Jack And The Beanstalk History and Symbolism

Jack and the Beanstalk is also known as Jack The Giant Killer, which kind of ruins the ending, so no wonder they changed it. The first version to appear in print was by a London bookseller called Benjamin Tabart. This was in 1807. There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of this story, so I’ll …

Ponyo by Miyazaki Symbolism and Structure

Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo is a feature-length anime which makes heavy use of  myth and symbolism but is aimed squarely at a young child audience.   I love the kanji for cliff because it actually looks like what it is. Dani Cavallaro, in Magic as Metaphor in Anime: A Critical Study describes Ponyo as ‘an intimate bildungsroman’ …

The Symbolism Of Flight In Children’s Literature

Flight is amazingly common in children’s stories. Several other motifs should be considered symbolically similar: floating — e.g. by holding onto helium balloons, levitating by magic or by supernatural means going up onto a high place, such as a roof or a tree(house) — Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s tree house series are mega bestsellers …

Middle Grade Novel Study: Coraline

Coraline is a 2002 novel by Neil Gaiman. Strangely, it is called a novella, despite being the typical length of a middle grade novel (30,640 words). This is one of those ‘children’s books’ for a universal audience, drawing on fears we all had as children. Neil Gaiman has said that adults find Coraline more terrifying …

Story Structure: Self-Revelation

The concept of self-revelation links to a long human history of religious morality. Not surprisingly, storytelling is influenced  by this way of viewing humanity, even in a non-religious modern story. The term ‘revelation’ is similar to the 2016 word ‘woke‘ — while it has its origin in religion, the concept is far wider than that. …

Symbolic Archetypes In Children’s Stories

These symbolic archetypes are very old. The earliest written record we have is often in fairy tales. Light vs. Darkness Light usually suggests hope, renewal, or intellectual illumination. Darkness implies the unknown, ignorance, or despair. Pure black is rare in children’s illustration but Jon Klassen makes use of matte black in The Dark, which is …

Annie Proulx’s “A Pair A Spurs”

STORY WORLD SURROUNDING CULTURE Rather than open with landscape, sky-scape and weather, this time Annie Proulx opens with a political era. I remember it well, with lots about mad cow disease on the news in the late 1990s: The coffeepot southeast of Signal had been an o.k. little ranch but it passed down to Car …

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk Novel Study

Wolf Hollow (2016) is a middle grade novel by Lauren Wolk. This mid-20th century story is chock-full of symbolism which makes it great for a novel study. Here I focus instead on the writing techniques, for writers of middle grade. Though moons tend to be massive in children’s books, this would have to be the …

Little Muriel Courage The Cowardly Dog

Often in stories with a very small character there is some metaphorical/thematic reason for it, but in this case Muriel’s regression to the body and mind of a 3 and a half year old is pure fun. In other words, this is a carnivalesque story. STORYWORLD The first thing we see about this storyworld is …