- Internationalism in Children’s Series ed. by Karen Sands-O’Connor and Marietta A. Frank
This meticulously researched collection of articles investigates an important subject in its historical and cultural context. Using various examples of books in children’s series, the authors focus on different manifestations of internationalism in texts from the nineteenth century to the present. The general coherence of this volume is remarkable: although the articles cover a long time span, they all focus on the variety of representations of internationalism in children’s literature series and provide an abundance of social, cultural, and historical records. The volume is divided into three sections that are organized chronologically. In her praiseworthy introduction, co-editor Karen Sands-O’Connor sets the overall tone by providing an impressive overview of different stages in the development of the concept of internationalism, beginning in its early days when it was centered on the idea of American and European expansionist focus on global movements and ideological clashes. Sands-O’Connor describes the structure of the volume as an attempt to “bring together cross-cultural perspectives” on series of children’s publications. She states that one of the goals is “to offer some insights into the complex interactions between readers, books, and global power and participation” (1). This comprehensive collection successfully achieves that goal; the essays present a diverse picture of both the publishing world and the readership targeted by these series. As they move through the centuries, the readers of this volume will be able to follow clearly changing ideologies, both new and revisited political agendas, and shifts in readership of children’s magazines and book series that were called upon to educate young readers on how to navigate the world.
Part 1, “Nineteenth-Century Series Go Abroad,” includes an article by Chris Nesmith that provides interesting and provocative analyses of the Rollo travel book series by Jacob Abbott. Focusing on the idea of Grand Tour travels, the books—as Nesmith insists—“act as guidebooks for young boys navigating the territory of adulthood” (35). They provide behavioral directions for Americans abroad and, while introducing an abundance of observations on the culture and traditions of the foreign territory, still rely heavily on social norms from home. The second article in this section, Janis Dawson’s investigation of girls’ culture versus the idea of empire in Victorian girls’ magazines, demonstrates how the novelty of the modern world and women’s changing role in it provided an impressive merger of the culture of British imperialism with the fresh idea of international sisterhood. By opening their discussion on the evolving nature of the idea of internationalism with these two well-written and challenging essays, the editors create a helpful framework for future discussions.
Part 2, “Syndicates, Empires, and Politics,” comprises five articles whose themes range from the Stratemeyer [End Page 110] series and their evolution in the world of children’s publishing to the Twins series by Lucy Fitch Perkins. The authors discuss different manifestations of internationalism through both its juxtaposition to and its merger with nationalism; the “breakdown” in conventional thinking is explored through juvenile mysteries; and the legacy of Enid Blyton emerges in a new and unexpected treatment of this author’s literary production. These contributions all should be praised for their engaging style and extensive research of the subject matter, as well as their rich and exhaustive commentaries and historical data. At the risk of appearing biased, I would single out among these excellent entries the article by co-editor Marietta A. Frank, “‘A bit of life actually lived in a foreign land’: Internationalism as World Friendship in Children’s Series.” Frank provides an impressive account of both the successes and the failures on the part of authors such as Mary Hazelton Wade in merging a humanist vision of the world with the attitudes that mirrored the beliefs and practices of their time. In fact, all five articles grapple with this particular dilemma; for a contemporary critic of these book series and magazine publications, it is relatively easy to accuse...