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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s literature

“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses”*…

 

In the original edition of Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 German children’s book, the most famous character—Struwwelpeter, or “Shockheaded Peter,” whose name later became the book’s title—appeared last. In six short, illustrated stories, Hoffman, a physician from Frankfurt, told grisly moral tales: of a boy who wasted away after refusing his soup, another who lay writhing in pain after a mistreated dog exacted revenge, and yet another who had his thumb cut off after he sucked on it one too many times. Struwwelpeter’s sin was that he never cut his nails, bathed, or combed his hair; his punishment was distinct and cruel—he was unloved…

More original illustrations from the book that inspired Edward Scissorhands at “The 19th-Century Book of Horrors That Scared German Kids Into Behaving.”

* Neil Gaiman

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As we mind our p’s and q’s, we might send polymathic birthday greetings to James Weldon Johnson; he was born on this date in 1871.  An African-American author, college professor, lawyer, diplomat (US consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua), songwriter, and civil rights activist, he is probably best remembered for his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he started working in 1917 and of which he later became the first African-American head.

A part of the Harlem Renaissance, Johnson’s literary works included memoir, poems, novels, anthologies– and a children’s book.

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“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest”*…

 

In the mid 17th-century John Comenius published what many consider to be the first picture book dedicated to the education of young children, Orbis Sensualium Pictus – or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses drawn in Pictures, as it was rendered in English…

Originally published in 1658 in Latin and German, the Orbis — with its 150 pictures showing everyday activities like brewing beer, tending gardens, and slaughtering animals — is immediately familiar as an ancestor of today’s children’s literature. This approach centered on the visual was a breakthrough in education for the young, as was the decision to teach the vernacular in addition to Latin. Unlike treatises on education and grammatical handbooks, it is aimed directly at the young and attempts to engage on their level.

The Orbis was hugely popular. At one point it was the most used textbook in Europe for elementary education, and according to one account it was translated into “most European and some of the Oriental languages.” Its author John Comenius, a Czech by birth, was also well-known throughout Europe and worked in several countries as a school reformer. His portrait was painted by Rembrandt, and according to an 1887 edition of the Orbis, Comenius was even “once solicited to become President of Harvard College.” (Although he never came to Harvard, one can still find his name engraved on the western frieze of Teachers College at Columbia University.) Even if he is less celebrated today by name, his innovative ideas about education are still influential. In his Didactica Magna, for example, he advocates for equal educational opportunities for all: boys and girls, rich and poor, urban and rural…

Read more in Charles McNamara’s “In the Image of God: John Comenius and the First Children’s Picture Book.”

* C.S. Lewis

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As we see Spot run, we might recall that this the date commonly given for the for the day that the Pied Piper (Rattenfänger) led the children of Hamelin, Germany, into a mountain cave.

A German version of the tale seems to have survived in a 1602/1603 inscription found in Hamelin in the Rattenfängerhaus (Pied Piper’s, or Ratcatcher’s house):

Anno 1284 am dage Johannis et Pauli
war der 26. junii
Dorch einen piper mit allerlei farve bekledet
gewesen CXXX kinder verledet binnen Hamelen gebo[re]n
to calvarie bi den koppen verloren  

which has been translated into English as:

In the year of 1284, on John’s and Paul’s day
was the 26th of June
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours,
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
and lost at the place of execution near the Koppen.

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“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”*…

 

Between 1900 and 1920, L. Frank Baum published 14 Oz books.  Astoundingly popular, the books spawned many theatrical adaptations (well before the classic 1939 movie we all know), as well as saga-themed objects like dolls, figurines– all aimed at an enormous fan base, the early century equivalent of Trekkies or Lord of the Rings freaks.  Among the theme merchandise, the 1921 Parker Bros. game pictured above.

The story’s popularity was such that this wasn’t even the first Parker Bros. Oz game. That was the Wogglebug Game of Conundrums, a card game published in 1905 and based on a character from Baum’s second Oz book, the sequel to Wizard. (You can see Wogglebug in the bottom right-hand quadrant of this gameboard.)

Many of the characters and places scattered around the 1921 board will be unfamiliar to people who know the Oz story from the 1939 movie or the original book (by far the most famous of the series). The presence of Woot and Ugu shows how familiar the whole Oz series would have been to the game’s audience…

More (and larger photos) at “The First Wizard of Oz–Themed Board Game, Sold to 1920s Superfans.”

Special Bonus:  Freud, Nietzsche, Carnap, and Marx: who would win at Monopoly?

* Dorothy

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As we follow the yellow brick road, we might send mischievous birthday greetings to Beverly Cleary; she was born on this date in 1916.  One of America’s most successful writers of children’s literature, she has sold 91 million copies of her books– including Henry Huggins, and the Ramona series– worldwide.

Cleary won the 1981 National Book Award and the 1984 Newbery Medal; for her lifetime contributions to American literature, she has received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association.

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Written by LW

April 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Judging books by their covers is seriously underrated”*…

 

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How to Poo on a Date has won the 36th annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

The book, by Mats & Enzo, published by Prion Press, topped a public vote to find the oddest title, in one of the closest contests in prize history. In the end, How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette, took home the title with 30% of the vote, beating into second place Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown (Pan South Africa) andThe Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews (ECW Press), which both captured 23% of voters.

The rest of the shortlist [pictured above] was made up of early frontrunner Working Class Cats: The Bodega Cats of New York City by Chris Balsiger ands Erin Canning (One Peace Books), with 14%; Pie-ography: Where Pie Meets Biography by Jo Packham (Quarry) with 6%; and How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God by Ian Punnett (Harmony Books), with 4% of the votes…

Previous titles from Mats & Enzo, How to Poo on HolidayHow to Poo at Work and How to Bonk at Work, were all previously nominated for the prize. Tom Tivnan, features and  insight editor at The Bookseller, and Diagram Prize administrator, said: “The two were in danger of becoming perpetual Diagram bridesmaids, like Beryl Bainbridge and the Booker.”

He added: “In recent years, Diagram Prize voters have showed their catholic tastes by selecting rarefied food science titles (The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais, 2008), zoological studies (Bombproof Your Horse, 2004), and highbrow experimental literature (The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, 2003). Yet after Mats and Enzo’s win this year, with The Origin of Feces on the shortlist, and Saiyuud Diwong’s Cooking with Poo taking the crown in 2011, an all too-clear trend emerges. Diagram devotees have spoken, and spoken in no uncertain terms: poo wins prizes.”

No prize other than the honour of the win is traditionally given to the winner of the Diagram, which was founded as a way of relieving boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair by Diagram Group co-founders Trevor Boundford and Bruce Robertson in 1978.

Readers can read the full release at The Bookseller, and can follow (Roughy) Daily’s coverage of earlier year’s competitions here and here.

* Amy Smith, All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane

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As we load up our Kindles, we might send fabulous birthday greetings to Hans Christian Andersen; he was born on this date in 1805.  A prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his (often curiously-titled) fairy tales.  Those tales– which include “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “Thumbelina,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”– have inspired plays, ballets, and both live-action and animated films.

In Andersen’s honor this date– his birthday– is celebrated as International Children’s Book Day.

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Special July 4th Edition: “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop”*…

July 4 is, of course, a very special anniversary…

On this date in 1862, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a young Oxford mathematics don, took the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church College– Alice Liddell and her sisters– on a boating picnic on the River Thames in Oxford.  To amuse the children he told them the story of a little girl, bored by a riverbank, whose adventure begins when she tumbles down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called “Wonderland.”  The story so captivated the 10-year-old Alice that she begged him to write it down.  The result was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865 under the pen name “Lewis Carroll,” with illustrations by John Tenniel.

Readers in or around Oxford can join the celebration.

[The Tenniel illustration above, via]

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Please, Dad! Please read the one where the plague victim gets caught in the hurricane and is crushed by a tree…

From the ever-illuminating Ten Zen Monkeys, “The Most Depressing Children’s Books Ever Written“…  Consider, for example, #5:

Andrea Patel, a Massachusetts schoolteacher– and pastry chef, and musician– represents the earth as a big blue circle of tissue paper, then writes “One day a terrible thing happened,” as a big red splotch appears on that circle.

“The world, which had been blue and green and bright and very big and really round and pretty peaceful, got badly hurt.

“Many people were injured. Many other people died. And everyone was sad.”

Then she tries explaining terrorism to children — using more tissue paper collages. There’s a tornado, an earthquake, and a fire — all bad things that happen naturally. “But sometimes bad things happen because people act in mean ways and hurt each other on purpose,” she writes. “That’s what happened on that day, a day when it felt like the world broke.” Then there’s a picture of the pieces of the world blowing away and drifting across the blank whiteness of the next page…

The book was finished within weeks of the September 11 attacks, and Patel donated all the book’s proceeds to a 9/11 charity, but the whole exercise is still a little disturbing. People fumbled for the right response to the terrorist attacks, and in the end, this is probably Patel’s most inadvertently honest sentence.

“This is scary, and hard to understand, even for grown-ups.”

One should steel oneself, then find them all here.


As wonder whatever became of Tom Terrific
, we might recall that it was on this date in 1584 that Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a Royal Patent by his Patron Elizabeth I to colonize Virginia.

Raleigh

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