicial experiment called the Manhattan Youth Part, a specialized criminal court set aside for youth prosecuted as adults in New York City. Focusing on the lives of those coming through and working in the courtroom, Barrett’s ethnography is a study of a microcosm that reflects the costs, challenges, and consequences the “tough on crime” age has had, especially for male youth of color. She demonstrates how the court, through creative use of judicial discretion and the cultivation of an innovative courtroom culture, developed a set of strategies for handling “adult-juvenile ” cases that embraced, rather than denied, defendants’ adolescence.

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A Daring Life

A Biography of Eudora Welty

Carolyn J. Brown

Mississippi author Eudora Welty, the first living writer to be published in the Library of America series, mentored many of today's greatest fiction writers and is a fascinating woman, having lived the majority of the twentieth century (1909-2001). Her life reflects a century of change and is closely entwined with many events that mark our recent history. This biography follows this twentieth-century path while telling Welty's story, beginning with her parents and their important influence on her reading and writing life. The chapters that follow focus on her education and her most important teachers; her life during the Depression and how her career, just getting started, is interrupted by World War II; and how she shows independence and courage through her writing during the turbulent civil rights period of the 1950s and 1960s.

After years of care giving and the deaths of all her immediate family members, Welty persevered and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for The Optimist's Daughter. Her popularity soared in the 1980s after she delivered the three William E. Massey Lectures to standing-room-only crowds at Harvard, and the lectures were later published as One Writer's Beginnings and became a New York Times bestseller. This biography intends to introduce readers to one of the most significant women writers of the past century, a prolific author who transcends her Mississippi roots and has written short stories, novels, and non-fiction that will endure for all time.

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Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales

Ann Schmiesing

Although dozens of disabled characters appear in the Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales, the issue of disability in their collection has remained largely unexplored by scholars. In Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, author Ann Schmiesing analyzes various representations of disability in the tales and also shows how the Grimms’ editing (or “prostheticizing”) of their tales over seven editions significantly influenced portrayals of disability and related manifestations of physical difference, both in many individual tales and in the collection overall. Schmiesing begins by exploring instabilities in the Grimms’ conception of the fairy tale as a healthy and robust genre that has nevertheless been damaged and needs to be restored to its organic state. In chapter 2, she extends this argument by examining tales such as “The Three Army Surgeons” and “Brother Lustig” that problematize, against the backdrop of war, characters’ efforts to restore wholeness to the impaired or diseased body. She goes on in chapter 3 to study the gendering of disability in the Grimms’ tales with particular emphasis on the Grimms’ editing of “The Maiden Without Hands” and “The Frog King or Iron Henry.” In chapter 4, Schmiesing considers contradictions in portrayals of characters such as Hans My Hedgehog and the Donkey as both cripple and “supercripple”—a figure who miraculously “overcomes” his disability and triumphs despite social stigma. Schmiesing examines in chapter 5 tales in which no magical erasure of disability occurs, but in which protagonists are depicted figuratively “overcoming” disability by means of other personal abilities or traits. The Grimms described the fairy tale using metaphors of able-bodiedness and wholeness and espoused a Romantic view of their editorial process as organic restoration. Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales shows, however, the extent to which the Grimms’ personal experience of disability and illness impacted the tales and reveals the many disability-related amendments that exist within them. Readers interested in fairy-tales studies and disability studies will appreciate this careful reading of the Grimms’ tales.

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Disturbing the Universe

Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature

Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature by Roberta Seelinger Trites is the winner of the 2002 Children's Literature Association's Book Award. The award is given annually in order to promote and recognize outstanding contributions to children's literature, history, scholarship, and criticisim; it is one of the highest academic honors that can accrue to an author of children's literary criticism. "What makes Trites' book so significant is the grandness of its theme. She not only expounds upon the role of power in young adult literature, but she also points out that some of this literature has the potential to empower its adolescent readers. o --Mark I. West, president of the Children's Literature Association "Informed by theorists ranging from Lacan to Eagleton to Jameson to Foucault to Barthes, Disturbing the Universe is a cogent and thought-provoking work that breaks new ground in young adult literature and postmodern studies. o --Sherrie A. Inness, associate professor of English, Miami University "For many working within the field of children's literature, this book will come as a welcome addition to an expanding corpus."--The Yearbook of English Studies TheYoung Adult novel is ordinarily characterized as a coming-of-age story, in which the narrative revolves around the individual growth and maturation of a character, but Roberta Trites expands this notion by chronicling the dynamics of power and repression that weave their way through YA books. Characters in these novels must learn to negotiate the levels of power that exist in the myriad social institutions within which they function, including family, church, government, and school. Trites argues that the development of the genre over the past thirty years is an outgrowth of postmodernism, since YA novels are, by definition, texts that interrogate the social construction of individuals. Drawing on such nineteenth-century precursors as Little Women and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Disturbing the Universe demonstrates how important it is to employ poststructuralist methodologies in analyzing adolescent literature, both in critical studies and in the classroom. Among the twentieth-century authors discussed are Blume, Hamilton, Hinton, Le Guin, L'Engle, and Zindel. Trites' work has applications for a broad range of readers, including scholars of children's literature and theorists of post-modernity as well as librarians and secondary-school teachers. Roberta Trites is associate professor of English and associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences, at Illinois State University, where she teaches children's and adolescent literature. She is author of Waking Sleeping Beauty: Feminist Voices in Children's Novels (Iowa), which won an ALA Choice Award.

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Do Elephants Have Knees?

And Other Stories of Darwinian Origins

by Charles R. Ault Jr.

Thinking whimsically makes serious science accessible. That's a message that should be taken to heart by all readers who want to learn about evolution. Do Elephants Have Knees? invites readers into serious appreciation of Darwinian histories by deploying the playful thinking found in children’s books. Charles R. Ault Jr. weds children’s literature to recent research in paleontology and evolutionary biology. Inquiring into the origin of origins stories, Ault presents three portraits of Charles Darwin—curious child, twentysomething adventurer, and elderly worm scientist. Essays focusing on the origins of tetrapods, elephants, whales, and birds explain fundamental Darwinian concepts (natural selection, for example) with examples of fossil history and comparative anatomy.

The imagery of the children’s story offers a way to remember and recreate scientific discoveries. By juxtaposing Darwin’s science with tales for children, Do Elephants Have Knees? underscores the importance of whimsical storytelling to the accomplishment of serious thinking. Charles Darwin mused about duck beaks and swimming bears as he imagined a pathway for the origin of baleen. A "bearduck" chimera may be a stretch, but the science linking not just cows but also whales to moose through shared ancestry has great merit. Teaching about shared ancestry may begin with attention to Bernard Wiseman’s Morris the Moose. Morris believes that cows and deer are fine examples of moose because they all have four legs and things on their heads. No whale antlers are known, but fossils of four-legged whales are. By calling attention to surprising and serendipitous echoes between children’s stories and challenging science, Ault demonstrates how playful thinking opens the doors to an understanding of evolutionary thought.

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Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830-1865

Deborah C. De Rosa examines the multifaceted nature of domestic abolitionism, a discourse that nineteenth-century women created to voice their political sentiments when cultural imperatives demanded their silence. For nineteenth-century women struggling to find an abolitionist voice while maintaining the codes of gender and respectability, writing children’s literature was an acceptable strategy to counteract the opposition. By seizing the opportunity to write abolitionist juvenile literature, De Rosa argues, domestic abolitionists were able to enter the public arena while simultaneously maintaining their identities as exemplary mother-educators and preserving their claims to “femininity.” Using close textual analyses of archival materials, De Rosa examines the convergence of discourses about slavery, gender, and children in juvenile literature from 1830 to 1865, filling an important gap in our understanding of women’s literary productions about race and gender, as well as our understanding of nineteenth-century American literature more generally.

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