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 …

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Storytelling

So much has been said about Narnia already. Can I add a single thing to the corpus by blogging about storytelling techniques in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? Probably not, but my 10-year-old is studying this novel at school. She’s home sick today. I know the rest of her class is watching the …

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 …