This book allows philosophers, literary theorists, and education specialists to come together to offer a series of readings on works of children’s literature. Each of their readings is focused on pairing a particular, popular picture book or a chapter book with philosophical texts or themes.
The book has three sections—the first, on picturebooks; the second, on chapter books; and the third, on two sets of paired readings of two very popular picturebooks. By means of its three sections, the book sets forth as its goal to show how philosophy can be helpful in reappraising books aimed at children from early childhood on. Particularly in the third section, the book emphasizes how philosophy can help to multiply the type of interpretative stances that are possible when readers listen again to what they thought they knew so well.
The kinds of questions this book raises are the following: How are children’s books already anticipating or articulating philosophical problems and discussions? How does children’s literature work by means of philosophical puzzles or language games? What do children’s books reveal about the existential situation the child reader faces?
In posing and answering these kinds of questions, the readings within the book thus intersect with recent, developing scholarship in children’s literature studies as well as in the psychology and philosophy of childhood.
Part I. Picturebooks
Chapter 1: Heidegger, Winnicott, and The Velveteen Rabbit: Anxiety, Toys, and the Drama of Metaphysics
Chapter 2: Slave Morality in The Rainbow Fish
Chapter 3: Absolutely Positively Feeling that Way and More: Paradoxes of Fiction and Judith Viorst’s Alexander stories
Chapter 4: Are You My Mother? Finding the Self in (M)others
Chapter 5: Horton Hears Badiou!: Ethics and an Understanding of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Carl F. Miller
Chapter 6: Mapping Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Chapter 7: Silverstein’s Missing Pieces: Lessons in Love and Incompleteness Matthew F. Pierlott
Chapter 8: Is Arthur’s Anger Reasonable?
Chapter 9: Gift-Giving, Waiting, and Walking—The (Non-)Reciprocal, (Im-)Possible Apprenticeship of Frog and Toad
Part II. Chapter Books
Chapter 10: Word Play, Language-Games, and Unfair Labels in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest
Aaron A. Schiller and Denise H. B. Schiller
Chapter 11: The things that are not among the things there are to do: Harriet the Spy and Maurice Blanchot’s Passivity
Chapter 12: Intelligence and Utopia in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Sarah O’Brien Conly
Chapter 13: The Cricket in Times Square: Crickets, Compassion, and the Good Life
Chapter 14: Pollyanna, Moral Sainthood, and Childhood Ideals
Claire M. Brown
Part III. Multiple Avenues of Criticism
Chapter 15: The Giving Tree and Environmental Philosophy: Listening to Deep Ecology, Feminism and Trees
Chapter 16: The Giving Tree, Women, and the Great Society
Chapter 17: King of the Wild Things: Children and the Passionate Attachments of the Anthropological Machine
Tyson E. Lewis
Chapter 18: Lovingly Impolite