Children's History: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter
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Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children's literature. Seth Lerer here charts the makings of the Western literary imagination from Aesop's fables to Mother Goose, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to Peter Pan, from "Where the Wild Things Are" to "Harry Potter". The only single-volume work to capture the rich and diverse history of children's literature in its full panorama, this extraordinary book reveals why J. R. R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, and many others, despite their divergent styles and subject matter, have all resonated with generations of readers. "Children's Literature" is an exhilarating quest across centuries, continents, and genres to discover how, and why, we first fall in love with the written word.
Octavia, who would die at nineteen.27 The Romans mourned their dead children with a passion unmatched by almost any other culture, and the statues, plaques, and stelae to their memory reflect their parents’ sense of loss over unfulfilled dreams. “O nate” (O son), Anchises begins at line 868, do not seek out that great sorrow of your people—in other words, do not ask about the fate of Marcellus. For twenty lines we get Anchises’ speech about this boy, a model elegy for Rome’s unrealized hopes. He
of performativity: processions, mimes, legal trials, public prophecies. The play not only exposes the theatricality inherent in the biblical story; it reveals the church to be a theater of its own, a place of acting in which all performances of ritual need to be assessed for their precise place on the line between devotion and drama. Of course the Mass is a performance; of course the church is rich with costume, prop, and ceremony. But, the play argues, if we snatch away the vessels of the temple
inextricably linked to its ideals of literature for adults.34 What happened, then, when adults wrote for children in the Middle Ages? Parents and teachers, masters and journeymen composed reams of advice for their young charges, and forms of didactic writing flourished— both in Latin and the European vernaculars—for more than five hundred years. One of the best-known products of this didactic tradition is • 72 • Court, Commerce, and Cloister [To view this image, refer to the print
always wondering, like Huck Finn, why the father left and whether he will return. We’re always imitating models, whether they be the literary tokens of the British or the moral templates of the biblical. “From a Child I was fond of Reading,” wrote Franklin in his Autobiography. To be a child is to be fond of reading: to be the man in small letter, whose book and heart shall never part. • 103 • • 5 • Playthings of the Mind john locke and children’s literature “Children,” wrote the
fashion, is a syllabus of particulars. As Jenny puts it to her charges, after the fruit quarrel has been settled: “I will, if you please, relate to you the History of my past Life . . . . And after I have given you the Particulars of my Life, I must beg that every one of you will some Day or other, when you have reflected upon it, declare all that you can remember of your own” (pp. 22–23). Jenny becomes her own best narrator, a kind of Gulliver or Crusoe of local girlhood. The English novel had