The Voice of the Narrator in Children's Literature: Insights from Writers and Critics (Contributions to the Study of World Literature)

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9780313263705: The Voice of the Narrator in Children's Literature: Insights from Writers and Critics (Contributions to the Study of World Literature)

As Otten and Schmidt note in their preface, voice is a broad metaphor. Thus the 41 essays in this collection provide varied approaches, examining point of view, focus, selection of details, tone, and even illustrations as part of the narrative identity. Eight genres, including picture books, fantasy, realism, and biography, receive separate study in generally brief articles by writers and more substantial analyses by critics. . . . In her contribution, Jill Paton Walsh describes contemporary criticism as an `impenetrable thicket of technical terms.' In most cases, the critics here avoid jargon. They speak clearly, offering practical criticsm accessible to anyone seriously concerned about narrative technique in children's literature. Choice

Although children's literature is now a recognized branch of English and American literature, much of the criticism of it has focused on teaching methodology, history, and basic exposition. Since children's books are no less a part of the literary tradition than adult books, there is room for new approaches to children's literature. While the importance of the voice of the narrator is emerging in criticism of adult fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, little has been written about this subject in children's literature. Examining the voice of the narrator can identify hitherto unexplored and unrecognized aspects of children's literature.

The essays in this collection were contributed by noted authors and critics. Their inquiry is divided into eight genres--the illustrated book, folk literature and myth, fantasy, realism, poetry, historical fiction, biography, and informational books--and each genre is discussed in terms of the authorial voice and the critical voice. Each of the essays works toward an understanding of how the voice of the narrator functions in a given work or in the larger corpus of an author's work. The result is not only a greater understanding of how specific authors shape their material and how authors use voice for particular effects, but also how the narrator differs functionally from one genre to the next. This unique essay collection is particularly suited for use in children's literature courses. Because the contributors are some of the most significant authors and critics in children's literature in English, it should also be part of any academic library's holdings in the criticism of children's literature in particular and literary criticism in general.

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About the Author:

CHARLOTTE F. OTTEN is Professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is the author of A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture and Environ'd with Eternity and has contributed articles to Shakespeare Quarterly, Milton Studies, Notes & Queries, and ELR.

GARY D. SCHMIDT is Associate Professor of English at Calvin College. He wrote The Art of Robert McCloskey and Classic Models of Rhetoric. His articles have been published in Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association, Mediavalia, Medieval Connections, and the Children's Literature Association Quarterly.

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"As Otten and Schmidt note in their preface, voice is a broad metaphor. Thus, the 41 essays in this collection provide varied approaches, examining point of view, focus, selection of details, tone, and even illustrations as part of the narrative identity. Eight genres, including picture books, fantasy, realism, and biography, receive separate study in generally brief articles by writers and more substantial analyses by critics. Too often the writers' voices are weak prefatory testimonies about their narrative habits. Some critical pieces are also weak: one, on books for children in the middle years, does not mention a single text; another concentrates on Canadian prairie fiction written for adults. Balancing such lapses are especially perceptive pieces, such as a study of William Mayne's Drift and an examination of narrative bias in books on medieval history. In her contribution, Jill Paton Walsh describes contemporary criticism as an `inpenetrable thicket of technical terms.' In most cases, the critics here avoid jargon. They speak clearly, offering practical criticism accessible to anyone seriously concerned about narrative technique in children's literature." -- Choice

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