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Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children's Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter Paperback – 21 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (21 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415938805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415938808
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 455,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Authors

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Product Description


"If [Zipes'] scholarship could be spread over several curricule vitae, the breadth and quality of it could certainly bring tenure to three or four scholars."-Donald R. Hettinga

About the Author

Jack Zipes is Professor of German at the University of Minnesota. Among his many publications are Don't Bet on the Prince (Routledge), Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (Bantam), and most recently the Oxford Companion to the Fairy Tale.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Since I am going to talk about children and since I am probably going to say many unwise things with which some children might disagree, I would like to give children the first word and quote three wise statements from January 1997 "Monthly Forum for Young Writers" in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Wang on 26 Aug. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Snobby Jack 24 July 2005
By Vivian Unger - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have to confess to being biased, since I enjoy the Harry Potter series, but I think Jack Zipes is a literary snob. He makes the excellent and overlooked point that children's literature is written for children but not by children, in contrast to adult's literature which is written by adults for adults. And yes, this opens the door to all sorts of manipulation of children through literature. And yes, children are not adequately respected in our culture. Unfortunately, Zipes doesn't respect them either. While trashing books such as the Harry Potter series, he utterly fails to listen to the children's protests of, "But we *like* it!" as though that simply isn't relevant. Rather, he has an attitude of, "I know what's best for you, much better than you do." Much the same attitude that an overmoralising children's writer might have. In other words, Zipes himself is guilty of what he criticizes.

It would be an interesting experiment to get children to write their own books, see how well they do, and see if other children would be interested in reading those books. It could open up a whole new vista in children's publishing, though I doubt it. I think it would instead show that children's books are written by adults rather than children because small children can't write well enough.

Zipes makes some interesting points and tackles an underdiscussed topic. It is too bad he is such a snob. Otherwise, he might have listened to children a bit more, and the book itself would be a better read.
53 of 73 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing 5 July 2001
By G. P. Winkler - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I read the final chapter, on Harry Potter, as part of a class on Rowling's work. Zipes has a few good points to make, but they suffocate under needless jargon and tedious, evidence-free assertions about "cultural commodities" and the like.
Zipes's point, so far as I could make it out, is that Harry Potter became a "phenomenon" only because the books are incredibly conventional (a "hodgepodge" of pop-culture motifs) and formulaic. I agree that each novel follows a recurring pattern, even a formula, but Zipes never says why that's bad. (Perhaps it's obvious to lit-crit folk.) And the pop-culture ties, IMHO, lend texture to Rowling's parallel universe--which, I increasingly think, is not fantasy but satire.
Actually, Zipes goes further, seemingly asserting that ONLY a conventional work could become a phenomenon, given the "hegemonic groups" that run our culture. That's a big, interesting assertion, and I wish Zipes had fleshed it out with reasoning, details, and examples. It would help too to know more about these nameless hegemons. Who are they? How do they enforce their cultural supremacy? (In fairness to Zipes, he may address these points earlier in the book.)
Several readings of the Harry Potter chapter--and a thumbs-down from the prof, who read the whole volume--have left me thinking this is a book to skip.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Investigation into Children's Lit 5 Jan. 2013
By LitWit - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So, let's talk about Jack Zipes, and this book. I believe this is an excellent introduction to the field of Children's Literature and the dialogue surrounding Children's Literature. Zipes is amazing with research and he quickly summarizes the fields hottest topics while constantly name dropping. This is invaluable for anyone one starting out in this field because not only do you get a decent general summary of the study, you get Zipes' own views, AND Zipes provides you with the names of virtually all the major players in the field of Children's Lit, the names of their works, and he generally provides a brief glimpse of what to expect from the books. Seriously, INVALUABLE.

At this point, I've read almost everything Zipes has ever written and I can tell you this (providing one with additional readings and research tools) is one of the things he does best. So, if you want to start in Children's Lit, I think you could do much worse than starting here. Now, onto Zipes. Zipes has consistently been criticized as a literary snob. Well, Jack Zipes is, hands down, the WORLD'S foremost fairy tale scholar, his educational background is impeccable, and his research (the depth) is top-notch. I find that most scholars are literary snobs, but really, isn't what the academy trains us to be? And if someone of Zipes' caliber can't be a literary snob, who can? Additionally, the questions he is raising in this book: questions about consumerism and Children's Lit, the problems inherent in defining or categorizing Children's Lit, and Children's Lit and popular culture are all important and necessary questions.

Remember, the field and study of Children's Lit is still relatively new. We are still trying to understand it and, in fact, the academy hasn't even recognized it as a legitimate area of study. So, when Zipes suggests that Children's Lit has more to do with adults than children (which is one of his contentions) it is something to consider for a variety of reasons. That being said, Zipes relies predominately on a historical lens and a Marxist lens for his research and if that's not your thing, you're not going to agree with him...ever. Two other nuisances in Zipes' work are that he does tend to get fairly repetitive and the more he writes, the more I notice he contradicts himself. Not a lot you can do about the repetitiveness...skim if it gets to be doesn't mean he has nothing of value to say. Regarding the contradictions, I love them because they help me when I don't agree with him (and I don't always agree with him). Beyond that however, whatever, okay, the more you write...and he's written a lot, the higher the chance you will contradict yourself. It happens. People grow, their opinions change. I wouldn't ever say to just overlook it. Definitely take note, but his contradictions don't necessarily negate his entire argument or entire body of work.
17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Zipes misses the point about Harry Potter 15 Dec. 2001
By Margaret Macary - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While I admire Zipes work in general, I think he's missed the point about Harry Potter. Zipes remarks that Harry is a classic boy scout, a straight arrow (...). He complains that the novels follow a tedious and grating fairy tale formula (...). The only difference between Harry and anyone else, according to Zipes, is that Harry has a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead (178).
Zipes misses the point on the importance of the scar - the scar is the central metaphor of the series and the importance of scars and wounding says something about our culture's adoption of this particular hero.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A tad over-negative, but well thought out. 24 Oct. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Zipes has good points to make. Some children's work IS watered down and/or derivative. The concept that we should really THINK about what our "Children's Literature" is saying to us is though provoking, as are his specific arguments.
The Harry Potter chapter was well done. Zipes dares to make the points that Rowling's work is sexist and elitist, that the characters are cliches, and that more people _say_ they have read them than actually have.
What I felt the book lacked was a concrete plan to improve the situation--then again I'm not sure that was what he was after.
A great read for students of literature in general!
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