Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon, illustrated by Clement Hurd (1947); Ruth Krauss, A Hole Is to Dig (1952), illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
Starting our second unit on picturebooks today
BOOKS FOR VERY YOUNG READERS: What should books for very young readers have? What makes them books for very young readers?
(1) IS IT SUBJECT MATTER? Is it their subject matter that makes these suitable for very young (say preschool through 2nd grade) children?
Consider Mother Goose -- Three versions of "Mary, Mary, quite contrary
- Blanche Fisher Wright, The Real Mother Goose (1915), pp. 80-81
- Rosemary Wells, Here Comes Mother Goose (1999), p. 12.
- Charles Addams, The Charles Addams Mother Goose (1967).
which of these are for the very young? And why? How do you know?
- Try them out on actual children (results may vary)
- consult a children's librarian
- The Reading Teacher
- children's literature subject guide (in library)
(2) I'm always bringing in books not on the syllabus because, as a teacher, your homework never ends: you should always be reading books for children, trying to keep up. Every year, there 1,000s of picturebooks published. RESOURCES FOR FINDING (and finding out about) BOOKS....
- AWARDS: Check the Caldecott Awards, Newbery Awards, Coretta Scott King Awards, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards, Carneige Awards, etc. See <http://www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/weblinks/literary/childrens.html#awards.children>
- CHILDREN'S LIBRARIAN (Jennifer Bergen at Manhattan Public Library, for example).
- the children's literature subject guide.
- The Reading Teacher (journal).
- BROWSE the children's section of the bookstore, the children's section of public libraries and take notes when you do! The Children's Bookshop is right here in Aggieville
- CHILD_LIT listserv. A community of teacher (primary, secondary, college-level), librarians, authors, illustrators, and others -- all of whom are interested in children's books. See <http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~mjoseph/childlit/about.html> for information on how to subscribe. To get the feel of it, you might lurk for a while before you post. Also, once you're subscribed, you can search the archives -- very useful.
The Bank Street School: One person's answer to the question of what makes books apt. for the very young...
(notes from Leonard Marcus' Awakened by the Moon, chapters two and three)
Cooperative School for Student Teachers, a.k.a. Bank Street School (school was located at 69 Bank Street, in Greenwich Village, New York City). It began in 1916 (44).
How the School Worked: "During the early 1930s Bank Street was the scene of a robust social experiment" (Marcus 44)
- observation and study mixed: "proceeded as much by observation and experiment as by formal classroom study" (Marcus 44).
- mix of faculty: "core faculty of psychologists, educational reformers, anthropologists, and artists taught the trainees" (Marcus 44).
- facutly, trainees, children: The trainees would help faculty with research, and the children at the Bank Street Nursery School were the subjects (Marcus 44).
- Lucy Sprague Mitchell (1878-1967) ran the school. Though the day-to-day operations seemed fairly chaotic, she was in charge.
The central ideas behind Bank Street:
- "to teach children effectively one ha[s] first to understand how the young experienced reality at every stage of their natural development." Traditional schools didn't do this: "At traditional schools, including all American public schools at the time [Bank Street was founded], children were treated as incomplete adults who chiefly required lessons in discipline and certain skills [...] as preparation for their future lives in the marketplace or at home" (Marcus 44). So, the Bank Street group wanted to develop an "accurate flexible definition of children's developmental stages" (Marcus 45)
- Emphasis on potential of child at any given stage: The goal of the Bank Street teaching "was to provide children with learning situations in which to develop as fully as possible in accordance with their individual potentials" (Marcus 45)
- advocated "relationship thinking": "understanding is enhanced whenever the individual elements of a question are seen in relation to each other" (Marcus 45)
- "here and now" philosophy advocated by Lucy Sprague Mitchell in her Here and Now Storybook (1921):
- Children do not learn language in order to communicate. They learn it because it's fun to play with words (Marcus 51-52, good examples both pages).
- example: MWB's "Nibble Nibble Nibble" (posthumously published, 1959)
- example: Ruth Krauss's A Hole Is to Dig (1952, illus. by Sendak).
- Sound is more important than meaning: "Children begin to play with sounds before words have any meaning to them" (Mitchell, qtd. in Marcus 52)
- example: Think here of nonsense poetry, of Lear, Carroll, Seuss, even of my nephew's story.
- Children's meaningful utterances reflect "immersion in the here-and-now world of the sensory realm" (Marcus 52):
- example: Read examples from page 52. Some examples recorded by Mitchell include: instead of speaking (or thinking) of "climbing a hill" (abstract adult concept), a child might speak of going up "the place where the legs ache"; instead of "night is falling" (also an abstract adult idea), a child might say, "The big shadow is all around" (Marcus 52).
- my personal example: When I was a kid, our outdoor trash cans were metal. The sound they made when bumped into or when you put the lid on them was "crash!" Before I understood that they were called "trash cans," I called them "crash cans."
- No fairy tales. The present-day world is fantastic to kids.
- example: MWB's The Important Book (1949, illus. by Leonard Weisgard) -- read about apple, wind, sky, -- and you.
- example: MWB's Willie's Adventures (1954, illus. by Crockett Johnson) -- read about "Willie's Walk."
- example: MWB's Goodnight Moon (1947)
- No Romanticized view of nature or family, with idealized version of "happy child at home in harmonious natural surroundings" (Marcus 53); instead, urban settings -- in the 1920s, most American children lived in cities. Skyscrapers, airplanes, tugboats, trolleys....
- Trust the child's imagination.
Margaret Wise Brown and Ruth Krauss both attended the Bank Street School, though whether or not they were there at the same time I do not know. I think Krauss was there later, and I do know that Krauss admired MWB's work (letter from 1951 or 1952).
As we look at their work, think about
- the here-and-now philosophy's influence
- the artwork.
Margaret Wise Brown (1910-52) & Clement Hurd (1908-88): Goodnight Moon (1947)
The Following comes from Leonard Marcus' The Making of Goodnight Moon:
- Brown claimed that she "dreamt" her books and, of Goodnight Moon this appears to have been the case: she awoke early one morning in 1945, and wrote out the text to Goodnight Moon. She then called Ursula Nordstrom, the editor of Harper's Books for Boys and Girls (with whom MWB had worked before), and read the manuscript to her aloud, over the telephone. Nordstrom accepted it at once.
- Clement Hurd, who had illustrated her Runaway Bunny, was abroad, in military service in the Pacific. Brown wanted him to illustrate the book and waited for him to return.
- Hurd worked on the illustrations for most of 1946.
- The mouse: where should it be?
- Should the old lady be depicted as an old lady (Hurd's preference) or as a rabbit (MWB's and UN's preference)?
- Hurd even tried a young black boy [presumably in place of the rabbit]
- UN and MWB persuaded him to paint the rabbits....
- In looking at the pictures, and listening to the words of this book, what do you notice?
- Any of the "here and now" philosophy?
- Poetry: Notice that this book is written in verse.
- Artwork: How do the illustrations work with (or against) the text? What style of illustration?
- Post-impressionist sense of color (think of Van Gogh) but more realist or even Romantic (MWB sent reproduction of Goya's Boy in Red to Hurd) sense of drawing items
- Applications for teaching?
- PEGGY RATHMANN's Good Night, Gorilla (1994) -- inspired by or an homage to MWB's Goodnight Moon
biographical note on Margaret Wise Brown (from Marcus's bio)
- MWB wrote over 100 children's books in her short life, and of many kinds: short stories, picture books (illus.), poetry....
- This author of over 100 children's books had no children of her own.
- She led a fascinating life -- and I recommend Leonard Marcus's biography.
- Interesting that a person who wrote about cute furry animals (The Little Fur Family) also was a hunter and shot cute furry animals...
- had long-term intense relationships with both women and men: the actress/socialite Michael Strange (former spouse of John Barrymore), and MWB was engaged to marry James Rockefeller at the time of her death.
- She died in France in 1952 -- On Oct. 30, went into the hospital to remove an ovarian cyst. "As a precaution, her appendix was also removed" (Marcus 276). On Nov. 13, she was about to be released from hospital. When her nurse came in, Margaret, lying in bed, did a can-can style kick over her head to indicate how well she was doing. She then blacked out and died. As it turned out, she'd formed an embolism in her leg, which, at that moment, dislodged and went straight to her brain (Marcus 279). She was 42.
Ruth Krauss (1901-93) & Maurice Sendak (b. 1928): A Hole Is To Dig (1952)
OTHER WORK by RUTH KRAUSS
- Derives from a Bank Street School game called "Definitions." Very much embodies the here and now philosophy of Bank Street.
- For A Hole Is to Dig (1952), Krauss interviewed the Kindergarten class of Harriet Sherman, in Rowayton, Connecticut. And she had Eleanor Reich, then head of the Bank St. Nursery School (this is the Harriet Johnson Nursery School), asking her teachers to collect definitions from four-year-olds and five-year-olds there. Though, Krauss said, "I really prefer doing the research myself" because "teachers are apt to skip a lot of definitions that are really interesting in favor of those more obviously amusing" (letter to UN, January 1951).
- Her first collaboration with Maurice Sendak. She would go on to collaborate on seven more with Sendak: A Very Special House (1953), I'll Be You and You Be Me (1954), Charlotte and the White Horse (1955), I Want to Paint My Bathroom Blue (1956), The Birthday Party (1957), Somebody Else's Nut Tree, and Other Tales from Children (1958), Open House for Butterflies (1960).
- Starting in October of 1951, Maurice Sendak began spending some weekends with Ruth and Crockett Johnson (her husband, a.k.a. Dave). Maurice considers this his apprenticeship.
- Comment upon the layout of the book -- text and illustrations and all -- how does it work together?
- Notice varying size of text and illustrations, often small animal or child off in the corner of the picture: why?
- Children are not romanticized, not cute. They're urban kids, scruffy and all.
- Notice recurring themes
- Notice transitions between pages (they are not arbitrary).
- Applications for teaching? How could you use this book in class?
- narrative: The Carrot Seed (1945, illus. by Crockett Johnson), The Happy Day (1949, illus. by Simont)
- concept books / child's eye view: How to Make an Earthquake (1954, illus. by Johnson); A Moon or a Button (1959, illus. by Remy Charlip); Open House for Butterflies (1960, illus. by Sendak); This Thumbprint (1967, illus. by Krauss herself)
- she wrote 50 books in all.
- Because of my ongoing work on a biography of Crockett J. and Ruth K. (they were married), I can tell you quite a lot about Ruth. Anything you'd like to know?
OTHER BOOKS FOR THE VERY YOUNG
- SANDRA BOYNTON
- Hippos Go Berserk! (1977)
- Snoozers (1997)
- Many others!
- MICK INKPEN
- Wibbly Pig Is Happy & the other Wibbly books.
- REBECCA EMBERLY
- My Opposites / Mis Opuestos (2000), My Colors / Mis Colores (2000)
LESSONS for TODAY:
|A mix of the PRACTICAL
||and the HISTORICAL / LITERARY
- How to figure out the reading age, find new books
- Game of definitions
- Newer authors (Boynton, Inkpen, Emberly)
- Bank Street School
- Classics: Brown, Krauss, Sendak
NEW BULLETIN BOARD QUESITON: In this next unit (which began today), we're looking at books for very young children and, today, in class, we tried to determine what characteristics a book for the preschool-to-second-grade set should have. Let me ask that question here, too: of the books we've looked at this semester, which one (or two) -- in your view -- seems to be appropriate for very young readers? And why? What's your criteria for including it?
A few words of advice: support your answer with examples from the text, and remember to develop your answer fully. Also: please avoid broad generalizations about the preschool-to-second-grade age group. When possible, base your generalizations either on criteria we've discussed in class or on the actual experience of children from this age group. That is, perhaps you have friends and acquaintances in this age group? (A son, daughter, niece, nephew, student, neighbor's child, or simply a young friend
?) What book or books does your young friend like? If possible, ask a young child to help you with your homework -- how does he or she react to the book in question? If not possible, perhaps you can recall your own childhood favorites and use those favorites as reference points.
- Molly Bang asst. due Monday
- Web Projects: Work on Critical Contexts
- Monday's reading: Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen
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This page was last updated on Friday, March 28, 2003