Audacious Kids: Coming of Age in America's Classic Children's Books

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Now often called the "Golden Age of Children's Books," the years stretching from the Civil War to World War I were a remarkable epoch in juvenile literature, an era when the best authors on both sides of the Atlantic--writers such as Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Rudyard Kipling, and Charles Dickens--wrote some of their finest work primarily for children. It was an era in America that produced such timeless childhood classics as Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, ...
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Overview


Now often called the "Golden Age of Children's Books," the years stretching from the Civil War to World War I were a remarkable epoch in juvenile literature, an era when the best authors on both sides of the Atlantic--writers such as Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Rudyard Kipling, and Charles Dickens--wrote some of their finest work primarily for children. It was an era in America that produced such timeless childhood classics as Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, Tarzan of the Apes, and Hans Brinker--books that remain an essential part of mainstream children's literature even to this day.
Now, in Audacious Kids, Jerry Griswold provides a groundbreaking study of twelve of these classic American children's tales, including not only the works mentioned above, but also such time-honored stories as Huckleberry Finn, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and Pollyanna. Griswold offers many intriguing insights into these works. For instance, he explains why the Wicked Witch is angry at Dorothy (for filling her shoes), how Huck Finn wishes to slay his father, and how Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is a precursor of Lolita. His most remarkable insight is that, at bottom, these twelve books all tell essentially the same story: of a child who is orphaned, makes a journey, is adopted by harassing adults, triumphs over them, and comes into his or her own. Griswold also reveals that these tales emphasize certain motifs that are especially American, such as positive thinking, concern with health, and the concealment of sex and violence, and he shows how these secular parables replaced religion with psychology and preached gospels of emotional self-control and optimism.
When people are asked to name their favorite books, an astonishing number mention children's books. Grahame Greene once offered a reason for this. "It is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives," Greene wrote. "What do we ever get nowadays from reading to equal the excitement and the revelation of those first fourteen years?" In Audacious Kids, Jerry Griswold provides the first book-length study of the great classics of American children's literature, a genre that has had a lasting impact on our lives.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
American culture and national identity are both reflected in, and informed by, its writing for children. Griswold devotes a chapter each to a dozen novels from the Golden Age of American children's books 1865-1914. Huck, Rebecca, Oz, Fauntleroy, Tom Sawyer, Toby Tyler, Tarzan, Pollyanna, Hans Brinker, The Prince and the Pauper , Little Women , and The Secret Garden allow Griswold engagingly and originally to analyze the text itself and its interaction with the culture. A common ``ur-story'' is identified in the introduction, and to clarify its variants, the author uses the insights of a psychology shorn of jargon or narrowness. A cogent afterword reflects briefly on the current status of children's literature. Griswold writes clearly, convincingly, and even entertainingly. This thoughtful union of the scholarly and the readable deserves a very wide audience.-- Patricia Dooley, Univ. of Washington Lib. Sch., Seattle
Denise Perry Donavin
Griswold asserts that "there has been no systemic study of what must be reckoned America's mainstream literature: its children's classics." While many will argue this point, his in-depth survey of 12 classic children's stories including "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm", "Little Lord Fauntleroy", "The Wizard of Oz", "Tarzan of the Apes", and "Hans Brinker" is an insightful blend of literary and social history that ends with an interesting political perspective. Because each story features an orphaned or virtually orphaned child who must find a guardian or a resolution to his or her plight, Griswold asserts that these stories are quintessentially American, that is, they are symbolic of our nation's fight for independence and struggle toward maturity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195058888
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/19/1992
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Jerry Griswold is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Fundamental Similarities Among Twelve American Children's Books 3
1 Oedipal Patterns
1 There's No Place but Home: The Wizard of Oz 29
2 The Long Parricidal Dream: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 42
3 Spinster Aunt, Sugar Daddy, and Child-Woman: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm 73
2 Manuals of Republicanism
4 Motherland, Fatherland, or Oedipal Politics: Little Lord Fauntleroy 93
5 Ur of the Ur-Stories: Tarzan of the Apes 104
6 Impostors, Succession, and Faux Histories: The Prince and the Pauper 121
3 The Theater of Feelings
7 Remorse and Regrets: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 143
8 Bosom Enemies: Little Women 156
9 Bread and Circuses: Toby Tyler 167
4 The Gospel of Optimism
10 Sunny Land, Angry Waters: Hans Brinker 187
11 Positive Thinking: The Secret Garden 200
12 Radical Innocence: Pollyanna 215
Afterword 237
Notes 243
Index 275
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