Inside Picture Books

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9780300076028: Inside Picture Books

Mention a name from a beloved childhood picture book?Madeline, Corduroy, Peter Rabbit, Max and his ?wild things”?and most adults can recollect a bright image, fragments of a story, the timbre of a certain reading voice, the sensation of being held, and best of all being together with someone and enveloped in fantasy. Why do picture book images shown to us as young children linger in our minds? How do picture books shape our lives early on and even later into adulthood? This book takes up such questions. It explores the profound impact of the experience of reading to children. Ellen Handler Spitz reveals how classic picture books transmit psychological wisdom, convey moral lessons, shape tastes, and implant subtle prejudices.

Each chapter of the book discusses well-known children’s books?Goodnight Moon, Babar, Little Black Sambo, to name a few?that deal with a theme of importance to young children. These include bedtime, separation, loss, and death; curiosity, disobedience, and punishment; and identity and self-acceptance. Focusing on the relationship between a child and an adult reader, Spitz explains the notion of ?conversational reading” and emphasizes the mutual benefits of dialogue and intimacy. This book not only gives parents, grandparents, teachers, therapists, and scholars a new understanding of the meaning of picture books, it also empowers adults to interpret and choose future cultural experiences for their children.

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About the Author:

Ellen Handler Spitz is a lecturer in the department of art at Stanford University. She writes and lectures widely on the arts, psychology, and culture. She is also the author of Art and Psyche and Museums of the Mind.

From Publishers Weekly:

Readers may never look at picture books in the same way after making their way through this thought-provoking examination. Focusing on her subject through the lens of psychology, Spitz (Art and the Psyche) argues that because picture books "provide children with some of their earliest takes on morality, taste, and basic cultural knowledge, including messages about gender, race, and class," it behooves adults to consider more carefully the images transmitted to their kids. Organized thematically, the chapters offer a wide-ranging discussion of art and artistry, visual and verbal cues and the transmission of culture through picture books that resonate with children, often for multiple generations. Whether examining motifs of darkness and abandonment in Margaret Wise Brown's classic bedtime tale Goodnight Moon, a child's yearning for power and independence in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are or gender stereotyping in Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit (comparing the bold and naughty Peter to his obedient sisters, she notes "the gendering is explicit: good is to girls as bad is to boys"), Spitz provides an illuminating analysis of what is often taken for granted. Sure to spark lively debate, her book is a must-read for any serious student of children's literature as well as that core group of parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and others who are actively engaged in raising children. Provocative, well written, scholarly without being dry or pedantic, Spitz's text makes a compelling case for the power of art and literature, and the responsibility that accompanies such power, particularly when it relates to children.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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