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The Rhetorical Power of Children's Literature


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Table of Contents

1.Bedtime Rhetoric
John H. Saunders

2.TSZ, TSZ, TSZ to Industrial ‘Cap’italism: A Marxist Analysis of Caps for Sale
Christopher J. Oldenburg

3.Pigs and Wolves: The Rhetorical Construction of a Traditional Tale and a Contemporary Pastiche
Mary Elizabeth Bezanson and Deborah Lee Norland

4.The Cat in the Hat: The Complexity of a Simple Tale
John H. Saunders

5.Mommy and Daddy Were Married, and Other Creation Myths in Children’s Books About Sex
Brett L. Lunceford

6.“Good Readers” in Narnia: C. S. Lewis’s Rhetoric of Invitation
Joshua D. Hill

7.“Why Do You Hurt These Children?”: The Rhetoric of “Risky Stories” in Children’s Literature
Lauren Lemley

8.Subversive Identification and the Coincidentia Oppositorum in Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea
Michael Warren Tumolo and Jennifer Beidendorf

9.The Multi-Gaze Perspective of Harry Potter
Lauren Rose Camacci

John H. Saunders

About the Author

John H. Saunders is visiting assistant professor at the University of Central Arkansas.


These essays reveal, as Saunders (Univ. of Central Arkansas) writes in the first essay, that children’s literature is replete with "complex cultural or political messages, beyond what a child can comprehend, but which present children with obvious, superficial messages that act as seeds, some destined to take root and others to wither away.” Covering everything from picture books, to bedtime stories, to young adult literature, the essays look beyond story lines to reveal the rhetoric that lies beneath. For example, one essay uses a Marxist lens to examine allegories depicting the harmful effects of industrial capitalism; another uses a Western perspective in considering allegories supporting the notion that hard work and intelligence lead to security and economic prosperity. In other words, with their books children's authors often reveal the ideologies and values that they wish their readers to have. The rhetoric of children’s books also lends itself to instruction—for example, about sex, troubling/traumatic historical moments, race, violence—bypassing adult discomfort and the sad comedy of children pretending not know things in order to protect adults. In sum, children’s literature—from picture books to YA—has the power to help children comprehend a complex world. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the first children's book imprint in the United States (Macmillan's Children's Books in 1919), we anticipate growing interest in the field, but it will be hard to top The Rhetorical Power of Children's Literature--a bold, insightful examination of how children's books influence the lives of children and the adults they become. Editor John Saunders et al. present eye-opening analysis of several classic picture books and serial fiction series that will illuminate any future readings of these works.
*Steven Herb, Ph.D., Director, Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress*

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