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  • Ambivalent, Double, Divided: Reading and Rereading Perry Nodelman
  • Richard Flynn (bio)
Matas, Carol, and Perry Nodelman. The Curse of the Evening Eye. The Ghosthunters 2. Toronto: Key Porter, 2009. 216 pp. $11.95 pb. ISBN 978-1-55470-145-2. Print.
Matas, Carol, and Perry Nodelman. The Hunt for the Haunted Elephant. The Ghosthunters 3. Toronto: Key Porter, 2010. 267 pp. $12.95 pb. ISBN 978-1-55470-265-7. Print.
Matas, Carol, and Perry Nodelman. A Meeting of Minds. New York: Simon, 1999. 200 pp. $25.00 hc. ISBN 0-689-81947-1. Print.
Matas, Carol, and Perry Nodelman. Of Two Minds. 1994. New York: Simon, 1995. 200 pp. No price listed hc. ISBN 0-689-80138-6. Print.
Matas, Carol, and Perry Nodelman. The Proof that Ghosts Exist. The Ghosthunters 1. Toronto: Key Porter, 2008. 216 pp. $11.95 pb. ISBN 978-1-55470-014-1. Print.
Nodelman, Perry. Behaving Bradley. New York: Simon, 1998. 232 pp. US$22.50 hc. ISBN 0-689-81466-6. Print.
Nodelman, Perry. A Completely Different Place. New York: [End Page 137] Simon, 1997. 192 pp. US$16.00 hc. ISBN 0-689-80836-4. Print.
Nodelman, Perry. The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2008. 390 pp. US$35.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-8018-8980-6. Print.
Nodelman, Perry. Not a Nickel to Spare: The Great Depression Diary of Sally Cohen. Dear Canada. Toronto: Scholastic, 2007. 218 pp. $14.99 hc. ISBN 978-0-439-96130-1. Print.
Nodelman, Perry. The Same Place but Different. New York: Simon, 1995. 181 pp. US$20.00 hc. ISBN 0-671-89839-6. Print.

At the outset, I have to admit what might appear shameful to readers of this journal: unlike Perry Nodelman, I do not love reading children’s books. Or rather, I love some children’s books, but when I look at the stack of pleasure reading that awaits me once I have finished writing this essay and have finished the term in mid-May, there is not a single children’s book in the stack. I see several volumes of poetry, a couple of books about music, and several novels: the one I most want to read, because I think Oryx and Crake is a masterpiece, is Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. I doubt I would have read Perry Nodelman’s children’s fiction had I not been asked to write about it here. Having read it, I can report that Nodelman’s fiction clearly satisfies many of the various criteria for children’s fiction delineated in his recent book-length study The Hidden Adult, but I cannot read it without thinking constantly of the shadow text of Perry Nodelman the critic and what I know of Perry Nodelman the person.

In The Hidden Adult, Perry Nodelman is scrupulous about describing his subject position: “male, short of stature and slight of build, more or less masculine, and more or less heterosexual,” of “Central European” origin, “Jewish but not religious,” “Canadian,” born in the 1940s into a culture of white male privilege (82). He does not identify himself as a writer for children except in his bio note on the back cover, or rather he does not draw explicitly on his experience as a writer for children (primarily those between the ages of eight and twelve or ten and fourteen, according to his publishers). The Hidden Adult is not children’s fiction, of course, but a work of “Literary Theory and History” (according to the book jacket) in which Nodelman unfolds an extended argument that children’s literature may be defined by its generic characteristics—that, indeed, it constitutes its own genre. It is a provocative, learned, monumental work by one of the most important and thoughtful critics in the field. It is a work I find endlessly [End Page 138] fascinating and consistently useful for my own writing and thinking about childhood and children’s literature. It is, as Beverly Lyon Clark’s jacket blurb announces, “arguably [Nodelman’s] magnum opus.” I confess that I felt somewhat intimidated when I was asked to write this review essay, as I have read The Hidden...


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