Children’s Literature Exam
Traditional Fairy tales View on children
o Puritans believe we are born inherently sinful; role of childhood is to discipline
the unruly sinful spirit and children were considered smaller adults.
Poems and stories designed to teach lessons
o Locke argued we come into the world a blank state, Rousseau then argued that
children are not mini adults, but are innocent and corrupt by society.
o Romantic movement children have a closer connection to the divine than adults
because they lose connection with heaven as they grow.
o Freud suggested that children possess deepseated rage and resentment of their
Folk and Fairy tales Differences
o Folk tales are based on oral literature
o Literary tales are written by a single author who follows fairy tale conventions.
o Revisionist tales take a recognizable fairy tale and give it a twist or they tell a new
story that follows conventions that it is still recognizable.
Folk and Fairy tales Conventions
o Once upon a time and happily ever after
o Magic enchanted objects, witches, godmothers, spells etc.
o Good vs. evil characters in these stories are not usually morally complex. The
good are usually beautiful while the bad are ugly.
o Animal villain i.e like the wolf
o Absent mother or neglectful father although fathers are usually idealized
o Youngest sibling/Royalty protagonist is usually the youngest and is an underdog.
Also involves royal families.
o Prohibition stories often begin with a warning or instructions.
Charles Perrault vs. Grimm Brothers Cinderella
o Sense of injustice does not go unobserved
Perrault’s Cinderella has a fairy godmother rescue her whereas the grimm
brothers’ heroine plants a hazel branch on her mother’s grave and waters
it with tears bird grants wishes
Grimm Brother’s Cinderella is more proactive, she devises her own plan
to go to the ball. Perrault’s Cinderella’s virtue lies in her obedience.
Grimm Brothers is more violent stepsister cuts off toe in order to fit in the
shoe. Perrault’s character forgives the stepsisters.
Grimm Brothers’ tales are fairly simple and easy for oral retelling and
Perrault’s is embellished with detail and attached with a moral.
Revisionist Fairy Tales
o Paper Bag Princess Munsch uses many fairy tale conventions but he breaks away from
tradition. Elizabeth rescues Ronald but instead of using selfsacrifice she
uses cleverness and courage.
She ends up rejecting the marriage at the end in a twist.
Story is told as much through picture as it is through words. Pictures show
Ronald’s snobbery through his tenniswear, and stuck up posture.
Critique of the original fairy tales creates a morally complex, brave,
angry heroine. Draws our attention to gender dynamics
o When the Clock Strikes
Story is constructed like a dramatic monologue we are not sure if the
speaker is male or female but the auditor assumes the speaker is death.
Association of magic with witchcraft Lee returns to a context that has
been censored out.
Lee draws our attention to the issues of power
o The Tale of the Handkerchief
Allows reader to recognize complexities in both the maid and princess.
The maid never forgets to be afraid and her punishment turns inwards.
Ironically former princess is happier as the goose girl.
Idea that identity is a matter of choice rather than the social position in
which you are born into.
o The Company of Wolves
A kind of modern retelling of little red ridding hood.
Reversal of expectation takes place when the girl takes control and instead
of being eaten by the wolf she takes the lead sexually and tames him.
Only way for her to assume power is sexually by embracing her rapist.
The Princess and the Goblin
o Christian Allegory
The goblins live at the bottom in caves, Irene’s castle in the middle, and
Curdie’s house at the top of the mountain.
Irene’s house also has 3 levels to it the great grandmother lives in the
attic, the middle is the ordinary part of the house, and the wine cellar is
where the goblins break in.
Top seems to represent heaven irene’s great grandmother serve as a link
to God. She can only be found by faith and is old, and associated with
o Spirit, Mind and body
The attic and mountain top represent the spirit inhabited by those who
have a spiritual connection to the divine.
Earth is the realm of the mind Curdie’s clever rhymes work best n earth
Caves are the body inhabited by goblins whom are beastly and grotesque.
They live in the dark.
People drove the goblins underground grudge against royalty Goblins have a fear of mixed marriages
Goblins become distracted by the wine in the cellar mimicks the native
o Nursery rhymes short, memorable rhymes that are used to lull children to sleep.
o Didactic teach the children something, or help them to remember.
Mnemonic devices, alphabets, counting poems, moralistic rhymes
Moralistic and didactic rhymes serve adult interests rather than the child’s
o Entertaining Poems appear to have no purpose
Games, tongue twisters, riddles, jokes, nonsense poems
Nursery Rhymes Alligator Pie
o Captures the fun of nursery rhymes but with a Canadian context.
o World we find in the poems has distinct characteristics:
Canadian references to places in Canada such as Mississauga
Urban his poems have an urban setting, references to Laundromats,
Modern mentions apparatuses of a modern day kid’ life, such as bicycles,
popsicles, coke machines
o Poems are entertaining for children because of bum humour, nonsense words used
for the way they sound rather than sense, adults do silly things, and illustrations,
and references to wellknown children stories/songs.
o Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll invented ‘nonsense’ as children’s literature genre,
it is a rebellion against children’s literature conventions.
o Lear and Carroll poke fun at and escape the boundaries of didactic poetry by
disrupting the idea that goodness is rewarded and evil is punished.
Does this by focusing on language and how it sounds not what they mean.
Makes us aware of the rules of grammar, which help us to understand.
o Invented words lear and carroll make up words and then use them frequently
“runcible and scroobious”
o Misplaced adjective and verbs
o Rhyme more important than the meaning
o Reversal of expectations the owl and the pussycat
Nonsense creates an enclosed world The Complete Nonsense of Edward
o Lear’s limericks are characterized by preoccupations:
Physical abnormalities enormous noses, chins, beards etc.
Violence violence is unexplainable, whereas in Victorian society violence
was to punish wrongdoing. “They” poems feature an unnamed and usually hostile mob of people.
o His poems feature misfits that are surrounded by potentially violent people who
do not understand them.
o Sea voyage Quangle Wangle functions as the first domestic slave. There is an
abundance of resources at each island the children go to. The children have a
disastrous impact on the natural environment on the places they visit. Exploitation
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
o Carroll mocks traditional, moralistic, and didactic children’s literature by making
parodies of poetry
Mocks the moral messages of famous poems by replacing the bee in
‘against idleness and mischief’ to a predatory animal.
Also mocks the popular children’s poem ‘Father William’. The poem
originally echoes Puritan ideas but Carroll reverses the moral values.
o The Queen’s urge to punish is exaggerated to the point of absurdity and this
makes fun of cautionary tales that reduce morality to simple rules that must be
followed or else there will be punishment.
o Duchess tries to find a moral in everything
Victorian moralism becomes literally nonsense after she goes crazy
o Schools were seen as a status symbol Alice tells the mock turtle she learnt French
Through the Looking Glass
o Alice’s adventures in wonderland and through the looking glass have important
In AAW, the transition to dream world is abrupt because she falls down a
rabbit hole”. In TTLG the transition is obvious and gradual because she is
in a half sleep and then goes to look at the looking glass.
The looking glass world is friendlier than wonderland the creatures are
more helpful and less hostile. She plays all around the mulberry bush with
tweedledee and dum.
Looking glass world is more predictable than wonderland because it is
based on a chess game.
Carroll brings nursery rhymes to life.
The Hobbit The Appeal of Fantasy:
o Reader identifies with a powerful character
Although Bilbo is not powerful like Gandalf he is more relatable because
there is room for development.
o Focus on action characters face dangerous lifeanddeath situations instead of
confronting psychological concerns.
The Hobbit is slowmoving and begins by explaining who is who.
o Fantasy novels are usually set in a distant past in an invented world.
The Hobbit is set “long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less
noise and more green”(5) Makes the novel less obviously for and about children
o Act of battle through riddles, rhymes, and play games
Invites the readers to interact with the story as active participants. Tolkein
allows readers to decipher the book title, and to participate with Bilbo’s
riddle with Gollum.
Bilbo scares the spiders away by throwing rocks a skill he developed as a
Curdie recites rhymes to scare Goblins away, Jim Hawkin’s dodge ball
experience equips him for battle.
o Key theme avoidance of growing up. Growing up means losing imagination and
succumbing to the workplace. Child’s lit usually allows the children to take an
adult roles but Peter pan expresses an adult nostalgia for lost childhood
o Fantasy elements intrude in the real world and blur the lines between fantasy and
Nana is a dog thinks in words, and combs the children’s hair and gets
them ready for bed.
Mrs. Darling has a kiss in the corner of her mouth that is visible she can
tidy up her children’s minds
Peter’s shadow is detachable Mrs. Darling examines it as if it was normal.
o Narrator of Peter Pan combines internal and external narrator
Uses I for a bit and interacts freely with the readers.
Can also influence and interact with the characters.
He does not just tell events of the story he shapes the story and debates
several adventures to tell us of their time in Neverland. He is not the
typical reliable narrator, instead he is tempermental.
o Men in the story are overgrown children
Tries to tell Michael that he took is medicine without a peep and then
when it is his turn to take it he resorts to name calling
Captain hook is obsessed with good form and honour but then tries to
poison peter in his sleep.
o Women are already grown up
Wendy wants to be grown up, she acts like a mother to the kids in
All female characters seem sexually aware wendy, tiger lilly, and
tinkerbell are all possessive over peter.
o Peter sacrifices his memory he is untouched by the reality of the world’s
He also sacrifices his relationships because he must stay back as wendy
and her family reunite in order to remain a child. Boys Adventure Novels Children’s Lit has historically been characterised by a sharp
contrast between books written for boys and for girls
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
o Combines elements of the boys’ adventure novel with picture book genre. Pictures
are integral to how the story is told.
o Typical boy’s book:
Homeawayhome pattern. Peter begins at home, then garden and returns
at the end of the day after adventures
Individualism Peter is the only one of his siblings with a human name and
is the only boy (other rabbits wear red like his mother while peter wears
Life and death danger his father was put in a pie by mr mcgregor.
Restrictive maternal figure escape from female authority figures
Good girls vs. bad boys girls obey and are civilized while Peter loses all
o Children are absent from parents in order to have their adventures
Gandalf is like a parent to Bilbo he plays the role of mentor and protector.
Pushes him into adventure, and protects him when the dwarves are
captured by trolls.
Bilbo develops self resilience
o Rule or warnings will be disregarded
Gandalf tells Bilbo and Dwarves not to leave the path of course they do.
Leads to Bilbo rescuing the dwarves and naming his sword after killing a
o Focus on adventure development rather than moral
Bilbo leaves the comforts of home and gains qualities of courage and
o HomeAway Home pattern (also found in Alice books)
Bilbo frequently looks back longingly on the home he left behind after his
escape from the goblin cave. Home represents comfort.
o Focus on the individual hero rather than cooperation and community
Death of Jim’s father he is able to leave home and become apart of a new
all male group that replaces his nuclear family.
Jim Runs away from Dr. Livesey and Smollet whenever possible (Stifle
his independence). Gives Long John Silver ‘the slip’. When he is
surrounded by adults Jim is unable to be a hero.
Independence is of higher value for Jim than loyalty/ obedience o Life and Death Adventure
Girls’ books tend to revolve around domestic mishaps while boys’ books
Adult Jim narrating the story, and gradual escalation of violence prepare
children for violence culmination is when he kills Israel.
o Outdoor, allmale, public environments
Few female characters in Treasure Island prominent being Jim’s mother
but she is a foolish, stubborn woman who faints at danger
Jim is never enclosed in a purely domestic environment even his house is
Must have a frightening and fascinating villain Long John Silver is
especially memorable because of his manipulation.
Stevenson stems away from clearcut distinctions of good/bad, the most
evil pirate appears friendly.
Treasure Island Focus on Jim and Long John Silver
o Long John is Jim’s alter ego
They both move freely back and fourth between the two worlds (the world
of pirates and the world of gentleman). This stems from their ability to
change their language depending on whom they are speaking with.
Jim cannot hang out with the pirates without some of their values and
behaviour rubbing off on him.
Silver uses language to make things happen he flatters, appeals to
imagination, and weighs pros and cons. While Jim uses his narration of the
story to reflect himself in the best possible light.
o Both have an attitude of every man for himself
Jim constantly goes off on his own leaving the others in danger. While
Silver plots to double cross the other pirates.
o Both possess ingenuity able to react rapidly to changing circumstances