The Handy Guide in Analyzing Children's LiteratureSeptember 02, 2019
The late Tom Ungerer had a rough childhood, having witnessed the invasion (and occupation) of his native Strasbourg by the Nazi. It brought out the Frenchman's rebellious nature, as seen in his early illustrations. It showed confidence as far as perspective is concerned, which was remarkable for a young lad. Ungerer could be a special case, but his works would show that a critical approach to Children's literature is a must. It would confound, if not bemused, you. Is it possible to adopt the same approach in your assignments? The answer is yes.
The University of Cambridge believes that Children's literature is a controversial (literary) genre, and there are many samples to prove it. Anyone who has read Stephen King's "It" and see the teaser trailer of "It Chapter 2" would wonder why Andrés Muschietti alter the scene where Beverly visit her old home (in Derry, Maine). King would make allusion to the evil witch, who almost consumed Hansel and Gretel, and some could argue that it's more terrifying than the scene shown in the teaser. Why the change, you may ask. Most professors may not be keen in your pursuing it, as there are more interesting (and thought-provoking) topics in Children's literature. You wouldn't have any trouble that you encounter in, say, Modern literature because you're familiar with many children's books. Need to know more?
Children's literature is not different from the other genres, such that there's a list that would help you analyze it. If you want to excel in it, you must understand how it's organized. Grab a pen and paper.
The Critical Approach in Analyzing Children's Literature
Text and readers (or your professors). You haven't grasped the concept on esocricism, and you have a vague understanding of posthumanism. You hardly follow your coursemates, who can define cognitive poetics in plain words. Keep in mind that your point of view won't be less valuable than your coursemates, and you don't have to try too hard to identify the themes (other than the obvious). A children's book is intriguing as far as narration is concerned. It's easy to describe the literal, but reading the lines could be tricky. You can do an exercise (before writing your essay); think of a good reason on why the current version of fairy tales is very different from the early one. Political correctness is not the reason, not even the subversive nature of its authors. The clue can be found in its background, which shows that you only need common sense.
Visual text. It's possible to write an essay (of a few pages) after studying the illustrations in a children's book. It would remind you of "The Chronicles of Narnia", where some copies don't have illustrations. It should give readers an idea that C.S. Lewis wrote a fantastic tale for young readers. Did he? Your professor would be eager to know your reasons (if you think that Lewis had adult readers in mind). On the other hand, Quentin Crisp's illustrations complement Roald Dahl's outrageous stories about precocious children and their abusive parents (or guardians). Anyone who must have read Dahl's biography would know that the British author wasn't insensitive at all, and it should be foolish to think otherwise. You could stare at these illustrations, if not look at it now and then. (Let's assume that you have studied the module and the booklet that described it, which was way before the start of the term.) Do you understand the difference? If you do, please proceed to the third (and final) item.
Context on childhood (or you own upbringing). You might be thinking of autobiography, which is actually spot on. You won't have the faintest idea if you don't know the author's background. It would be inevitable to compare it to your own experience, and there's a good chance that you would attempt to impress your professor(s) by stretching what is beyond the obvious. You would get a high mark if you discuss your point of view in not too many words. It could be a few paragraphs, as you have to look at another angle. Don't forget to read again (and do it one more time) if you're uncertain of your point of view.
A Child's Advice to (Struggling) Students
A child's gesture would teach an incoming freshman on how to look forward to the incoming term, and his (or her) less judgmental views could be a hint that writing a paper on a Children's book doesn't have to be too hard as it looks at first. It's different from studying Victorian literature, where you could get fed up on analyzing the poverty and oppression that define the genre. On the other hand, the study of Children's literature might remind you that you don't have to let go of your old mates (after making new friends in the university).
If you're still in the dark (after reading this post), don't hesitate to ask your professor(s). You can also start a conversation with your coursemate(s), but be warned of a stuck up (or trying to be one). You would stumble upon a similar character in a Children's book or two. Alas, you can't write about it at this moment. It's better to use simple words (while writing the draft of your essay). Don't vary the length of your sentences until you know the proper use of prepositional phrases. You have read too many children's books (to be aware of it).
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