On May 19th, I put on my 6th Annual Popcorn n’ Picture Books presentation. The purpose of this event is to celebrate recently published children’s and young adult books. I have been putting on this presentation since 2004 when Dr. Engley, Professor of Early Childhood Education, brought her children’s literature class over to look at newly aquired books for the juvenile section.
The presentation has been such a success and is so much fun that I wrote an article with my colleague, Ms. Carley Suther, on the program. The article, Popcorn n’ Picture Books: Promoting Children’s Books in Academic Libraries, was published in the Fall of 2007 issue of The Southeastern Librarian accessible to students, staff, and facutly of JSU through Wilson’s Library Literature Database at http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/Journals/getIssues.jhtml?sid=HWW:LIB&id=00600
Last night’s prestentation focused on the gothic in children’s literature, talking animals in children’s books, and the rising popularity of comic books and graphic novels. A great book which discusses the history of the “gothic” in children’s and young adult books is The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders edited by Anna Jackson, Karen Koats, and Roderick McGillis. This book traces the reoccuring themes of ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, and the such from the eighteenth-century nursery to a chapter on Newbery Medal Winner, Neil Gaiman.
An excellent book on the evolution of talking animals in children’s literature is Talking Animals in British Children’s Fiction 1786-1914 by Tess Cosslett. According to Cosslet, there was a vicious debate during the late eighteenth century and during the nineteenth century on what was considered proper reading for children. Talking animals were preferred to the gothic stories, wicked fairy tales, and frightening nursery rhymes being passed down by the nannies. During the Age of Enlightenment, animals were connected with nature and reason (as they were real) and ghosts, fairies, and hobgoblins were mere superstition. Even John Locke argued against reading or telling fairy tales and frightful tales to children as their developing minds were a tabula rasa not to be filled with that which was not rational. John Locke even published his own version of Aesop’s Fables in Latin and English.
Talking animals were more likely to be used to teach children lessons. The argument over what constitutes proper literature for children continues today, particularly with the rising popularity of the Gothic in such series as Twilight, Harry Potter, and Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which was awarded the 2009 Newbery Medal Winner.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on recent children’s and young adult books in the Houston Cole Library.