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.
describes these children as descending from summi viri (the best of men) and magna ingenia (men of great imagination or invention).12 Manliness and intellect: such qualities recall the relationship between action and word as advised by old Phoinix, or between character and eloquence as taught by Quintilian. These words describe not only the people who performed, but the quality of texts themselves. Epics and lyrics, tragedies and comedies were subject to close analysis precisely for their
in every sense of the term, a formative book: one that shaped not just readers but writers. It was the book against which all books could be measured, whether they be the Bible or Pamela. Bunyan, in this account, gives rise to novelistic fiction, much as he gives rise to self-accounts by readers, and his book does so in several ways. First off, it is the story of a family and a life. But what a life it is. Here is no ideal father, homebound with the wife and children. Christian, the book’s hero,
parent-child bond reaffirmed. Such was the business of the book’s part 2, a celebration of domestic life, of fellowship, of family togetherness. Part 1 of Pilgrim’s Progress takes place on the open road; part 2 transpires in the home. Here are the cozy rooms, the enclosed gardens, the welcoming inns of local comfort. This is, in many ways, less Christian’s book than it is his wife’s, Christiana’s, book. If anyone should knock upon its door, notes Bunyan in the poem that opens part 2, “then answer
class but the tabella alphabetaria. Locke’s Aesop synthesizes these traditions of the alphabetical with a new preoccupation with print culture to produce a book of fables that unites the character of letters with the character of people. His birds and beasts are characters as well: figures from alphabetic illustration now enlivened into Aesopic encounter. It is as if the static portraits of the ABCs took wing into the fictions of the fabulist. And in those fictions, old familiar stories take on
the fantastic. Look not just at his animals, but at his people. There are kings and servants, dilettantes and dolts. We learn to recognize the inner character by looking at the outer form, and in this process Dr. Seuss offers a witty critical response • 185 • chapter eight to the inheritance of illustration in the older guidebooks. Whatever the original impact of the illustrations to Scouting for Boys, it may be hard for any modern reader not to see a Seuss-like character behind them,