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The Family in English Children's Literature (Children's Literature and Culture) [Kindle Edition]

Ann Alston
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the trials of families experiencing divorce, as in Anne Fine’s Madame Doubtfire, to the childcare problems highlighted in Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker, it might seem that the traditional family and the ideals that accompany it have long vanished. However, in The Family in English Children’s Literature, Ann Alston argues that this is far from the case. She suggests that despite the tales of family woe portrayed in children’s literature, the desire for the happy, contented nuclear family remains inherent within the ideological subtexts of children’s literature. Using 1818 as a starting point, Alston investigates families in children’s literature at their most intimate, focusing on how they share their spaces, their ideals of home, and even on what they eat for dinner. What emerges from Alston’s study are not so much the contrasts that exist between periods, but rather the startling similarities of the ideology of family intrinsic to children’s literature. The Family in English Children’s Literature sheds light on who maintains control, who behaves, and how significant children’s literature is in shaping our ideas about what makes a family "good."


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About the Author

Ann Alston lectures at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK,  with a focus in Welsh Children’s Literature and nineteenth-century constructions of the child. She received her Ph.D in Children’s Literature at Cardiff University, Wales, in 2005.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very useful resource 5 April 2011
Format:Hardcover
A great resource for anyone interested in the themes underlying children's literature. The chapter regarding food and consumption is particularly insightful and original. The previous reviewer has clearly misunderstood the book as their babbling theatrical review shows 'Children are real. They are alive.' -_- The book isn't on a crusade to destroy children's literature as they suggest, it is just genuinely interesting insight into the role of the family and conservatism.
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2 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Real children read children's books! 22 May 2009
Format:Hardcover
The Family in English Children's Literature by Ann Alston

This is a most curious and unsatisfactory book. Its thesis is that wicked children's authors perpetuate the ideal of family in order to control children and socialise them. The author never, ever, even once, considers that children choose what they read. Any teacher could tell her that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get children to read what they don't like. Any child could tell her, if she asked a real live one. Children are real. They exist and are articulate. They write Amazon reviews.

Children are real. They are alive. They have individual characters. This book treats them as if they were robots to be programmed by (the author's concept of) children's writers to uphold conventional social values - Do these really exist today? - and the nuclear family.

Children's writers are real. Each has their own life experiences on which they draw. Children's writers today are subversive. They write to empower children, to offer them resources in a difficult world, not to control them or to support a conventional society - whatever that is today.

As an example of the superficiality of this book, the author has no understanding of stories about a journey, a very frequent theme in all literature, not only children's. These stories take children out of their family, put them through trials and adventures, and then bring them home. The author criticises these books because they bring children home. In her understanding, this part of the children's author's plot to socialise them. She has no insight into the metaphor involved.
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Amazon.com: 2.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Real children read children's books! 22 May 2009
By Joy Manne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Family in English Children's Literature by Ann Alston

This is a most curious and unsatisfactory book. Its thesis is that wicked children's authors perpetuate the ideal of family in order to control children and socialise them. The author never, ever, even once, considers that children choose what they read. Any teacher could tell her that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get children to read what they don't like. Any child could tell her, if she asked a real live one. Children are real. They exist and are articulate. They write Amazon reviews.

Children are real. They are alive. They have individual characters. This book treats them as if they were robots to be programmed by (the author's concept of) children's writers to uphold conventional social values - Do these really exist today? - and the nuclear family.

Children's writers are real. Each has their own life experiences on which they draw. Children's writers today are subversive. They write to empower children, to offer them resources in a difficult world, not to control them or to support a conventional society - whatever that is today.

As an example of the superficiality of this book, the author has no understanding of stories about a journey, a very frequent theme in all literature, not only children's. These stories take children out of their family, put them through trials and adventures, and then bring them home. The author criticises these books because they bring children home. In her understanding, this part of the children's author's plot to socialise them. She has no insight into the metaphor involved. When books about a journey bring children "home," they first bring them home to themselves enriched by the deeper authenticity and greater empowerment they have gained through their adventures. This is what they bring home to their original family. This is what has changed the children and will change the family. The children come home enriched through having surmounted dangers. They have acquired new and better resources including more skilful coping strategies. And these new attainments are to be used in their home because children live in homes, and because story demands that a journey end where it began.

This author has no understanding of Story. Story is real. Story makes its own demands. Plots have to be interesting and endings have to be satisfactory otherwise stories don't get read. A story demands its own appropriate ending. This author should study The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. Then she should take a course in writing stories for children. And then she'll get closer to understanding what she wants to write about.
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