Monday, January 17, 2011

children's literature and its "recognition that there is much in daily life beyond our reach"

David L. Ulin wrote a terrific article recently for the Los Angeles Times's books blog about George Selden's The Cricket in Times Square (1960), which I've never read:

My favorite books for kids are those that start out naturalistically and then go quietly, gently off the rails. "Charlotte's Web" is a perfect example: E.B. White's descriptions of New England farm life are so precise, so deftly rendered, that it seems entirely believable when the animals start talking and Charlotte begins to spell out words in her web.

This, of course, is one of the wonders of children's literature, its sense of the world as mysterious, even magical, its recognition that there is much in daily life beyond our reach. At its best, childhood is like that also, although more often, it can be a landscape of arbitrary rules and inexplicable adult tension, in which too much happens (literally and figuratively) above our heads.

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