desert island question
ncase at hedbergmaps.com
Mon Apr 26 13:52:14 EDT 2004
>>Or.... what would be a similar range in kids fantasy? I think of
>>fantasy as beginning somewhat older, and it merging into something
>>all its own in the younger-reader category, sort of a cross between
>>fantasy and fairy tale. Maybe Narnia, a younger Margaret Mahy
>>(maybe one of her picture books), a younger Roald Dahl (The Magic
>>Finger creeped me out as a child, I recall), all or part of an E
>>Nesbit fantasy (Five Children and It, for instance), and some Grimm
>>or Perrault for pre-"children's literature" context, some Sendak
>>(Where the Wild Thins Are seems pretty de rigeur, I'd think).
>This is actually closer to the focus I am thinking about.
>Thematically, I want to examine ideas about how literature empowers
>children. It's really obvious in a lot of fantasy books where kids
>get special powers and that helps them to deal with problems and the
>unfairness of the adult world. In picture books, there are heaps
>that celebrate children being bad as a similar kind of empowerment.
>I want to have a class about farting and showing your underpants and
>other taboo things.
A few different models of empowerment that leap to mind (also not
coincidentally books that made a big impression on me as a kid,
probably reflecting my sense of what empowerment I needed):
- Black Stallion, Walter Farley: Boy acting alone doing things even
grownups would have a problem with. I was struck on rereading years
later on the writing style's similarity to Boys Life (the Boy Scout
magazine): Gee Whiz mixed with testosterone-infused heroics. But it
works for younger readers. Age 7-8 for me I think.
- Brothers Lionheart, Astrid Lindgren: Powerless ill boy regaining
the perfect body in the afterlife morphs into story of how to be a
hero (it would be interesting in another context to contrast with the
model of heroism in Fire and Hemlock...). As an adult, I found lots
of rather odd overtones: echoes of Sweden's experience in WWII, of
Lutheran theology, of the heroic sense of the sagas.
- Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper: Yeah I know it bugs us as adults but
it really got me as a kid: empowerment via accessing "secrets,"
releasing inner potential. Really powerful image for kids faced with
inaccessible adult knowledge.
- Summer Birds, Penelope Farmer: Again with the mysteries, but
coupled more with straight magic than with a system of knowing and
power (as in Cooper). And what the kids do with the magic is more
purely play... The end still makes me tear up a little.
I don't think I really found deep empowerment in books much before I
hit those last three books. Each one kind of took my breath away, in
a sense I don't recall books doing before. Earlier books had been
comforting and fun and exciting, but in a stimulative rather than a
digging-deep sort of way. I remember a little kids book "Hippity Hop
Around the Block" I found exciting in an adventuresome-toddler way.
And I loved Ferdinand the Bull, and Mike Mulligan and his
Steamshovel, and Pelle's New Suit... are these empowering? dunno.
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