My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a stylish, confident and thoughtful series of essays collected under the consideration of childhood as a cultural / historical construct as opposed to a constant psycho-biological entity. And it’s fascinating.
As ever, in collections of this nature, there will be elements that appeal more than others depending on your own particular interests, and because I’m interested in children’s literature I was particularly drawn to Sarah Spooner’s chapter discussing the role of instructional and simplistic language in children’s literature. Using Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series as a hook for her discussion, she engages in a macro examination of the text and dissects the intent / purpose / didactic nature of this language. Specifically, it’s quite intriguing to read her discussion of the use of metaphor in Ransome’s work.
Another chapter I enjoyed, though slightly out of my wheel-house, was Eleanor Conlin Casella’s discussion of the material ambiguities of childhood. Here she talks about constructing childhood from the remnants of items found in archaeological sites, and the surmisations and analytical thought process this entails. I was also greatly interested by Daniel Monk’s discussion of homophobic bullying and the queering of playground / juvenile politics. His points in particular referring to the adult influence on this bullying and the role legalisation has, were fascinating.
I was struck by the quote at the start of Spooner’s chapter. She references Nodelman who described children’s literature: “[as] a complex literature in the context of its essential simplicity.” Yes. Yes, yes, yes.