The Difference Between Novels and Short Stories

More than any other narrative structure, the short story veers toward what Joseph Frank calls “spatial form” — a set of narrative techniques and processes of aesthetic perception that work to impede linearity. For most novels scale is weighted on the side of everyday reality, measured by means of accumulation of matter-of-fact details within temporal frames. But short stories are kind of the opposite: Elements of the mythic and dreamlike are foregrounded. Instead of moving through time in such a way that propels readers on, readers of short stories are catapaulted from beginning to end and back again. Short stories are designed to be re-read.

— Mary Rohrberger, The Art of Brevity

All Picturebooks Are Puzzles

All picturebooks are puzzles. The details of pictures invite attention to their implications. The unmoving pictures require viewers to solve the puzzle of what actions and motions they represent. The pictures in wordless books require viewers to solve the puzzle of what story they imply. In books with texts, the words and pictures together tell different stories that require readers to solve the puzzle of how to connect them. The pleasure of picture books is not just in the stories they tell but also in the game of figuring out what those stories are.

The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, Nodelman and Reimer

Tapping The Inner Child

“People used to assume that I had kids long before I did,” he tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. He eventually had children of his own, but that didn’t change his writing process the way one might have expected.

“When my wife was pregnant with our first child people would say, ‘Oh now you’re going to have so many more ideas,’ ” he recalls. “And it didn’t really happen. I think some of the greats in this field were not parents. I think it probably comes from some other place deep inside. I don’t think you have to have children to write for them.”

Kevin Henkes

The Literalness of Children’s Book Titles

When describing how he jumped from being a child reader into being a reader of adult fiction, Francis Spufford found titles of adult books to be far less dependable than those for children:

If a children’s book was called The Blue Hawk, it would have a hawk that was blue in it, with claws and wings and wild raptor eyes. If it was called The Perilous Descent you could count on it being about a descent that was perilous: two World War Two airmen stranded on a sandbank fall through a hole into an underground passage, and go down and down and down, through shafts and chasms, until they land by parachute in a subterranean country peopled by the descendants of shipwrecked refugees. Perfectly straightforward. Adult authors, on the other hand, seemed to be constitutionally incapable of giving a book a truthful name. Try The Middle of the Journey, and you get a bunch of academics in New York State sitting around and talking to each other. Did they set off for anywhere? They did not.

The Child That Books Built

The Blue Hawk cover

Can children’s books be harmful?

I don’t think one ought to worry too much about corrupting children, so long as one’s books are honest. It has always seemed to me (and this may sound unduly inspirational) that what is honestly intended, and done as truthfully as the author is able to do it, cannot intrinsically be regarded as harmful. On the whole I am inclined to think that children will pass unharmed over what they do not understand. The objection to the heavy sex novel is not that it is going to corrupt them, but that it is going to bore them stiff — by elaborating on experiences that are beyond meaning for them.

John Rowe Townsend, British children’s writer and scholar

 

The certainty of story that allows a child to add it — with delight — to the category of ‘things that are so’, also lends to its content the slight implication that this is how things ought to be. We cannot be told ‘Once there was a prince’ without also being told (on some level and in some part) that it was right that there was a prince. What knits together out of nothing, and yet is solid enough to declare that it is so, recommends itself to us, although we don’t receive the recommendation straightforwardly. In this lies the power, and the danger, of stories.

Francis Spufford, The Child That Books Built

Sendak On Childhood: Passionate, Upsetting and Silly

“If there’s anything missing that I’ve observed over the decades it’s that that drive has declined,” said the 83-year-old author… “There’s a certain passivity, a going back to childhood innocence that I never quite believed in. We remembered childhood as a very passionate, upsetting, silly, comic business.”

Children’s books today aren’t wild enough, says Maurice Sendak, The Guardian