LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Purdue OWL on how to cite a Kindle

Purdue OWL on how to cite a Kindle

A number of you have asked about how to cite the Kindle version of the books we have read.  MLA is still figuring this out, but the Purdue OWL covers the topic here, with a length to another post with a more in-depth treatment.  This should answer any of your questions.

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Quoting Kindles and other electronic devices

If you are wondering how to cite from Kindles and other electronic devices that do not have page numbers, the link below is from Purdue Owl and tells you what to do.

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/05/

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Winnie the Pooh, a Classic

Is Winnie the Pooh a classic?

Yes, of course. It has had a presreadingence in each of our lives. The majority of people in the U.S. know about Winnie the Pooh or have heard of it. Particularly, it has been successful in capturing the interest of young children; though, Milne wrote the Pooh stories for both children and the child within adults. To this day, Winnie the Pooh remains a multibillion merchandising empire whose trademarks are owned by Disney. Disney has created numerous adaptations based off of Milne’s original stories, and is continuously releasing new Pooh movies, Pooh video games, Pooh TV series/specials, and a great variety of Pooh merchandise.

Now, what is a classic? What makes a story a classic? Well, a classic in the literary context is a story that transcends time and maintains itself as a source of value, relatability, and/or pleasure for the recurring generations. Although each classic is distinctively different from another in its unique form, style, presentation, and/or plot points and storyline, all classics share certain characteristics that nurture their success.

footprints

Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner have a distinctive writing style that distinguishes them from other texts. Milne adds humor at the expense of the characters who may have no idea what is going on, but we know all too well. We see such occurrences in chapter three, “Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle.” Here, Piglet and Pooh are following animal tracks that they hypothesize to be Woozles. The reader is told that Pooh has been “walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something…” (A. A. Milne). Then Pooh and Piglet commence their tracking of some mysterious prints in the snow, which the reader knows them to be Pooh’s own footprints. More evidence of these being Pooh’s (and Piglet’s) own footprints presents itself as Piglet and Pooh come across more pairs of footprints along the same track. It is amusing to the reader to watch two completely oblivious characters waste their time in tracking nothing but their very selves, and then seeing Piglet in fear over what the creatures could be (and how many as well).

Milne uses characters who dominantly express one single trait: Pooh and his constant hunger; Piglet and his anxiety; Eeyore and his depression; Etc. Milne’s intention in doing so is to create a more enjoyable piece; to use exaggerations that are both humorous and enjoyable to the reader. Furthermore, as we discussed in class, because the characters never change and always result back to their original selves by the beginning of the next day (the next story), we have here everlasting characters who will always be in a single state of mind, and whom popular culture can make into infinite adaptations featuring new adventures and experiences, thus keeping Winnie the Pooh classic, interesting, and profitable.

Pooh stuff         A good sign of the timelessness of Winnie the Pooh is its popularity in terms of merchandise and profitability. In fact, Winnie the Pooh is Disney’s most profitable franchise, and brings in over a billion dollars in revenues each year. Just surfing through the Disney online store, there are Winnie the Pooh plush toys, figurine playsets, crib bedding sets, mugs, quilts, tees, beanie bags, pillows, slippers, cups, pajamas, and even a limited edition signed artwork for approximately $800.00. It goes to show that children and adults alike enjoy Pooh and may develop nostalgia — or “expensive” nostalgia — for the lovable bear and his companions. There is no doubt that Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner will continue to be classics for years to come as they inspire new adaptations and new adventures that offer joy and value to the young and old alike, as well as for many future generations to come.

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Winnie-the-Poor-Friend

In Chapter 2 of Winnie-the-Pooh, “…IN WHICH POOH GOES VISITING AND GETS INTO A TIGHT PLACE”, Pooh find himself stuck in Rabbit’s front door – the epitome of the “friend who just won’t leave” – because of gluttony and a lack of manners.

The scene is comical, true, but it also demonstrates Pooh’s lack of self-control – and more importantly his lack of manners. If we run through a checklist of everything he did, it looks bad:

-Entering Rabbit’s home uninvited
-Eating all of Rabbit’s food
-Deciding to leave immediately after the food was gone
-Complaining about his situation (That he clearly caused)
-Forcing his friends to care for him and continued to make demands of them

It is interesting to me that these things are still considered by many to be poor form. I cannot count the times I was browbeat into having decent manners by my parents, and I remember even as a kid watching other kids doing “the wrong thing” and wondering why.

The reasoning behind it seems clearer to me now, and I see these manners faux pas as a failure to be a good friend. Pooh’s greed and selfishness – which is already well established – is not as happy-go-lucky as some people think; he actively uses his friends and when they have nothing more to give him, he moves on. He sees people as ways to get things he wants:

“‘If I know anything about anything, that hole means Rabbit,’ he said, ‘and Rabbit means Company,’ he said, ‘and Company means Food…'” (Milne, CH2)

Mind if help myself to everything?

Mind if help myself to everything?

I see this attitude as the “me first” – and really “me only” – attitude that Pooh applies to his interactions with others. Even at the end of the story, it is all about him:

“So, with a nod of thanks to his friends, he went on with his walk through the forest, humming proudly to himself.” (Milne, CH2)

He proudly hums walking away, as if he did a good job. This is of course after he did nothing except sat there, blocking the entrance, being read to, and generally inconveniencing his friends. Pooh is, in my opinion, an excellent example of “those kids” your parents told you not to hang out with as a kid.

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Can Pooh Influence Children to Binge Eat?

A. A. Milne’s characters of The World of Pooh, which include Christopher Robin and his animal toy friends, represent different disorders.  Can these disorders really be read into these characters and can they affect the children who read about them?

The book of Winnie-the-Pooh is structured in such a way that at points the narrator is talking to a Christopher Robin and then telling stories about Christopher Robin.  I thought this was interesting and imitative of real life—adults telling their children stories that include their children as characters.  However, is this potentially a way to prime schizophrenia and delusions in a child?

Christopher Robin lives a multi-faceted life in A. A. Milne’s book, and all of the talking animals have exaggerated traits.  Pooh is a bear who loves to eat and cannot control his habits.  In Chapter VI “Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents” Pooh plans to give Eeyore a pot of honey but gets hungry along the way to Eeyore so he eats it.  Then afterwards he realizes he ate Eeeyore’s present.  Pooh is constantly hungry, and he can’t control his habits surrounding food and hunger.  Is Pooh an allegory for an eating disorder?

The rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang also seem to exhibit other DSM-worthy diagnoses.   Piglet is constantly battling his own cowardice, stuttering, and afraid of many things.  Owl is always thinking of what story of his own to tell next, displaying his superiority of knowledge, and just talking over others and to others without caring if the listener even cares.  Eeyore is gloomy and pessimistic and hardly ever happy.  He can also be angry and sees all the faults in people and situations.  Rabbit expresses always needing to be in control of situations and being the leader.  He has to have things done in a certain way, and he tries to make other characters at time conform to what he wants them to be, such as when he didn’t want Kanga and Roo in the Hundred Acre Wood causing change or Tigger to be so bouncy.  Tigger himself bounces from one idea to the other and is quite energetic to the point where he can’t control it.  The animated versions of these characters also play on these exaggerated traits epitomizing them.

Christoper Robin.  Schizophrenia.  Pooh.  Eating Disorder.  Piglet.  General Anxiety Disorder.  Owl.  Narcissism.  Eeyore.  Depression.  Rabbit.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Tigger.  Attenion Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Do these characters represent these disorders and then influence children in a way that may prime them for the disorders and cause them to imitate them?

I believe that in literature and TV and all other forms of media, traits are normally exaggerated for entertainment’s sake.  It does not mean that the general masses will all of a sudden experience these disorders because a favorite character does.  Granted, children may imitate these disorders, but psychology has researched them enough to show that for most disorders a genetic priming is also a factor.  Environment is also a factor.  Eating disorders, for example, will not come about because of one instance of a bear character exhibiting it.  First, animal characters are not human characters, so children are less likely to want to “be” them, and second, one character from childhood is almost insignificant in the sea of parenting and media that may actually really cause an eating disorder.  A cute, fat, yellow bear’s influence is almost nothing when compared to the models in magazines and commercials and the advertisements that flood our children’s and our own vision everyday.

I also believe that creative works of art, such as literature, can be interpreted however the reader chooses to so if the reader does not notice or choose to see these characters as allegorical representations of mental disorders, then they will not influence the reader as such.  If parents do not present them as so to their children, then there is less of an opportunity for the children to see the characters that way.  I do not think that The World of Pooh and its characters are harmful to their child consumers.

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Sex: Secret and Not-so-Secret

The Secret Garden is ostensibly a children’s novel – the protagonist is a youthful girl of ten years of age – and comes off as a weird-mix of Victorian and Edwardian novel child mixed with British imperialism. To sum up, Mary is a naïve child and yet, despite her naivety, the side characters are constantly engaged in adult sexual activities throughout the entirety of the book. One example of this include the “lesser” servants romping on page 67 when the watchful presence of Mrs. Medlock is absent.  Two other major characters participate in either implied or explicit sexual activity. The first, the implied, comes from Martha who tells Mary after she returns from her day off: “I didn’t walk all th’ way. A man gave me a ride in his cart an’ I can tell you I did enjoy myself.” The “ride in his cart” that she enjoyed can easily be seen as Martha and the man in the cart having sex.

I think we all know where this one is going...

I think we all know where this one is going…

The second, more explicit, example comes from Ben in referencing the red-breasted Robin when he states that he has been “reddinin’ up thy waistcoat an’ polishin’ thy feathers this two weeks.” Implying both a masturbatory image as well as a potential sexual relationship between the robin and his lovers, both in the past and future.

The reasoning behind all this sexuality, I feel, lies in what I feel is the coming of age story of the story. It is about a woman maturing: Mary goes from a sickly child to a healthy Victorian girl (as well as the significant transformation of Colin). To seal this idea of Mary growing up I’d like to look at one final image of overt sexuality in The Secret Garden: the titular garden. The Secret Garden is an overt reference to the female vagina: specifically, in a sense, Mary’s. Its “untended” nature references the youthfulness of Mary and the blooming of the Garden reflects a girl maturing and blooming into adulthood, more specifically: the blooming of the roses symbolize the menzies (blood) that accompanies a girl’s transition into and life as a grown woman.

These are Roses

These are Roses

Thus, as you can see, the transitioning from childhood to real adulthood – more specifically womanhood- and sex is tied throughout the entire piece and is integral to the story as a whole.

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Disability and The Secret Garden

A motif prevalent in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden is Mary and Colin’s disabilities in relation to their happiness. The novel subtly attributes Mary’s childhood sickness to her time in India saying, “her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another.” India, clearly, is no place for an English child, though the text suggests that is India’s fault and not the colonial hold Britain has over the country. Colin has literally been stuck in a room for years so he is obviously always concerned with death and dying. Only when they discover the garden and can immerse themselves in the greatness of the nature of England can they really become happy again. One example is the classic children’s book Heidi by Swiss author Johanna Spyri. From what I remember about the character Clara is that she is spoiled and isolated and can only regain her ability to walk after Heidi befriends her and brightens up her life.

Image

This premise of disability in children’s literature is almost irresponsible because it assumes the notion that one can get over their disability based on sheer will and temperament. It also portrays to children that people with disabilities are irritating and reinforce the stigma against them. Characters with physical abnormalities are always depicted as villainous or crotchety and posed as characters the children should not want to emulate. Obviously the context of the time would explain why people with disabilities would be portrayed as such – they are useless in terms of working or getting married – something held to a high esteem. Characters like these would probably never be portrayed like this nowadays because these groups would feel incredibly marginalized.

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Why We Love Five Children and It

It is safe to say that we all, at the very least, have enjoyed our reading of Nesbit’s Five Children and It. As we discussed in class, there may be an argument that Nesbit’s treasure chest of ideas were savaged from other writers’ works, and therefore may be perceived as “unoriginal.” Whether or not someone comes to this conclusion, Five Children and It remains a fun-filled children’s story structured with moral-encompassing instances and situations, all intertwined with adventure and imagination; broadly speaking, this is why we love and enjoy Nesbit’s story so much, but there are a plentiful more reasons why.

What this book does good at — if not best — is constructing one’s intolerance for wishes. Just about every wish the children make ends up putting them in troublesome circumstances in which they then must find ways of hiding or suppressing the wished items, which is necessary in preventing very real consequences such as jail time, death, starvation, etc. By the end of the story, the reader — like our heroines — is exhausted due to the children’s constant struggle to cover up the unintended results of their wishes (all while dealing with having to stay fed). In a genre of fiction where a child would dream of being submerged in a reality where some one/two/three wishes have the possibility of being granted, ‘wish granting’ in Five Children and It becomes one’s seemingly worst nightmare, thus Nesbit does well in suppressing the reader’s tendencies of wishful thinking.wishing

The ‘consequences associated with wishing’ is a successful lesson to be learned in Nesbit’s story, and it is the main motif that the story builds upon, thus allowing the development of the children’s many adventures (inevitably providing for a some 200-page story). But what this motif further offers us are underlying values, such as the importance of family (as seen in the instance where the Lamb is suddenly wanted by everybody, and is nearly kidnapped from his siblings on several occasions — if it had not been for their smart thinking; the children soon realize how important their brother is to them in hindsight to his ever being lost) and further the value in necessity over greed (as demonstrated when the children seek beauty, riches, and wings, among other things, and then suffer in the absence of food; nutrition being the most fundamental, vital, and important item for their well-being — rather than unnecessary items of greed).

Nutrition

Therefore, it is not just the adventures in Five Children and It that we love and enjoy so much, it is also the building upon (or the learning experiences surrounding) these central morals.

Nevertheless, it is the adventures that we first and foremost love, wouldn’t you agree? And how wonderful they are! Mighty appealing to any child, I might add: the unorthodox inclusion of a monster-like fur-ball-of-a-fairy that speaks perfect English and once lived in the dinosaur age; the children’s becoming as beautiful as the day, but then going unnoticed by all those closest to them; their becoming rich with money that the townspeople, as they later learn, are unlikely to accept in transaction — also arising suspicions that could put them in jail; the children’s being granted beautiful wings and flying over rooftops only to fall victim to hunger and winding up stuck atop a church after losing their wings to the sunset; their defending a home-made castle from an invasion of colorful medieval warriors brandishing an assortment of deadly sharp weapons; Robert’s becoming of a giant and joining a fair as to make a short-lived profit — then having to devise a plan with Cyril in order to escape unharmed and unnoticed due to the giant-magic diminishing at sunset; and so on and so forth.

Giant

What makes this so appealing to a children audience?

Primarily, the very ambiguity, excitement, and thrill associated with the aspect of adventure. Also, the reader’s relatability and connection with the text (in this case, a child audience).

A child is neither completely good nor completely bad, which is quite evident in the characters of our heroines who exhibit thoughts, feelings, and emotions on both sides of the spectrum. Nesbit’s perception of a child is much different to that of the Victorian ‘ideal’ child; Nesbit details a more realistic version of the child — a common literary practice in the Edwardian period that begins (roughly) in the year 1901; it so happens to be that Five Children and It was first published the year after, in 1902, thus it could be argued that Nesbit had set the stone for (or aided in the development of) the Edwardian-Era image of the child.

With that said, the child reader is more likely to relate to our heroines if the characters are, in fact, actual (rather than perceived) children, increasing the legitimacy of the story — as if the story itself was written by a child. And as I noted above, a child is at most only ‘mostly good,’ and the adventures that entail our (cunning) heroines who, like actual children, steal, lie, sugar-coat, manipulate, fight, and escape trouble, among many other things, become believable in the sense that their involvement in fantastical matters are almost overlooked because they, themselves, are not the least bit made up. As we discussed in class, Nesbit gives fantasy a realistic reality by including close-to-home places and conventions of society; this, combined with the presence of ‘actual’ children rather than the ‘ideal’, makes this story evermore believable — enjoyable — to a child audience. When fantasy is made every effort to be written as believable, we, the readers, are more likely to submerge ourselves into the framework of the story, and forget most — if not all — of our knowledge of reality. Isn’t this why we read books in the first place? For an escape of  reality with characters and places we can relate to on an emotional, relatable level? This holds true even for the child reader of a children’s book.

child reading

There are perhaps a hundred or more reasons I could formulate as to why Five Children and It is such an enjoyable read to all who come across it. Personally, and quite obviously, I have enjoyed this book very much so, and I am privileged to have been given this opportunity to discover its many morals and adventures, and to behold the most realistic portrayal of children I have seen yet. I will, most certainly, be reading this to my children one distant and delightful day.

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Extra Credit: Bat… Woman?!

Batwoman_Earth_Two_1 Batwoman

I attended the “Marginalized Women: Out  of the Margins and Onto the Page” panel for the Graduate Comics Organization on Sunday, March 17th and I learned quite a lot about the history of a super heroine known as Batwoman as well as queer theory in comics. The first speaker, Dianna Baldwin, had a very intriguing argument about the portrayal of the Batwoman character in the DC Comics universe and expanded on her development as well as her back story. Her initial argument of Batwoman’s creation is that she was used to quell rumors that the two renowned heroes of DC Comics, Batman and Robin, were in a homosexual relationship. In fact, Batwoman was used as a potential love interest to Batman  and throughout her very few appearances in the late 1950s she was often the one appearing in the nick of time to rescue the caped crusader.

Moreover, Baldwin’s first part of her presentation focused on emphasizing and pointing out the many feminine aspects of the character of Batwoman including her very bright and womanly attire with her long hair flowing in the back, her make-up inspired gadgets, and even some girly phrases that further accentuated the female stereotype she portrayed. In addition, Batwoman’s weapons consist of feminine products such as cosmetic compacts, bracelets, hairnets, and even lipstick that are literally used to attack her opponents. It is also interesting to note that Batwoman always seems to fight against male villains and, in some cases, rescued Batman and Robin from a pickle, most likely displaying a bit of female superiority and equality with a strong superhero like Batman.

Furthermore, Baldwin also included the deterioration of the Batwoman role which included the character giving up her life as a vigilante because a man advised her to stop. In addition, she spoke about how the term “Women in Refrigerator Syndrome” fit so well to Batwoman as she is “depowered” by the masculine figure, Batman in this case, that discovers her secret identity. Batman warns her that she may be in danger considering any villain may discover her identity if he was easily able to uncover it. Baldwin also talks about the “Bechdel Test” used to identify the gender bias in the Batwoman comics. The test usually consists of following rules: the comic should have two or more women, the woman must converse with one another, and they are to talk about something other than men.

The second half of Baldwin’s presentation expands on the Batwoman character over the years as she began appearing less until she completely disappeared from the DC Comics issues. Baldwin asserts that there was really no use for her character and found it difficult to use her. However, in 2006, the Batwoman character returned and had apparently become a lesbian super heroine. In this iteration, she is more independent and strong willed. She no longer fits in with the typical female stereotype and has become a more masculine character that fights crime without the presence of Batman. She has a romantic relationship with another female and her character seems to be completely rewritten to appease a broader audience.

Overall, Baldwin organized her presentation really well and a lot of people were very attentive to her analysis of Batwoman. It was interesting to see the transition from a character that was practically the epitome of the stereotypical female of the Golden Age comics to a tough, independent, and well-rounded super heroine in the 2000s. Her presentation was perfect, in my opinion, and elaborated a lot on a character with a very limited background. Not only did she include the developmental history of Batwoman, but her argument was consistent with the facts she included on her presentation. All in all, this was a very interesting experience and would love to attend another panel like this in the future.

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Extra Credit: Panel 16- Marxist Reading Group “Rethinking Work”

The Marxist Reading Group panel I attended was held on Saturday, March 23rd, where panelists Kim Emery and Rebekah Fitzsimmons presented their papers on “Performance Counts: Productivity and Faculty Work” and “Professional Disputes and Early Reader Picture Books” respectively.  Although Kim presented contemplative points about work as labor and its means of measurement and rewards in hyper exploited conditions, I found her overall analysis of “work one” and “work two” difficult to follow.  Therefore, my blog will focus on Rebekah’s presentation.  Rebekah’s paper covered many points in the field of children’s literature, but I will only discuss a few of them and their connection with our class, while including my thoughts on them.

Like we discussed in class, Rebekah noted the control adults have in children’s literature.  Adults write the books, buy the books, and librarians market certain ones through displays, thus directly affecting the types of books consumers and children submit to.  Rebekah said that parents have a “patriotic duty” to get involved in children’s literature and that they should be more “savvy consumers” in the field.  These points go along with what we discussed since the beginning of class when we talked about Deborah Stevenson’s article, “Classics and Canons.”  Stevenson explains that children’s literature, as an academic, is controlled by adults; the content is written for adults who buy the books, so it is doubly removed.  I thought it was interesting that she made this connection to class by mentioning one of the major pivotal points in children’s literature.

Rebekah also argues that education is linked to the middle class.  I can agree with this point because there is an appeal to the middle class and people generally want to enter it.  And once you are “in it,” you have more available access to money, leisure time, etcetera.  With these privileges, one can afford to be educated.  So, I see where she makes the connection with education and the middle class dream.  Furthermore, this argument she makes in her paper made me think about the specific definition of the middle class.  I wondered what really defines the middle class and how do people get into it if the cycle of poverty and illiteracy keeps shifting.

Another major point Rebekah made, which I found interesting, was that the consumer culture and childhood are related.  The impurity of the money can relate to the purity of childhood.  I never thought of the two fields connecting in this way.  Primarily, I read the relation as the big companies exploiting the children for their own benefits and their own profit.  However, they are, at the end of the day, helping the children and their families and, essentially the country, if you look at the big picture, by raising literacy rates.  Also, Rebekah points out that the consumers are not buying the content of the picture books; they are buying the open access to them.  I agree with all of these points; the consumer and administration relationship is undeniable related.  In my opinion, it just seems like exploitation because small children are involved; in fact, the companies are simply using the child crowd to capitalize on their businesses.  These points also made me think about how parents can be savvy consumers.  How can they be savvy consumers?  First of all, they will need money to consume; second, they will need the time to set aside to make savvy-consumer-decisions; and finally, they will need to be literate and educated on the product and business they are buying from.  In order to have these qualities to be a savvy consumer, one needs to be of middle class, which brings me back to my previous question: how do people enter the middle class via education if the class lines are constantly being defined?

Obviously, the children literature field of study is a complex one.  Economics, big companies, consumers, children, and parents are all significant factors in children’s literature.  After attending Rebekah’s panel, I was able to reconsider the notion that children’s literature can be “figured out.”  In other words, I came to the conclusion that there are no right or wrong answers in children’s literature; instead, everything is a debate and is complicated due to the number of factors to consider when making any sort of claim.  The panel opened my eyes to another niche in children’s literature, one that involves the economy.  I was able to understand, in class discussions, that parents are a significant force in children’s literature, however, I never considered the companies or the class of the parents in the equation.  The new ideas that Rebekah pointed out about the middle class and the consumers’ relationship with the administration are important thoughts to use in future class discussions.

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