The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Children’s literature’

Stories We Tell

August 5, 2014 | by

il_fullxfull.257888685

It’s a strange coincidence that I should think to look up Ruth Sawyer today. Last night, I mentioned her book Roller Skates to a friend—I thought her nine-year-old daughter might enjoy it—but I had no idea that August 5 was her birthday.

Sawyer died in 1970, at the age of ninety. As a young woman, she traveled to Cuba, where she worked in kindergartens established for orphans of the Spanish American War, training their teachers in how to tell stories. Upon returning to New York, Sawyer obtained a scholarship to study storytelling and folklore. She went to work telling stories in the city’s school system, working primarily with immigrant children, and later founded the NYPL’s first storytelling program. Throughout her career, she would travel around the world collecting folktales, and for many years she volunteered as a storyteller at a women’s prison. Her Way of the Storyteller, from 1942, is still regarded as a landmark text—one full of charm and interest for the layman, too.

The stories she learned and the people she met inspired several of her many children’s books. But the most famous, Roller Skates, which won the Newbery in 1937, was, frankly, autobiographical: The story of one year in the life of a well-to-do New York ten-year-old. Like her heroine, Lucinda Wyman, Ruth Sawyer also spent 1890 away from her parents, who were traveling. Far from resenting their absence, she found the time living in a boarding house to be one of adventure and discovery. Read More »

Comments Off

The First Children’s Book, and Other News

May 19, 2014 | by

the soul, 1705 english edition of orbis

“The Soul,” from the 1705 English edition of Orbis Sensualium Pictus; image via the Public Domain Review

  • In 1658, John Comenius published what may have been the first children’s picture book: Orbis Sensualium Pictus, or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses Drawn in Pictures. “The Orbis—with its 150 pictures showing everyday activities like brewing beer, tending gardens, and slaughtering animals—is immediately familiar as an ancestor of today’s children’s literature.”
  • Behind Alex Trebek’s veneer of erudition is an everyman, a heavy drinker, a handyman: “Trebek says that when he gets up in the middle of the night—he has terrible insomnia—he will lie awake for hours plotting how to fix the sliver of light peeking through his window, and all the other home-repair projects he wants to tackle next.”
  • “Throughout cult-movie history, the American cheerleader has come to stand for something demonic, bitchy, slutty, and secretly lesbian, resulting in an archetype as American as apple pie, football, and well, cheerleading itself: the Subversive Cheerleader Genre.”
  • Cell-phone novels, stories serialized in short bursts, have consistently appeared on Japan’s best-seller lists for years; now a few developers are attempting to popularize them in America.
  • Amazon puts the squeeze on Hachette: “Hachette, which owns Little, Brown; Hyperion; and Grand Central, says that Amazon is deliberately slowing sales of Hachette’s books in an effort to pressure the French publisher into agreeing to new contract terms on book pricing.”

 

NO COMMENTS

We Must Protect the Children, and Other News

March 28, 2014 | by

we go to the gallery

  • Presented without further comment: John Updike’s shorts.
  • What if The Road, The Corrections, and Wonder Boys were children’s books? (The illustration of Alfred Lambert falling from the cruise ship is especially well done.)
  • Speaking of satirical children’s books: in the UK, Penguin has proven its humorlessness by suing the author of We Go to the Gallery, a brilliant parody of the Peter and Jane series. One panel is seen above. The lawsuit avows that We Go to the Gallery “pollutes the idyllic brand of Ladybird books … their argument is now fundamentally moral, not legal, and as such is an act of senseless and repressive censorship.”
  • And speaking of questionable litigation: here’s the history of late-night TV ads for unscrupulous lawyers. “There was an era before ads like these were allowed—and a big bang after which they couldn’t be contained. And now, the legal world is in a subtle, possibly endless civil war over how attorneys should advertise their services (and whether they should advertise at all).”
  • Today in interspecies communication: scientists can now translate dolphin whistles in real time.

 

NO COMMENTS

Stupid Is

March 26, 2014 | by

stupidsstepout

Do people still read The Stupids, that classic series of children’s books written by Harry Allard and James Marshall in the seventies and eighties? They must, right? They’re too good. Making fun of fools may not be officially acceptable these days, but few books are so perfectly calibrated to a child’s sense of humor. And I don’t imagine most children are in any danger of confusing the Stupids’ aggressively literal naïveté with real-life intellectual deficits. As the School Library Journal opined in a starred review of The Stupids Step Out, “Even youngest listeners will laugh with smug superiority as they follow these good natured dummkopfs from departure to journey’s end.”

But one naysayer—who gave the book a one-star review on Amazon—had this to say:

My seven-year-old recently brought this book home from his school library. I found it very offensive, because I think it teaches children that it’s funny to call others “stupid.” I cannot think of a circumstance in which it is appropriate for a child or an adult to use this word towards another person. I was so upset that I wrote a note to the school librarian.

In fact, “stupid” is an awfully harsh word. Read More »

Comments Off

The Little Bookroom

March 24, 2014 | by

little bookroom

Detail from the cover of The Little Bookroom, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

This morning, it was announced that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) had named the Japanese writer Nahoko Uehashi and Brazilan illustrator Roger Mello the winners of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award. Founded in 1956, the biannual “Nobel of Children’s Literature” honors outstanding contributions to both writing and illustration. Past winners have included Maurice Sendak, Paula Fox, Tomi Ungerer, and Tove Jansson. They are, of course, named for the Danish writer of the world’s most disturbing fairy tales, and the recipients are given a medal, emblazoned with Andersen’s likeness, by the Queen of Denmark. 

The very first Andersen Award was presented to the prolific British writer Eleanor Farjeon, for her extremely bizarre collection The Little Bookroom. This book, illustrated by the peerless Edward Ardizzone, is composed of twenty-seven stories, all somewhat remote in tone, frequently redolent of loneliness, and often carrying a vague air of allegory. Read More »

Comments Off

Cat Fancier

March 17, 2014 | by

james-joyce-the-cat-and-the-devil-uk-edition-L-VXhDbj

From The Cat and the Devil.

“I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you do not know the story about the cat of Beaugency,” begins James Joyce’s The Cat and the Devil, first published in 1965. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on this book as a child, you know that the illustrations, by Richard Erdoes, haunt your nightmares for years, and that it’s quite impossible ever to think of James Joyce without visualizing the Mephistophilean entity pictured therein. 

The story is based on an old French folktale: the desperate mayor of Beaugency makes a deal with the devil in order to get a bridge across the Loire. In exchange for the supernatural structure, the devil may claim the soul of whoever crosses it first. In the event, the townspeople foil the plot by sending over a hapless cat instead, and in the grand tradition of diabolical law, the devil is forced to abide by their reading of the contract. Read More »

Comments Off