Readers In Wonderland: The Liberating Worlds of Fantasy Fiction

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9780826414694: Readers In Wonderland: The Liberating Worlds of Fantasy Fiction

In recent decades there has been an acceleration of interest in fantasy fiction, which is more and more being read by adults as well as by children.In this fascinating book, the author discusses the work of more than eighty writers mostly from the past half century, and shows why their tales have proved to be so compelling, particularly in recent years. Fantasy reading does not merely provide escape from troubles and aid in developing the self, it also helps one respond to all that is outside the private self. It shows how to make sense of a confusing world by offering coherence and a sense of larger possibilities.O'Keefe examines a wide range of children's fantasy books, and draws on her own experiences as a sympathetic reader as well as on the views of psychologists and social theorists—all in a writing style that has been described by Jane Yolen as "powerful and convincing." [title] ranges from William Steig's small picture books to J. R. R. Tolkien's epic series; from utopias like L. Frank Baum's Oz to dystopias like Virginia Hamilton's Dustland; from less known works like Patricia Wrightson's to the phenomenon that isJ.K. Rowling's Harry Potter; from time travel to parallel worlds; and from magical transformations and wishes that come true to lonely journeys and huge battles of good and evil.These tales follow the logic of their strange circumstances, telling what happens when a magic charm allows children to have exactly half of what they wish for; what happens when an eighteenth-century boy walks out of the crack in a modern hillside; when a dying girl's mind and memories are transferred into the body of a chimp; when a stream that confers immortality is kept secret by the family that drank its water.O'Keefe explains why the Harry Potter books are so popular, and why William Nicholson is the first great fantasy writer to start publishing in the twenty-first century. Writing in an informal style, she introduces the reader to many wonderful books, and provides insights into plot, character, theme, and texture. In sum, she presents original ideas about individual books, about types of books, and about the whole world of what Dr. Seuss called "outlandish tales.">

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From the Publisher:

"At first glance Deborah O'Keefe's professed goal, "to introduce specific admirable works--with glimpses of plot, character, texture, and theme--and to discuss ideas about individual books, types of books, and the whole field of fantasy literature", may seem wildly ambitious. Yet, almost from the first page, O'Keefe establishes that she is more than capable of doing just this and doing it in a manner that makes clear both her wide reading of fantasy literature for all ages and her ability to frame that literature in a variety of psychological and cultural contexts that bring new insights to these texts. . . . [S]he contends that, in a world that is increasingly complicated, even grim, fantasy shows children of all ages "[h]ow to deal with the weird and complicated world outside" the self. . . . This book is highly recommended for all levels of readers interested in fantasy literature. O'Keefe infuses her study with wit and a luminous intelligence."-Science Fiction Studies, vol. 31, 2004

About the Author:

Deborah O'Keefe is the author of Good Girl Messages: How Young Women Were Misled by Their Favorite Books (Continuum, 2000); Readers in Wonderland: The Liberating Worlds of Fantasy Fiction from Dorothy to Harry Potter (Continuum 2003); and articles in the New York Times and other publications. She has degrees from Smith, Cornell, and Columbia, and has taught at Vassar College and at Manhattanville College. She lives in Chappaqua, New York.

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