When I handed Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt to my son after I read it to him in the library, he got a really big kid smile on his face and he held it close to him. It’s a small book, just right for little hands. But the pleasure comes from the interaction: my son can pet the fuzzy bunny, he can lift a cloth to play peek-a-boo with the main character, and he can scratch Daddy’s face. According to Wikipedia, Pat the Bunny is the number 6 all-time best-seller for children’s books, even 50 years after first publication. I’m not surprised, because the textures and the activities make this a book perfect for little kids. (more…)
In the picture book Love You Forever, Robert Munsch captures every mother’s feelings of unconditional love. I can’t read it without my eyes tearing, and I love the tender expressions of love. But I wonder if children like it. (more…)
There was no doubt that John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (reviewed here) was written to teach both children and adults lesson about Christianity and life; there was little attempt to veil the message behind the story.
While the message in modern children’s literature may not be so thinly veiled, to me it seems obvious that authors still impart their subtle messages into a text that is otherwise a story. This is all the more obvious in stories for children.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (a Newbery Award winner) and My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier (a Newbery Honor book) both tell the story of a 12- to 16-year-old boy during the American Revolution of the 1770s. Both books were written by both accomplished children’s authors and historians; both are accurate portrayals of war. And yet, each story has a distinct message about war. What that message is should be obvious to adults when they realize that Johnny Tremain was written in the 1940s and My Brother Sam was written in the 1970s.
Note: While the following review and analysis may provide “spoilers,” these “spoilers” seem pretty obvious given the subject matter of the books: The American Revolutionary War. Therefore, I don’t believe they would actually “spoil” the book for an interested adult reader. (more…)
In the history of western children’s literature, after Pilgrim’s Progress came Isaac Watt’s elegies for children, Divine Songs. But while Pilgrim’s Progress was actually intended for adults and children learned from it, Divine Songs was intended to be for children. And while Pilgrim’s Progress actually does have some relevance for Christians today (even given how bored I felt while reading it), Divine Songs are even more painfully instructive than Pilgrim’s Progress was. In fact, I don’t want my son to ever read these as a child. (more…)
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan was one of the first modern novels when it was published in 1679 and 1685 because it uses dialogue as a main tool to drive the story. As an allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress plainly tells the story of each Christian’s lifelong quest from a sinful life to eternal life using the example of a physical quest of a pilgrim named, appropriately, Christian.
I certainly appreciate the impact of Pilgrim’s Progress on the history of literature and I am very glad I read it. It is a pillar in Christian history and a milestone in western literature. Yet, reading Pilgrim’s Progress was challenging. Since it was written in the 1600s, it was a difficult writing style that didn’t “flow” as modern writing does. I would not have been so frustrated with this unfamiliar writing style had not the allegory been so poorly “veiled.” Pilgrim’s Progress was painfully didactic and instructional. In the end, it may have met the needs for the times in which it was written but it doesn’t touch me today. (more…)