Just A Dream By Chris Van Allsburg

Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg (1990) is a picture book with an environmental message typical of its era. As part of the corpus of children’s literature with environmental messages, the 1990s offered many excellent children’s book examples of the now-outdated ‘personal responsibility’ message. Around this time children received the ‘good people recycle’ message. …

The Picturebooks Of Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg is an American writer and illustrator. You’ve probably heard of Jumanji and The Polar Express, which have been adapted for film. Have you read the others? You’ll hear two main things in connection to the work of this author/illustrator: His picture books are surreal. His picture books are postmodern. THE STRANGER BY …

The Mark Twain Wink In Children’s Stories

The word ‘wink’ is sometimes used in relation to children’s literature. Below I take a look at how authors ‘wink’ at their audiences, and also compare the 20th century paternal wink to a more modern version, which includes the youngest readers rather than going over their heads. You may notice that each of the examples …

Fairy Cup Legends In Modern Children’s Stories

Is fairy land real? Some children’s stories would like us to think so. Their endings contain a ‘wink’, encouraging readers to carry the possibility of fantasy lands with them, even after the story draws to a close. This is one way of achieving resonance. We might argue this is a cheap trick. Enter Richard Dawkins, …

Impressionism In Picture Books

Impressionism is an aesthetic movement. Art preceding this movement tended to religious and historical in nature and realistic. The golden age of Impressionism in art lasted 1876-1886. WHAT DEFINES AN IMPRESSIONIST PAINTING? Unlike the realist art which came before, an Impressionist painting seems as if the viewer only caught the scene with a glance. Vibrancy …

The Symbolism of Broomsticks

Broomsticks are useful storytelling symbols that serve double duty — they are a symbol of female oppression (tied to the house and the drudgery of housework) but also, by leap of imagination, turn into a vehicle by which to escape. Broomsticks may keep a woman housebound, but also afford the imaginative freedom to fly. This …

In-flight Entertainment by Helen Simpson

“In-flight Entertainment” is a short story by Helen Simpson, published in her 2010 collection of the same name. Thanks in large part to Greta Thunberg (not pronounced how I thought it was pronounced), 2019 seems to have been a turning point in general attitudes towards climate change. The phrase started off as ‘global warming’ (too …

Uncanny by Paul Jennings Hi-Lo Short Stories

Uncanny is a hi-lo short story collection by Australian author Paul Jennings, first published 1988. The original ‘uncanny’ stories were by British writer May Sinclair (1863 – 1946). I read a collection of Sinclair’s uncanny short stories (1923) a few years ago and wasn’t really moved by them. This is because so many writers have …