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Illustration from Golem by David Wisniewski. Copyright © 1996 by David Wisniewski. Reprinted by permission ofClarion books/Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


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ecause thousands of books have beenpublished for children, selectingbooks appropriate to the needs ofchildren can be difficult. Teachersand librarians, who share books with

groups of children as well as with individual children,should select books that provide balance in a school orpublic library. The objectives of literature programs alsoaffect educators’ selections of children’s books.

A literature program should have five objectives.First, a literature program should help students realizethat literature is for entertainment and can be enjoyedthroughout their lives. Literature should cater to chil-dren’s interests as well as create interest in new topics.Consequently, educators must know these interests andunderstand ways to stimulate new ones.

Second, a literature program should acquaint chil-dren with their literary heritage. To accomplish this, liter-ature should foster the preservation of knowledge andallow its transmission to future generations. Therefore,educators must be familiar with fine literature from thepast and must share it with children.

Third, a literature program should help students un-derstand the formal elements of literature and lead themto prefer the best that our literature has to offer. Childrenneed to hear and read fine literature and to appreciate au-thors who not only have something to say but also say itextremely well. Educators must be able to identify the bestbooks in literature and share these books with children.

Fourth, a literature program should help childrengrow up understanding themselves and the rest of hu-manity. Children who identify with literary charactersconfronting and overcoming problems like their own learnways to cope with their own problems. Educators shouldprovide literature that introduces children to people fromother times and nations and that encourages children tosee both themselves and their world in a new perspective.

Fifth, a literature program should help children evalu-ate what they read. Literature programs should extendchildren’s appreciation of literature and their imaginations.Therefore, educators should help students learn how tocompare, question, and evaluate the books they read.

Rosenblatt (1991) adds an important sixth objective,encouraging “readers to pay attention to their own liter-ary experiences as the basis for self-understanding or forcomparison with others’ evocations. This implies a new,collaborative relationship between teacher and student.Emphasis on the reader need not exclude application ofvarious approaches, literary and social, to the process ofcritical interpretation and evaluation” (p. 61). Childrenneed many opportunities to respond to literature.

Susan Wise Bauer (2003) presents a powerful objec-tive for a literature study that encourages readers to un-derstand, evaluate, and express opinions about what isread. This final objective of a literature program, as rec-ommended by Bauer, is to train readers’ minds by teach-


Standards, LiteraryElements, and BookSelection■ Standards for Evaluating

Books and LiteraryCriticism

■ Standards for EvaluatingMulticultural Literature

■ Literary Elements■ The Right Book for Each

Child■ The Child as Critic

Teaching WithLiterary Elements■ Involving Children in Plot■ Involving Children in

Characterization■ Involving Children in Setting■ Involving Children in Theme■ Involving Children in Style■ Webbing the Literary


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Evaluation Criteria

Literary Criticism: Questions to Ask Myself When I Judge a Book

1. Is this a good story?

2. Is the story about something I think could reallyhappen? Is the plot believable?

3. Did the main character overcome the problem, butnot too easily?

4. Did the climax seem natural?

5. Did the characters seem real? Did I understand thecharacters’ personalities and the reasons for theiractions?

6. Did the characters in the story grow?

7. Did I find out about more than one side of thecharacters? Did the characters have both strengthsand weaknesses?

8. Did the setting present what is actually knownabout that time or place?

9. Did the characters fit into the setting?

10. Did I feel that I was really in that time or place?

11. What did the author want to tell me in the story?

12. Was the theme worthwhile?

13. When I read the book aloud, did the characterssecond like real people actually talking?

14. Did the rest of the language sound natural?(Norton, 1993)

ing them how to learn. To accomplish this objective, sherecommends a study of literature that progresses from firstreading a book to get a general sense of the story and thecharacters; to rereading the book to analyze the story, dis-cover the author’s techniques, and analyze any argumentsthe author developed; and, finally, to deciding such ques-tions as Did I sympathize with the characters? Why or whynot? Did I agree or disagree with the ideas in the book?

If children are to gain enjoyment, knowledge of theirheritage, recognition and appreciation of good literature,and understanding of themselves and others, they mustexplore balanced selections of literature. A literature pro-gram thus should include classics and contemporary sto-ries, fanciful stories as well as realistic ones, prose as wellas poetry, biographies, and books containing factual infor-mation. To provide this balance, educators must knowabout many kinds of literature. Alan Purves (1991) iden-tifies basic groups of items usually found in literature pro-grams: literary works, background information, literaryterminology and theory, and cultural information. Hestates that some curricula also include the responses of thereaders themselves.

This chapter provides information about numeroustypes of books written for children, and looks at standardsfor evaluating books written for children. It presents anddiscusses the literary elements of plot, characterization,setting, theme, style, and point of view. It also discusseschildren’s literature interests, characteristics of literaturefound in books chosen by children, and procedures to helpchildren evaluate literature.

Standards for Evaluating Books and Literary CriticismAccording to Jean Karl (1987), in true literature,“there are ideas that go beyond the plot of a novel orpicture book story or the basic theme of a nonfiction

book, but they are presented subtly and gently; goodbooks do not preach; their ideas are wound into the sub-stance of the book and are clearly a part of the life of thebook itself” (p. 507). Karl maintains that in contrast,mediocre books overemphasize their messages or theyoversimplify or distort life; mediocre books contain visionsthat are too obvious and can be put aside too easily. If lit-erature is to help develop children’s potential, merit ratherthan mediocrity must be part of children’s experienceswith literature. Both children and adults need opportuni-ties to evaluate literature. They also need supporting con-text to help them make accurate judgments about quality.

Literary critic Anita Silvey (1993) provides both auseful list for the qualities of a reviewer and questions forthe reviewer to consider. She first identifies the character-istics of fine reviewers and fine reviews; these include asense of children and how they will respond to the book aswell as an evaluation that, if the book is good, will makereaders want to read the book. The review should evalu-

ate the literary capabilities of the author and also be writ-ten in an enjoyable style. The reviewer needs a sense ofthe history of the genre and must be able to make com-parisons with past books of the author or illustrator. Thissense of genre also requires knowledge of contemporaryadult literature, art, and film so that the reviewer is ableto place the book in the wider context of adult literatureand art. The review should also include a balance betweena discussion of plot and critical commentary. A sense ofaudience requires that the reviewer understand what theaudience knows about books. Finally, Silvey recommendsthat a reviewer have a sense of humor; especially whenevaluating books that are themselves humorous.

Silvey’s list of questions that the reviewer should con-sider is divided according to literary questions (How effec-tive is the development of the various literary elements?),artistic questions (How effective are the illustrations andthe illustrator’s techniques?), pragmatic questions (Howaccurate and logical is the material?), philosophical ques-tions (Will the book enrich a reader’s life?), and personalquestions (Does the book appeal to me?).

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Northrop Frye, Sheridan Baker, and George Perkins(1985) identify five focuses of all literary criticism, two ormore of which are usually emphasized in an evaluation ofa literary text:

(1) The work in isolation; with primary focus on its form, asopposed to its content; (2) its relationship to its own time andplace, including the writer; the social, economic, and intel-lectual milieu surrounding it; the method of its printing orother dissemination; and the assumptions of the audiencethat first received it; (3) its relationship to literary and socialhistory before its time, as it repeats, extends, or departs fromthe traditions that preceded it; (4) its relationship to the fu-ture, as represented by those works and events that come af-ter it, as it forms a part of the large body of literature,influencing the reading, writing, and thinking of later gener-ations; (5) its relationship to some eternal concept of being,absolute standards of art, or immutable truths of existence.(p. 130)

The relative importance of each of the preceding areas toa particular critic depends on the critic’s degree of con-cern with the work itself, the author, the subject matter,and the audience.

Book reviews and longer critical analyses of books inthe major literature journals are valuable sources for li-brarians, teachers, parents, and other students of chil-dren’s literature. As might be expected from the fivefocuses of Frye, Baker, and Perkins, reviews emphasize dif-ferent aspects of evaluation and criticism. Phyllis K. Ken-nemer (1984) identified three categories of book reviewsand longer book analyses: (1) descriptive. (2) analytical,and (3) sociological. Descriptive reviews report factual in-formation about the story and illustrations of a book. An-alytical reviews discuss, compare, and evaluate literaryelements (plot, characterization, setting, theme, style, andpoint of view), the illustrations, and relationships withother books. Sociological reviews emphasize the socialcontext of a book, concerning themselves with character-izations of particular social groups, distinguishable ethniccharacteristics, moral values, possible controversy, andpotential popularity.

Although a review may contain all three types of in-formation, Kennemer concludes that the major sources ofinformation on children’s literature emphasize one type ofevaluation. For example, reviews in the Bulletin of the Cen-ter for Children’s Books tend to be descriptive, but they alsomention literary elements. Reviews in Booklist, The HornBook, Kirkus Reviews, and The School Library Journalchiefly analyze literary elements. The School Library Jour-nal also places great emphasis on sociological analysis.

The “Annual Policy Statement” for The School LibraryJournal (Jones, 2005) states the selection and evaluationcriteria for the journal: “SLJ’s reviews are written by li-brarians working directly with children and young adultsin schools or public libraries, library-school educators,teachers of children’s literature, and subject specialists.They evaluate books in terms of literary quality, artisticmerit, clarity of presentation, and appeal to the intendedaudience. They also make comparisons between new titles

and materials already available in most collections andmention curriculum connections” (p. 84).

For example, the following analysis for Uri Schule-vitz’s The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela: Through ThreeContinents in the Twelfth Century was written by MargaretA. Chang (April 2005). As you read this analysis of a bookthat merited a starred review, notice the type of informa-tion the reviewer provides: “Grade 4–8—Benjamin, aSpanish Jew, left his native town of Tudela in 1159 to em-bark on a 14-year journey across the Middle East. HisBook of Travels, written in Hebrew, recounts his grueling,often-dangerous journey through what is modem-dayFrance, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, andEgypt. Encounters with warring Crusaders and Muslims,rapacious pirates, and bandits added to his hardships.Shulevitz recreates this epic journey in a picture book ofepic proportions, adapting Benjamin’s account into a de-tailed, first-person narrative, accompanied by large, ambi-tious illustrations that evoke the landscapes, people,architecture, and history of the places that Benjamin saw.Darker, freer, and more impressionistic than Shulevitz’s fa-miliar work, the art is often indebted to medieval manu-script painting and Persian miniatures. Meticulouslyresearched, with a long bibliography, lengthy author’snote, and brief insets containing information that com-plements Benjamin’s descriptions, this oversize picturebook is obviously a labor of love. Wherever he went, Ben-jamin visited Jewish communities. Shulevitz’s retellingstands as a testimony to the history, wisdom, and fortitudeof those medieval Jews living precariously under Christianor Muslim rule. Both art and text will help readers imag-ine life during that time, and perhaps provide a context forthe contemporary turmoil in the lands Benjamin visited solong ago” (p. 142).

Selection criteria and reviews in specific journals alsoemphasize the particular content and viewpoints of thegroup that publishes the journal. For example, each year,the National Council for the Social Studies selects booksfor grades 4–8 that emphasize human relations and aresensitive to cultural experiences, present an originaltheme, are of high literary quality, and have a pleasingformat and illustrations that enrich the text.

Reading and discussing excellent books as well as an-alyzing book reviews and literary criticism can increaseone’s ability to recognize and recommend excellent liter-ature for children. Those of us who work with students ofchildren’s literature are rewarded when for the first timepeople see literature with a new awareness, discover thetechniques that an author uses to create a believable plotor memorable characters, and discover that they can pro-vide rationales for why a book is excellent, mediocre, orpoor: Ideally, reading and discussing excellent literaturecan help each student of children’s literature become aworthy critic. The Evaluation Criteria presented onpage 000 suggest the type of criteria that are useful forboth teachers and librarians when selecting books and forstudents when they are criticizing the books they read.

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Technology Resources

You can use the CD-ROM that accompanies this text toprint a list of Carnegie award winners: Simply searchunder Awards, type in “Crn” (award name abbreviationsare listed under Field Information on the Help menu).

In addition to books that are chosen for various liter-ary awards such as the Newbery, the Carnegie, and theHans Christian Andersen Award, students of children’sliterature can consider and discuss the merits of booksidentified by Karen Breen, Ellen Fader, Kathleen Odean,and Zena Sutherland (2000) on their list of the 100 booksthat they believe were the most significant for childrenand young adults in terms of shaping the 20th century.When citing their criteria for these books, they state: “Wedecided that our list should include books with literaryand artistic merit, as well as books that are perenniallypopular with young readers, books that have blazed newtrails, and books that have exerted a lasting influence onthe world of children’s book publishing” (p. 50).

Of the 100 books on the list, 23 were selected unan-imously by all four of the experts on the first round ofballoting: these 23 are listed in Chart 3.1. As you maynotice when you read this list, the books range from pic-

ture storybooks for young children to novels for olderreaders. They also include all of the various genres of lit-erature that are discussed in this textbook. The list pro-vides an interesting discussion for literary elements:Why are these particular books included on such a dis-tinguished list?

Alleen Pace Nilsen and Kenneth L. Donelson (2001)warn that adults add another element when evaluatingliterature: “We should caution, however, that books areselected as ‘the best’ on the basis of many different crite-ria, and one person’s best is not necessarily yours or that ofthe young people with whom you work. We hope that youwill read many books, so that you can recommend themnot because you saw them on a list, but because you en-joyed them and believe they will appeal to a particular stu-dent” (p. 11).

Standards for EvaluatingMulticultural LiteratureMulticultural literature is literature about racial orethnic minority groups that are culturally and so-cially different from the white Anglo-Saxon major-

ity in the United States, whose largely middle-class valuesand customs are most represented in American literature.Violet Harris (1992) defines multicultural literature as“literature that focuses on people of color, on religious mi-norities, on regional cultures, on the disabled, and on theaged” (p. 9).

Values of Multicultural LiteratureMany of the goals for multicultural education can be de-veloped through multicultural literature. For example,Rena Lewis and Donald Doorlag (1987) state that mul-ticultural education can restore cultural rights by em-phasizing cultural equality and respect, enhance theself-concepts of students, and teach respect for variouscultures while teaching basic skills. These goals for mul-ticultural education are similar to the following goals ofthe UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and citedby Doni Kwolek Kobus (1992):

1. understanding and respect for each child’s culturalgroup identities;

2. respect for and tolerance of cultural differences,including differences of gender, language, race,ethnicity, religion, region, and disabilities;

3. understanding of and respect for universal humanrights and fundamental freedoms;

4. preparation of children for responsible life in a freesociety; and

5. knowledge of cross-cultural communicationstrategies, perspective taking, and conflictmanagement skills to ensure understanding, peace,tolerance, and friendship among all peoples andgroups. (p. 224)

CHART 3.1 Twenty-three significant children’s books thatshaped the 20th century

Author Book Title

Natalle Babbitt Tuck EverlastingLudwig Bemelmans MadelineJudy Blume Are You There God? It’s Me,

MargaretMargaret Wise Brown Goodnight MoonRobert Cormier The Chocolate WarLouise Fitzhugh Harriet the SpyAnne Frank Anne Frank: The Diary of a

Young GirlRussell Freedman Lincoln: A PhotobiographyJean Craighead George Julie of the WolvesEzra Jack Keats The Snowy DayE. L. Konigsburg From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs.

Basil E. FrankwellerMadeleine L’Engle A Wrinkle in TimeC. S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the

WardrobeArnold Lobel Frog and Toad Are FriendsPatricia MacLachlan Sarah, Plain and TallA. A. Milne Winnie-the-PoohScott O’Dell Island of the Blue DolphinsKatherine Paterson Bridge to TerabithiaBeatrix Potter The Tale of Peter RabbitMaurice Sendak Where the Wild Things AreDr. Seuss The Cat in the HatE. B. White Charlotte’s WebLaura Ingalls Wilder Little House in the Big Woods

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Through multicultural literature, children who aremembers of racial or ethnic minority groups realize thatthey have a cultural heritage of which they can be proud,and that their culture has made important contributionsto the United States and to the world. Pride in their her-itage helps children who are members of minority groupsimprove their self-concepts and develop cultural identity.Learning about other cultures allows children to under-stand that people who belong to racial or ethnic groupsother than theirs are individuals with feelings, emotions,and needs similar to their own—individual human beings,not stereotypes. Through multicultural literature, chil-dren discover that although not all people share their per-sonal beliefs and values, individuals can and must learn tolive in harmony.

Multicultural literature teaches children of the ma-jority culture to respect the values and contributions ofminority groups in the United States and those of peoplein other parts of the world. In addition, children broadentheir understanding of history, geography, and natural his-tory when they read about cultural groups living in vari-ous regions of their country and the world. The wide rangeof multicultural themes also helps children develop an un-derstanding of social change. Finally, reading about mem-bers of minority groups who have successfully solved theirown problems and made notable achievements helps raisethe aspirations of children who belong to a minoritygroup.

Literary Criticism: Evaluating Multicultural LiteratureTo develop positive attitudes about and respect for indi-viduals in all cultures, children need many opportunitiesto read and listen to literature that presents accurate andrespectful images of everyone. Because fewer children’sbooks in the United States are written from the perspec-tive of racial or cultural minorities and because many sto-ries perpetuate negative stereotypes, you should carefullyevaluate books containing nonwhite characters. Out-standing multicultural literature meets the literary criteriaapplied to any fine book, but other criteria apply to thetreatment of cultural and racial minorities. The followingcriteria related to literature that represents African Amer-icans. Native Americans,* Latino Americans, and AsianAmericans reflect the recommendations of the researchstudies and evaluations compiled by Donna Norton(2005):

Are African, Native, Latino, and Asian Americansportrayed as unique individuals, with their own thoughts,emotions, and philosophies, instead of as representativesof particular racial or cultural groups?

Does a book transcend stereotypes in the appearance,behavior, and character traits of its nonwhite characters?Does the depiction of nonwhite characters and lifestylesimply any stigma? Does a book suggest that all members ofan ethnic or racial group live in poverty? Are the charac-ters from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, educa-tional levels, and occupations? Does the author avoiddepicting Asian Americans as workers in restaurants andlaundries, Latinos as illegal alien unskilled laborers. Na-tive Americans as bloodthirsty warriors, African Ameri-cans as menial service employees, and so forth? Does theauthor avoid the “model minority” and “bad minority”syndrome? Are nonwhite characters respected for them-selves, or must they display outstanding abilities to gainapproval from white characters?

Is the physical diversity within a particular racial orcultural minority group accurately portrayed in the textand the illustrations? Do nonwhite characters havestereotypically exaggerated facial features or physiquesthat make them all look alike?

Will children be able to recognize the characters inthe text and the illustrations as African Americans, Lati-nos, Asian Americans, or Native Americans and not mis-take them for white? Are people of color shown asgray—that is, as simply darker versions of Caucasian-fea-tured people?

Is the culture of a racial or ethnic minority group ac-curately portrayed? Is it treated with respect, or is it de-picted as inferior to the majority white culture? Does theauthor believe the culture worthy of preservation? Is thecultural diversity within African American, Asian Amer-ican. Latino, and Native American life clearly demon-strated? Are the customs and values of those diversegroups accurately portrayed? Must nonwhite charactersfit into a cultural image acceptable to white characters? Isa nonwhite culture shown in an overexotic or romanti-cized way instead of being placed within the context ofeveryday activities familiar to all people?

Are social issues and problems related to minoritygroup status depicted frankly and accurately, withoutoversimplification? Must characters who are members ofracial and cultural minority groups exercise all of the un-derstanding and forgiveness?

Do nonwhite characters handle their problems indi-vidually, through their own efforts, or with the assistanceof close family and friends, or are problems solved throughthe intervention of whites? Are nonwhite charactersshown as the equals of white characters? Are some char-acters placed in submissive or inferior positions? Arewhite people always the benefactors?

Are nonwhite characters glamorized or glorified, espe-cially in biography? (Both excessive praise and excessivedeprecation of nonwhite characters result in unreal and un-balanced characterizations.) If the book is a biography, areboth the personality and the accomplishments of the maincharacter shown in accurate detail and not oversimplified?

*This book primarily uses the term Native Americans to denote the people historically re-ferred to as American Indians. The term Indian is sometimes used interchangeably withNative American and in some contexts is used to name certain tribes of Native Americans.

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Evaluation Criteria

Literary Criticism: Multicultural Literature

1. Are the characters portrayed as individuals insteadof as representatives of a group?

2. Does the book transcend stereotypes?

3. Does the book portray physical diversity?

4. Will children be able to recognize the characters inthe text and illustrations?

5. Is the culture accurately portrayed?

6. Are social issues and problems depicted frankly,accurately, and without oversimplification?

7. Do nonwhite characters solve their problemswithout intervention by whites?

8. Are nonwhite characters shown as equals of whitecharacters?

9. Does the author avoid glamorizing or glorifyingnonwhite characters?

10. Is the setting authentic?

11. Are the factual and historical details accurate?

12. Does the author accurately describe contemporarysettings?

13. Does the book rectify historical distortions oromissions?

14. Does dialect have a legitimate purpose, and does itring true?

15. Does the author avoid offensive or degradingvocabulary?

16. Are the illustrations authentic andnonstereotypical?

17. Does the book reflect an awareness of the changedstatus of females?

Is the setting of a story authentic, whether past, pre-sent, or future? Will children be able to recognize the set-ting as urban, rural, or fantasy? If a story deals with factualinformation or historical events, are the details accurate?If the setting is contemporary, does the author accuratelydescribe the situations of nonwhite people in the UnitedStates and elsewhere today? Does a book rectify historicaldistortions and omissions?

If dialect is used, does it have a legitimate purpose?Does it ring true and blend in naturally with the story in anonstereotypical way, or is it simply used as an example ofsubstandard English? If non-English words are used, arethey spelled and used correctly? Is offensive or degradingvocabulary used to describe the characters, their actions,their customs, or their lifestyles?

Are the illustrations authentic and nonstereotypicalin every detail?

Does a book reflect an awareness of the changing sta-tus of females in all racial and cultural groups today? Doesthe author provide role models for girls other than sub-servient females?

Notice in the Evaluation Criteria for multicultural lit-erature that in addition to specific concerns about evalu-ating cultural content, there is also an evaluation of theliterary elements of plot, conflict, characterization, set-ting, theme, style, and point of view. Also notice that sev-eral of the In-Depth Analysis features in this text areabout multicultural titles.

Literary ElementsTo effectively evaluate literature readers must lookat the ways in which authors of children’s books useplot, characterization, setting, theme, style, andpoint of view to create memorable stories.

PlotPlot is important in stories, whether the stories reflect theoral storytelling style of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales orthe complex interactions in a mystery. When asked to tellabout a favorite story, children usually recount the plot, orplan of action. Children want a book to have a good plot:enough action, excitement, suspense, and conflict to de-velop interest. A good plot also allows children to becomeinvolved in the action, feel the conflict developing, recog-nize the climax when it occurs, and respond to a satisfac-tory ending. Children’s expectations and enjoyment ofconflict vary according to their ages: Young children aresatisfied with simple plots that deal with everyday hap-penings, but as children mature, they expect and enjoymore complex plots.

Following the plot of a story is like following a pathwinding through it; the action develops naturally. If theplot is well developed, a book will be difficult to put downunfinished; if the plot is not well developed, the book willnot sustain interest or will be so prematurely predictablethat the story ends long before it should. The author’s de-velopment of action should help children enjoy the story.

Developing the Order of Events. Readers expect astory to have a good beginning, one that introduces theaction and characters in an enticing way; a good middlesection, one that develops the conflict: a recognizable cli-max; and an appropriate ending. If any element is miss-ing, children consider a book unsatisfactory and a wasteof time. Authors can choose from any of several ap-proaches for presenting the events in a credible plot. Inchildren’s literature, events usually happen in chronolog-ical order. The author reveals the plot by presenting thefirst happening, followed by the second happening, and soforth, until the story is completed. Illustrations reinforce

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the chronological order in picture storybooks for youngerchildren.

Very strong and obvious chronological order is foundin cumulative folktales. Actions and characters are re-lated to each other in sequential order, and each is men-tioned again when new action or a new character isintroduced. Children who enjoy the cumulative style ofthe nursery rhyme “The House That Jack Built” also en-joy a similar cumulative rhythm in Verna Aardema’sBringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain: A Nandi Tale. Cumulative,sequential action may also be developed in reverse, fromlast event to first, as in Verna Aardema’s Why MosquitoesBuzz in People’s Ears.

Authors of biographies frequently use chronologicallife events to develop plot. Jean Fritz, for example, tracesthe life of a famous president and constitutional leader inThe Great Little Madison. In Lincoln: A Photobiography,Russell Freedman begins with Lincoln’s childhood andcontinues through his life as president. In The WrightBrothers: How They Invented the Airplane. Freedman fol-lows the lives of the Wright brothers and emphasizes ma-jor changes in aeronautics, and in Eleanor Roosevelt: A Lifeof Discovery. Freedman follows the life of one of the greatwomen in American history. Dates in these texts helpreaders follow the chronological order.

The events in a story also may follow the maturingprocess of the main character. In The Borning Room. PaulFleischman begins with the birth of the heroine in a born-ing room on a farm in Ohio in 1851. The plot then devel-ops according to major events that occurred in theborning room as the family uses the special room at timesof births and deaths. The book concludes as the heroine,after years of a rewarding life, is herself waiting in theborning room for her probable death.

Books written for older readers sometimes use flash-backs in addition to chronological order. At the pointwhen readers have many questions about a character’sbackground or wonder why a character is acting in a cer-tain way, the author may interrupt the order of the storyto reveal information about a previous time or experience.For example, memories of a beloved aunt allow readers tounderstand the character and the conflict in Cynthia Ry-lant’s Missing May. The memories of 12-year-old Summerallow readers to understand the grief following the aunt’sdeath and to follow Summer and her uncle as they try toovercome the grief and begin a new life for themselves.Without the memories, readers would not understandMay’s character.

Developing Conflict. Excitement in a story occurswhen the main characters experience a struggle or over-come conflict. Conflict is the usual source of plots in lit-erature. According to Rebecca J. Lukens (1999), chil-dren’s literature contains four kinds of conflict: (1) personagainst person. (2) person against society, (3) personagainst nature, and (4) person against self. Plots written

for younger children usually develop only one kind of con-flict, but many of the stories for older children use severalconflicting situations.

Person Against Person. One person-against-person con-flict that young children enjoy is the tale of that famousbunny, Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter. In this story. Peter’sdisobedience and greed quickly bring him into conflictwith the owner of the garden, Mr. McGregor, who hassworn to put Peter into a pie. Excitement and suspense de-velop as Peter and Mr. McGregor proceed through a seriesof life-and-death encounters: Mr. McGregor chases Peterwith a rake, Peter becomes tangled in a gooseberry net,and Mr. McGregor tries to trap Peter inside a sieve.Knowledge of Peter’s possible fate increases the suspenseof these adventures. The excitement intensifies each timePeter narrowly misses being caught, and young readers’ re-lief is great when Peter escapes for good. Children alsosympathize with Peter when his disobedience results in astomachache and a dose of chamomile tea.

Conflicts between animals and humans, or animalsand animals, or humans and humans are common in chil-dren’s literature, including many popular folktales. BothLittle Red Riding Hood and the three little pigs confronta wicked wolf, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are amongthe fairytale heroines mistreated by stepmothers, andHansel and Gretel are imprisoned by a witch.

A humorous person-against-person conflict providesthe story line in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Her Father.Seven-year-old Ramona’s life changes drastically whenher father loses his job and her mother must work full-time. Ramona’s new time with her father is not as enjoy-able as she had hoped it would be, however: Her fatherbecomes tense and irritable as his period of unemploy-ment lengthens. Ramona and her father survive their ex-perience, and by the end of the story, they have returnedto their normal, warm relationship.

Katherine Paterson develops a more complex person-against-person conflict for older children in Jacob Have ILoved. In this story, one twin believes that she is like thedespised Esau in the Old Testament, whereas her sister isthe adored favorite of the family. The unhappy heroine’sdescriptions of her early experiences with her sister, hergrowing independence as she works with her father, andher final discovery that she, not her sister, is the strongtwin create an engrossing plot and memorable characters.

Person Against Society. Conflicts also develop when themain character’s actions, desires, or values differ fromthose of the surrounding society. This society may consistof groups of children who cannot tolerate children whoare different from themselves. In Brock Cole’s The Goats,a boy and a girl who are considered social outcasts by theirpeers at camp are stripped of their clothing and maroonedon a deserted island. The author reveals the social atti-tudes of this camp when girls are classified as queens,

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An In-Depth Analysis of the Plot and Conflict in One Book

princesses, dogs, and real dogs; the girl on the island isconsidered a real dog. Cole reveals the feelings of the chil-dren through their ordeal when he uses terms such as theyand them to identify the society. When the girl wants theboy to leave her, his actions, thoughts, and dialogue revealthe strength of his dislike for the society that placed himin this isolation: “‘I’m afraid. Maybe you’d better go with-out me.’ ‘No,’ he said. He didn’t try to explain. He knewhe was afraid to leave her alone, but even more important,it wouldn’t be good enough. He wanted them both to dis-appear. To disappear completely” (p. 16).

Children’s books often portray person-against-societyconflicts that result from being different from the majorityin terms of race, religion, or physical characteristics. Gary

At the moment of complete self-understanding, Kenny ad-mits to his brother that he was no longer afraid of the bombingincident; instead, he was ashamed of himself because he ranfrom the church rather than try to find his sister, who he believedwas inside the church. His older brother helps him clarify the sit-uation and makes him realize that he has no reason for embar-rassment.

The themes and language in the book also relate to theperson-against-society and person-against-self conflicts.Through the actions of various characters, we learn that prejudiceand hatred are harmful and destructive forces. To increase un-derstanding of these conflicts, Curtis effectively uses compara-tive language and symbolism. For example, he compares thesteering of a big car to being grown up when the father tellsKenny that both are scary at first, but that with a lot of practice,the car and life are under control. The symbolism of the WoolPooh (Winnie-the-Pooh’s evil twin brother) is of particular inter-est: When Kenny swims in dangerous waters, he almost drowns.He believes it is the Wool Pooh who is trying to kill him. Later, inthe bombed church, he believes he sees this same faceless mon-ster. Students of literature may find interesting comparisons fordiscussion as they analyze the possible significance of this evilsymbolism as it relates to both the conflicts and themes devel-oped in the book.

When using this book with older students, adults can askthem to trace the parallels between person-against-society andperson-against-self conflicts, conduct historical studies to ana-lyze the 1963 setting and conflicts for authenticity and to relatethem to the church bombings in 1996, and trace the emergenceof the themes. Curtis’s text provides an interesting discussion toshow the relationships among conflict, theme, and author’s style.Students then can read Janice N. Harrington’s Going North tocompare the experiences of an African American family who de-cides to leave Alabama in the 1960s and move north to Nebraska.

Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, a 1996 Newbery Honor book, provides an excellent sourcefor both literary analysis and historical authenticity. It is a bookthat changes mood at about the halfway point in the story. At thebeginning of the book, the author depicts a typical AfricanAmerican family who lives and works in Flint, Michigan. Theproblems of the various characters are typical for many families.The main character, 10-year-old Kenny, is a bright boy who readsvery well. Kenny’s scholastic achievements frequently place himin conflict with his older brother, Bryon, whose escapades varyfrom the humorous to the more serious. At the point in which theparents decide that Bryon is heading for a life of delinquency,they decide that he should spend time with his strict grandmotherin Birmingham.

When they decide to travel to Alabama, the tone of thebook changes. In this time of racial tension, person-against-society conflict is the most prominent. The racial conflict is de-veloped early in the story when the mother wants to go from Flintto Birmingham because life is slower in Alabama and the peopleare friendlier. Dad responds, “‘Oh yeah, they’re a laugh a minutedown there. Let’s see, where was that ‘Coloreds Only’ bathroomdowntown?’” (p. 5). The culmination of this person-against-society conflict results toward the end of the book when a churchis bombed and several African American children are killed.

Curtis develops parallels between the person-against-society and person-against-self conflicts. As Kenny tries to un-derstand the hatred that could cause such deaths he also, withthe help of his older brother, reaches a point where he releaseshis personal feelings and begins to cry. The author shows theimpact of this release in the following quote: “He knew that wassome real embarrassing stuff so he closed the bathroom doorand sat on the tub and waited for me to stop, but I couldn’t. I feltlike someone had pulled a plug on me and every tear inside wasrushing out” (p. 199).

Paulsen’s Nightjohn develops the brutality of a society thatmistreats slaves. Life for 12-year-old Sarney becomes evenmore miserable when Nightjohn secretly teaches her howto read and both of them are punished for this action. JudyBlume’s Blubber shows the cruelty to which a fat child issubjected by her peers. For the conflict between personand society in such books to be believable, the social set-ting and its values must be presented in accurate detail.

Numerous survival stories set in wartime develop person-against-society conflicts. In Uri Orlev’s The Islandon Bird Street, the conflict is between a Jewish boy and thesociety that forces him to live in loneliness and starvationrather than surrender. Throughout the story, Orlev de-scribes the boy’s fear and the society that causes him to

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Complex person-against-person conflict develops between twinsisters in Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. (Jacket byKinoko Craft, Thomas Y. Crowell Co. Copyright © 1980 byKatherine Paterson.)

feel and respond in this way. For example, in the followingquote, notice how Orlev describes the actions of the soci-ety and the boy’s responses to that society when a groupof Jewish people are found living in a hidden bunker:

Its inhabitants began to come out. It took a long while for thelast of them to emerge. The Germans and the policemen keptshouting and footsteps kept crossing the ruins from the cellarto the front gate. Now and then someone stumbled. . . .Somebody fell once or maybe twice. A shot rang out. Nobodyscreamed, though. Even the children had stopped crying. Thelast footsteps left the building. I heard voices in the street andan order to line up in threes. The same as had been given us.Then they were marched away. A few more shots. Finally, thecar started up and drove away. . . . It was strange to think thatall those people had been hiding with me in one house with-out us even knowing about each other. . . . They’d never takeme away like that. (p. 81)

Holocaust stories with their strong anti-Semitismcreate some of the strongest person-against-society con-flicts. In Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi, DavidChotjewitz creates a believable antagonist through reac-tions of the family toward knowledge that Daniel is halfJewish. The mother declares: “She was terrified. . . . Shecould feel how her son, at this very moment; would be dis-tancing himself from her” (p. 60). The author uses news-

paper headlines that call upon the nation to boycott Jew-ish businesses, class essays from students in which they ex-press their hatred of the Jews, attitudes of Nazi officerstoward the Jews, and descriptions of such experiences asthe Knight of the Broken Glass to encourage readers to vi-sualize the society.

The author uses statements of Daniel’s mother to de-scribe the changes in the society: “A pestilence had bro-ken out, a terrible disease, and no one had noticed. It hasinfected everyone, and now it’s an epidemic. . . . It was asthough the Germany she’d known had vanished. No,worse—as though it had decided to obliterate itself. Thestrength and the spirit that had once created art, poetry,and science were now spent creating the worst of all pos-sible worlds” (pp. 159–160).

Person Against Nature. Nature—not society or anotherperson—is the antagonist in many memorable books forolder children. When the author thoroughly describes thenatural environment, readers vicariously travel into aworld ruled by nature’s harsh laws of survival. This is thecase in Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves. Miyax,a 13-year-old Eskimo girl also called by the English nameJulie, is lost and without food on the North Slope of Alaska.She is introduced lying on her stomach, peering at a packof wolves. The wolves are not her enemy, however. Her ad-versary is the vast, cold tundra that stretches for hundredsof miles without human presence, a land so harsh that noberry bushes point to the south, no birds fly overhead sothat she can follow, and continuous summer daylight blotsout the North Star that might guide her home:

No roads cross it: ponds and lakes freckle its immensity.Winds scream across it, and the view in every direction is ex-actly the same. Somewhere in this cosmos was Miyax; and thevery life in her body, its spark and warmth, depended uponthese wolves for survival. And she was not so sure they wouldhelp. (p. 6)

The constant wind; the empty sky; and the cold, desertedearth are ever present as Miyax crosses the Arctic search-ing for food, protecting herself from the elements, andmaking friends with the wolves, who bring her food. Theauthor encourages readers to visualize the power andbeauty of this harsh landscape and to share the girl’s sor-row over human destruction of this land, its animals, andthe Eskimo way of life.

Another book that pits a young person against the el-ements of nature is Armstrong Sperry’s Call It Courage.The hero’s conflict with nature begins when the crashing,stormy sea—“a monster livid and hungry”—capsizesMafatu’s canoe during a hurricane:

Higher and higher it rose, until it seemed that it must scrapeat the low-hanging clouds. Its crest heaved over with a vastsigh. The boy saw it coming. He tried to cry out. No sound is-sued from his throat. Suddenly the wave was upon him.Down it crashed. Chaos! Mafatu felt the paddle torn from hishands. Thunder in his ears. Water strangled him. Terror in hissoul. (p. 24)

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The preceding quote makes clear that there are twoadversaries in the story: The hero is in conflict with natureand also in conflict with himself. The two adversaries areinterwoven in the plot as Mafatu sails away from his islandin order to prove that he is not a coward. Each time theboy wins a victory over nature, he also comes closer to hismain goal, victory over his own fear. Without victory overfear, the boy cannot be called by his rightful name,Mafatu, “Stout Heart.” nor can he have the respect of hisfather, his Polynesian people, and himself.

In A Girl Named Disaster, Nancy Farmer develops asurvival story set in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. As theheroine struggles to escape starvation on her lonely jour-ney, she discovers that the spirits of her ancestors helpboth her physical and her emotional survival.

You can compare Farmer’s story of survival with An-ton Quintana’s The Baboon King, set in the African land ofthe Kikuyu and the Masai. Quintana also depicts the needfor both physical and emotional survival after a youngman is banished by his people. The author describes notonly the physical geography of the landscape but also thepredators that might attack a lone hunter. The need foremotional survival is developed as the young man joins ababoon troop in order to regain the companionship thathe lost.

Authors who write strong person-against-nature con-flicts use many of the techniques shown in the quotes byGeorge and Sperry. Personification gives human actions tonature, vivid descriptions show that characters are in alife-and-death struggle, sentences become shorter to showincreasing danger, and actions reveal that charactersknow they are in serious conflict with nature.

Person Against Self. In Hatchet Gary Paulsen developsperson-against-self and person-against-nature conflictsfor his major character, 13-year-old Brian, these two ma-jor conflicts are intertwined throughout the book. For ex-ample, Paulsen creates an excellent transition betweenunconsciousness at the end of Chapter 3 and conscious-ness at the beginning of Chapter 4. In the following quote,notice how Paulsen ties together the two most destructiveexperiences in Brian’s life: the plane crash that could havekilled him and the secret about his mother that caused hisparents’ divorce.

Without knowing anything. Pulling until his hands caught atweeds and muck, pulling and screaming until his handscaught at last in grass and brush and he felt his chest on land,felt his face in the coarse blades of grass and he stopped;everything stopped. A color came that he had never seenbefore, a color that exploded in his mind with the pain andhe was gone, gone from it all, spiraling out into the world,spiraling out into nothing. Nothing. (p. 30, end of chapter 3)

The Memory was like a knife cutting into him. Slicingdeep into him with hate. The Secret (p. 31, beginning ofchapter 4)

Symbolically, the secret is the first thing Brian re-members after waking from unconsciousness. Paulsen re-

veals the destructive nature of the secret through flash-backs, as Brian’s memory returns, and through compar-isons between the hate that cut him like a knife and thesharp pain caused by the crash. As Brian gains confidenceand ability to survive in the Canadian wilderness, he gainsunderstanding about his parents’ conflict and his ability toface his own person-against-self conflict.

The main character in Michael Morpurgo’s youngadult novel Private Peaceful faces an even more dramaticperson-against-self secret. Notice in the following quotehow the author uses the symbolism of the burial and thedrifting away from the cemetery to reveal a terrible secret:“The earth thuds and thumps down on the coffin behindus as we drift away, leaving him. We walk home togetheralong the deep lanes, Big Joe plucking at the foxgloves andthe honeysuckle, filling Mother’s hands with flowers, andnone of us has any tears to cry or words to say. Me least ofall. For I have inside me a secret so horrible, a secret I cannever tell anyone, not even Charlie. Father needn’t havedied that morning in Ford’s Cleave Wood. He was tryingto save me. If only I had tried to save myself, if I had run,he would not now be lying dead in his coffin. As Mothersmoothes my hair and Big Joe offers her yet another fox-glove, all I can think is that I have caused this. I havekilled my own father” (p. 12).

Although few children face the extreme personalchallenges described in Hatchet, Call it Courage, and Julieof the Wolves, all children must overcome fears and per-sonal problems while growing up. Person-against-self con-flict is a popular plot device in children’s literature.Authors of contemporary realistic fiction often developplots around children who face and overcome problemsrelated to family disturbances. For example, the cause ofthe person-against-self conflict in Jerry Spinelli’s Wringeris a boy’s realization that if he does not accept the violenceassociated with killing pigeons, he must find the courageto oppose the actions and attitudes expressed by both hisfriends and the town. In Ruth White’s Belle Prater’s Boy,the characters struggle to understand the suicide of thegirl’s father and desertion by the boy’s mother.

Good plots do not rely on contrivance or coinci-dence; they are credible to young readers because many ofthe same conflicts occur in the children’s own lives. Cred-ibility is an important consideration in evaluating plot inchildren’s books. Although authors of adult books oftenrely on sensational conflict to create interest, writers ofchildren’s books like to focus on the characters and theways in which they overcome problems.

Pete Hautman’s character in his young adult novelGodless faces person-against-self and person-against-societyissues related to faith. In this National Book Award winner,the main character, Jason Bock, overcomes his lack of be-lief in organized religion by inventing a new god—thetown’s water tower. He and a few recruits develop their ownreligious doctrine complete with rules for worship. Jasonfaces his worst person-against-self dilemma when things

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begin to get out of hand and very dangerous: The new con-gregation climbs to the top of the water tower, everyonejumps into the water in the tank, and one member is seri-ously hurt. Now Jason faces both society’s outrage in theform of his father, the church, and the police departmentand his own inner conflicts as he debates what has hap-pened to his friends because of his actions. He battleswithin himself as he debates what he will do in his need tohave faith in something.

CharacterizationA believable, enjoyable story needs main characters whoseem lifelike and who develop throughout the story. Char-acterization is one of the most powerful of the literary el-ements, whether the story is a contemporary tale in whichcharacters face realistic problems or an adaptation of clas-sic literature.

The characters whom we remember fondly from ourchildhood reading usually have several sides; like real peo-ple, they are not all good or all bad, and they change asthey confront and overcome their problems. Laura, fromthe various “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder,typifies a rounded character in literature: She is honest,

trustworthy, and courageous, but she can also be jealous,frightened, or angry. Her character not only is fully devel-oped in the story but also changes during its course.

One child who enjoyed Wilder’s books describedLaura this way. “I would like Laura for my best friend. Shewould be fun to play with but she would also understandwhen I was hurt or angry. I could tell Laura my secretswithout being afraid she would laugh at me or tell them tosomeone else.” Any writer who can create such a friendfor children is very skilled at characterization.

Rosemary Chance (1999) reported on a study analyz-ing that the characteristics of novels that were on the listof young adult choices, and she found that characteriza-tion was the most important criterion. Protagonists inthese books are dynamic and well developed. The major-ity of the novels included conflicts that center on people,including person-against-self and person-against-personconflicts. It would appear from such studies and com-ments from readers that memorable characterization isone of the most important literary elements.

How does an author develop a memorable character?How can an author show the many sides of a character aswell as demonstrate believable change as this character

Through the Eyes of an AUTHOR


Visit the CD-ROM that ac-

companies this text togenerate a completelist of DavidWisniewski titles.

Selected Titles byDavid Wisniewski:

• Golem• Sundiata, Lion King of Mali• Rain Player• The Warrior and the Wise Man• The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups:

The Second File

The world of children’s literature lost an in-spired writer and remarkable illustrator in2002 when Caldecott winner DavidWisniewski died in his Maryland home.Creator of stunningly crafted folktales, such asthe award-winning Golem and Sundiata, LionKing of Mali, as well as clever comic pieces,exemplified by his two-part series, The SecretKnowledge of Grown-Ups, Wisniewski madean indelible mark on publishing. His painstak-ing and inspired illustrative style of layered cutpaper became his unmistakable calling card,drawing attention to a wonderful body of workto be shared with children for generations.

Being in contact with kids and performingfor them give you a sense of what theywant in a story. The Warrior and The WiseMan, which was my first book, came outof my background in puppetry doing folk-tales it seemed only natural to use a folk-tale or a folkloric tale to capitalize on thatfamiliarity. And I also did not want to doanything trivial. I wanted to do somethingthat had a point but I also knew enoughfrom puppetry that if you are going tomake a point, it has to be demonstratedby the story plot and character. It cannotbe laid on top.

I learned from the puppetry that if you aregoing to have a point, it has to be organicallybuilt into the tale and demonstrated by thetale, not preached at you. So with The Warriorand The Wise Man, I started off with the pointthat it’s better to think your way through aproblem than fight your way through a prob-lem.Knowing that, I knew I could set the storyin Japan, because they had two classes: Theyhad the Samurai and they had the Shintomonks coming into Japanese history at thesame time.So I could have a dichotomy alreadyset up there. By making my characters twins, Istart them off evenly. By making them sons ofthe emperor vying for the throne, then I’ve gotwhat Alfred Hitchco*ck called “the maguffin.” Ihad the point of the story set up.

Because it is a nature-oriented religion, theShinto religion provided my wind/water/fire—all those elements required by the twins in or-der to gain the throne. And then the final in-spiration was the kids game of “Scissors/Paper/Rock,” which was one element cancel-ing out another element. And then the twist atthe end was really not something I hadplanned. That was a bright idea that came tome. What I like about this story is that thewarrior is not evil. He simply has what hasproved to be an inferior way of doing things.And that’s brought up at the very end—beingstrong is nice, but unless that strength is di-rected intelligently, its worthless.

So that is what got me started on the cul-turally entrenched tales with a sensible way ofworking. I came up with the idea that I neededto know what point I wanted the story tomake. Where is the culture that supports thepoint of my story? What culture could thisstory have happened in? And then I do re-search from there to make sure that I’m notbreaking any cultural norms that would pre-

clude the use of my original tale in it.

Video Profiles: The accompany-ing video contains conversations

from such authors and illustrators asRoland Smith, the late Paula Danziger, andE. B. Lewis.

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matures? The credibility of a character depends on thewriter’s ability to reveal that character’s full nature, in-cluding strengths and weaknesses. An author can achievesuch a three-dimensional character by describing thecharacter’s physical appearance, recording the conversa-tions of the character, revealing the character’s thoughts,revealing the perceptions of other characters, and show-ing the character in action.

In Call It Courage, Armstrong Sperry uses all of thesemethods to reveal Mafatu’s character and the changesthat occur in him as he overcomes his fears. Sperry firsttells readers that Mafatu fears the sea. Then, through nar-ration, Sperry shows the young child clinging to hismother’s back as a stormy sea and sharks almost end theirlives. Mafatu’s memories of this experience, revealed inhis thoughts and actions, make him useless in the eyes ofhis Polynesian tribe, as Sperry reveals through the dia-logue of other characters: “That is woman’s work. Mafatuis afraid of the sea. He will never be a warrior” (p. 12).

The laughter of the tribe follows, and Sperry then de-scribes Mafatu’s inner feelings:

Suddenly a fierce resentment stormed through him. He knewin that instant what he must do: he must prove his courage tohimself, and to the others, or he could no longer live in theirmidst. He must face Moana, the Sea God—face him and con-quer him. (p. 13)

An In-Depth Analysis of Characterization in One Book

Later, Yolonda’s actions show both her respect forAndrew’s talents and her dislike for those who torment heryounger brother because he is a slower learner in school andgains his enjoyment from playing his harmonica. Yolonda takesvengeance on the three boys who destroy Andrew’s harmonica.She does this while Andrew is watching because she wants it tobe Andrew’s vengeance as well as her own.

The author continues to show characterization through thesymbolism of music. Andrew makes discoveries about peoplethrough sounds, he learns the alphabet after a teacher relates thealphabet to the instruments, and he eventually plays his harmon-ica to reveal the character of Yolonda. As you read the followingquote, analyze how the author describes Yolonda throughAndrew’s music: “Yolonda walking, a steady, strong beat—greatbig moves, slow, making waves of air pass by. Yolonda eating achocolate eclair—full mouth—soft and happy. Yolonda readingto him, voice purring around the big words, Yolonda dancing.This is the sound of Yolonda’s body—large, gobbling, space,powerful and protecting—great like a queen, frightening every-one with a scowl and a swelling of her shoulders” (p. 203).

Notice in this example how the author uses several differ-ent techniques to develop the characterizations of Yolonda andher brother. After reading the book, readers understand that bothcharacters have well-rounded personalities.

Carol Fenner, the author of one of the 1996 Newbery Honorbooks, Yolonda’s Genius, uses several techniques to develop thecharacteristics of two African American children, bright, fifth-grade Yolonda and her slower younger brother, Andrew. For ex-ample, the author reveals both Yolonda’s intelligence and herstrategy for retaliation after she is teased about her size by beingcalled a whale: Yolonda tells her fellow bus rider that he knowsnothing about whales because “whales are the most remarkablemammals in the ocean—all five oceans” (p. 16). She then pro-vides information about whales, such as “The whales sank, lift-ing their tails high above the water like a signal. Deep in theocean, their voices sent out a high swelling cry, sharing theirmessage of victory for a hundred miles” (p. 17). We learn laterthat Yolonda goes to the library each week to learn new facts.

Yolonda’s positive attitudes and Andrew’s possible musi-cal genius are developed as Yolonda shares Andrew’s abilities.She reviews what Andrew can do and not what he cannot do whenshe thinks, “If there was music on the TV or the blaster, he couldkeep it company by beating out a rhythm on anything—hisknees, a table, a wall. Or he could play a sweet line of sound onhis harmonica just underneath the music, like water under abridge. He played people’s voices—an argument, cries of sur-prise, hushed conversation. The harmonica lived in his pocket.He fell asleep with it in his hand” (p. 38).

Sperry portrays Mafatu’s battle for courage through acombination of actions and thoughts: Terror and elationfollow each other repeatedly as Mafatu lands on a forbid-den island used for human sacrifice, dares to take a cere-monial spear even though doing so may mean death,confronts a hammerhead shark that circles his raft, andthen overcomes his fear and attacks the shark to save hisdog. Mafatu celebrates a final victory when he kills a wildboar, whose teeth symbolize courage. Mafatu’s tremendousvictory over fear is signified by his father’s statement ofpride: “Here is my son come home from the sea. Mafatu,Stout Heart. A brave name for a brave boy” (p. 115).

In The Moves Make the Man, Bruce Brooks developscharacter through basketball terminology. Brooks uses thewords of Jerome Foxworthy, a talented black student, toexpress these thoughts about his own character:

Moves were all I cared about last summer. I got them down,and I liked not just the fun of doing them, but having themtoo, like a little definition of Jerome. Reverse spin, triplejump, reverse dribble. . . . These are me. The moves make theman, the moves make me. I thought, until Mama noticedthey were making me something else. (p. 44)

Brooks uses contrasting attitudes toward fake moves inbasketball to reveal important differences between Jeromeand Bix Rivers, a talented but disturbed white athlete.

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Through the Eyes of a CHILD

AndersenGrade 2

In The Wonderer, Sharon, Creech introduces the maincharacter by emphasizing the girl’s father’s description ofher as a person who has many sides. Notice in the follow-ing quote how Creech describes both the father’s and thegirl’s interpretation of her character:

I am not always such a dreamy girl, listening to the sea call-ing me. My father calls me Three-Sided Sophie: One side isdreamy and romantic: one is logical and down-to-earth; andthe third side is hardheaded and impulsive. He says I ameither in dreamland or earthland or mule-land, and if I everget the three together, I’ll be set, though I wonder where I willbe then. If I’m not in dreamland or earthland or mule-land,where will I be? (p. 3).

By the end of the book, the author shows the main char-acter’s progression through these same three characteris-tics. She now answers her own question when sherealizes: “I’m not in dreamland or earthland or mute-land. I’m just right here, right now. When I close my eyes,I can still smell the sea, but I feel as if I’ve been dunked

in the clear cool water and I’ve come out all clean andnew.” (p. 305).

This textbook discusses many memorable charactersin children’s literature. Some of these characters—such asthe faithful spider Charlotte and a terrific pig namedWilbur, in E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Max, in MauriceSendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and Karana, in ScottO’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins—are old favorites whohave been capturing children’s imaginations for decades.Others—such as Harry Potter, in J. K. Rowling’s fantasyseries, Ida B, from Katherine Hannigan’s Ida B . . . and HerPlans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Savethe World, and Margaret Rose Kane, in E. L. Konigsburg’sThe Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place—are more recent ar-rivals in the world of children’s books. Authors of picturestorybooks, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, andcontemporary realistic fiction have created characterswho are likely to be remembered long after the details oftheir stories have been forgotten.

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SettingThe setting of a story—its location in time and place—helps readers share what the characters see, smell, hear,and touch, and also makes the characters’ values, actions,and conflicts more understandable. For example, notice inthe following description of setting how Gary D. Schmidt,in the 2005 Newbery Honor book Lizzie Bright and theBuckminster Boy, allows readers to experience the setting:“Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, forfifteen minutes shy of six hours. He had dipped his handin its waves and licked the salt from his fingers. He hadsmelled the sharp resin of the pines. He had heard the lowrhythm of the bells on the buoys that balanced on theridges of the sea. He had seen the fine clapboard parson-age beside the church where he was to live. . . . He didn’tknow how much longer he could stand it” (p. 1). Whethera story takes place in the past, present, or future, its over-all credibility may depend on how well the plot, charac-terizations, and setting support one another. Differenttypes of literature—picture storybooks, fantasy, historical

fiction, and contemporary realistic fiction—have theirown requirements as far as setting is concerned. When astory is set in an identifiable historical period or geo-graphical location, details should be accurate.

Jean Craighead George (1991), author of numeroussurvival stories, emphasizes the setting for a book. To dothis, George walks through the setting, smells the envi-ronment, looks at the world to see careful details, andsearches for protagonists. During her final writing, shecloses her eyes and re-creates in her imagination the land,the people, and the animals. George states:

I strive to put the reader on the scene. I want to make eachchild feel that he is under a hemlock tree with Sam Gribley inMy Side of the Mountain or on his hands and knees talking tothe tundra wolves in Julie of the Wolves. I want my reader tohear and see the ice on the Arctic Ocean in Water Sky. (p. 70)

In some books, setting is such an important part ofthe story that the characters and plot cannot be devel-oped without understanding the time and place. In otherstories, however, the setting provides only a background.

An In-Depth Analysis of Setting in One Book

lowing quote provides realistic background for a small town inthe far north; it also allows readers to visualize, hear, and evensmell the setting: “Directly ahead of the ship a mountain rose,green flanked and snowcapped, and a little town and harbor laybelow it: wooden houses with steep roofs, an oratory spire,cranes in the harbor, and clouds of gulls wheeling and crying.The smell was of fish, but mixed with it came land smells too:pine resin and earth and something animal and musky, andsomething else that was cold and blank and wild: it might havebeen snow. It was the smell of the North” (p. 168).

Many of Pullman’s settings also reflect a universe inhab-ited by witches and supernatural beings, and incorporation par-allel worlds. Pullman describes this parallel world in this way:“The city hanging there so empty and silent looked new-made,waiting to be occupied; or asleep, waiting to be woken. The sunof that world was shining into this, making Lyra’s hands golden,melting the ice on Roger’s wolfskin hood, making his pale cheekstransparent, glistening in his open sightless eyes” (p. 397).

Pullman concludes his fantasy in a way that preparesreaders for the next book in the series by summarizing some ofthe moods found in the previous settings and foreshadowing thefantasy to come: “She turned away. Behind them lay pain anddeath and fear; ahead of them lay doubt, and danger, and fath-omless mysteries. But they weren’t alone. So Lyra and her dea-mon turned away from the world they were born in, and lookedtoward the sun, and walked into the sky” (p. 399). To continue an-alyzing Pullman’s fantasy setting, read The Subtle Knife and TheAmber Spyglass, sequels to The Golden Compass.

The settings in Philip Pullman’s award-winning fantasy fromEngland, The Golden Compass, reveal several purposes for set-ting that can be found in the same book. For example, in the be-ginning of the book, notice how the author creates a suspensefulsetting through the following quote showing the characters’ ac-tions: “‘Behind the chair—quick!’ whispered Pantalaimon, and ina flash Lyra was out of the armchair and crouching behind it. Itwasn’t the best one for hiding behind: she’d chose one in the verycenter of the room, and unless she kept very quiet . . . ” (p. 4).

On the pages that follow, readers discover how danger-ous this setting might be for Lyra: “What she saw next, however,changed things completely. The Master took from his pocket afolded paper and laid it on the table beside the wine. He tookthe stopper out of the mouth of a decanter containing a richgolden wine, unfolded the paper, and poured a thin stream ofwhite powder into the decanter before crumpling the paper andthrowing it into the fire. Then he took a pencil from his pocket,stirred the wine until the powder had dissolved, and replacedthe stopper” (p. 6).

As the story moves from England to the far north, the set-ting frequently becomes an antagonist as Lyra faces both the coldand the fear found in the wilderness. Pullman creates both ofthese moods in quotes such as the following: “The other girlswent on talking, but Lyra and Pantalaimon nestled down deep inthe bed and tried to get warm, knowing that for hundreds of milesall around her little bed there was nothing but fear” (p. 246).

Pullman’s settings both create a realistic background andsuggest the fantasy settings of other worlds. For example, the fol-

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The illustrations create a nostalgic look at childhood in In CoalCountry. (From In Coal Country by Judith Hendershot,illustrated by Thomas B. Allen. Illustration copyright © 1987 byThomas B. Allen. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.)

In fact, some settings are so well known that just a fewwords place readers immediately into the expected loca-tion. “Once upon a time,” for example, is a mythical timein days of yore when it was possible for magical spells totransform princes into beasts or to change pumpkins intoglittering carriages. Thirty of the 37 traditional fairy talesin Andrew Lang’s The Red Fairy Book begin with “Onceupon a time.” Magical spells cannot happen everywhere;they usually occur in “a certain kingdom,” “deep in theforest,” in “the humble hut of a wise and good peasant,” or“far, far away, in a warm and pleasant land.” Children be-come so familiar with such phrases—and the visualiza-tions of setting that they trigger—that additional detailsand descriptions are not necessary.

Even a setting that is described briefly can serve severalpurposes: It can create a mood, provide an antagonist, es-tablish historical background, or supply symbolic meanings.

Setting as Mood. Authors of children’s literature andadult literature alike use settings to create moods that addcredibility to characters and plot. Readers would probablybe a bit skeptical, for example, if a vampire appeared in asunny American kitchen on a weekday morning while afamily was preparing to leave for school and work; thesame vampire would seem more believable in a moldy cas-tle in Transylvania at midnight. The illustrations and textcan create the mood of a location. Readers can infer theauthor’s and illustrator’s feelings about the setting. For ex-ample, Cynthia Rylant’s text and Barry Moser’s illustra-tions for Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds provide asetting that radiates warm feelings about the varied peo-ple, their strengths, and their way of life.

The mood in David Almond’s The Fire-Eaters, 2003winner of the Whitbread Children’s Book Award,matches the strong antiwar theme in this story set in 1962at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Notice how Al-mond develops a frightening mood and sets the stage for aperson-against-society conflict in the following quote:

The air grew cold. Dad threw more sea coal and lumps ofdriftwood onto the fire. I sat with him and watched TV.There’d been more nuclear bomb tests in Russia and the US.President Kennedy stood at a lectern, whispered to a general,shuffled some papers and spoke of his resolution, our growingstrength. He said there were no limits to the steps we’d takeif we were pushed. Khrushchev made a fist, thumped a tableand glared. Then came the pictures that accompanied suchreports: the missiles that would be launched, the planes thatwould take off, the mushroom clouds, the howling winds, thedevastated cities. (p. 19)

What mood did Almond develop with the reference tothe nuclear bomb tests, the mushroom clouds, and thedevastated cities? What is the significance of the air grow-ing colder and the thumping of fists?

In the following quote found in the first paragraph ofFrom the Lighthouse, Liz Chipman shows the mood of hercharacter by describing the unhappy impact of a beautifulautumn season:

Autumn used to be my favorite time of year. I don’t like it somuch anymore. It’s lost some of its luster. Autumn leaves onthe Hudson weren’t enough to make Ma stay. And what amI, compared to the bright yellow-orange-red of an Octoberriverbank, the sun lighting up the sky, shining warm love onthe whole entire earth? Not much: A knobby-kneed thir-teen-year-old girl with black hair and the two biggest frontteeth in the entire town of Hudson, New York. Foolish tothink I could be enough to make Ma want to stay if theleaves couldn’t. (p. 5)

A setting that would normally reflect a happy mood be-comes one of loss. The mood of the character also intro-duces a major person-against-self conflict as the girl triesto understand what caused her mother to leave her, herthree brothers, her father, and the lighthouse that is hometo the family.

Setting as Antagonist. Setting can be an antagonist inplots based on person-against-society or person-against-nature conflict. The descriptions of the Arctic in JeanCraighead George’s Julie of the Wolves are essential; with-out them, readers would have difficulty understanding thelife-and-death peril facing Miyax. These descriptionsmake it possible to comprehend Miyax’s love for theArctic, her admiration of and dependence on the wolves,and her preference for the old Eskimo ways.

Sharon Creech’s descriptions of the ocean during astorm in The Wanderer provide a vivid antagonist. For ex-ample, notice how Creech uses descriptive language andfrightening similes in the following quotes: “Now thewaves are more fierce, cresting and toppling over, like leer-ing drooling monsters spewing heavy streaks of foam

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The paintings depict the terrible destruction associated with atornado in Irene Trivas’s illustrations for George Ella Lyon’s OneLucky Girl. (From One Lucky Girl by George Ella Lyon.Copyright © 2000 by Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.Reprinted by permission of Dorling Kindersley.)

through the air” (p. 185) and “But this wave was unlikeany other. It had a curl, a distinct high curl. I watched itgrowing up behind us, higher and higher, and then curledover The Wanderer, thousands of gallons of water, whiteand lashing” (p. 208).

The setting in Ida Vos’s Hide and Seek provides theantagonist, the Netherlands during German occupation.In the foreword to the text. Vos introduces the setting forthe story and helps readers understand that the setting isthe antagonist:

Come with me to a small country in Western Europe. To theNetherlands, a land also known as Holland. Come with me,back to the year 1940. I am eight years old. German soldiersare parading through the Dutch streets. They have helmetson their heads and they are wearing black boots. They aremarching and singing songs that have words I don’t under-stand. “They’re going to kill all the Jews!” shouts my mother.I am afraid, I have a stomachache. I am Jewish. (p. vii)

The reactions of the characters and the descriptions of theoccupation in the remainder of the book leave no doubtthat this setting is an antagonist. Vos based Hide and Seekon her family’s life during World War II.

Authors of nonfiction who write about horrific peri-ods in history may also introduce their subjects with thesetting as the antagonist. For example, notice how JimMurphy prepares readers for the turmoil to come in AnAmerican Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the YellowFever Epidemic of 1793: “Saturday, August 3, 1793. Thesun came up, as it had every day since the end of May,bright, hot, and unrelenting. The swamps and marshessouth of Philadelphia had already lost a great deal of wa-

ter to the intense heat, while the Delaware and SchuylkillRivers had receded to reveal long stretches of theirmuddy, root-choked banks. Dead fish and gooey veg-etable matter were exposed and rotted, while swarms ofinsects droned in the heavy, humid air. . . . Mosquitoeswere everywhere, though their high-pitched whirring wasparticularly loud near rain barrels, gutters, and open sew-ers” (p. 1).

Illustrated picture books also may develop the settingas antagonist. For example, Irene Travas’s illustrations forGeorge Ella Lyon’s One Lucky Girl depict the destructionassociated with a tornado.

Setting as Historical Background. Accuracy in settingis extremely important in historical fiction and in biogra-phy. Conflict in the story and the actions of the charactersmay be influenced by the time period and the geographi-cal location. However, unless authors describe settingscarefully, children cannot comprehend unfamiliar histori-cal periods or the stories that unfold in them. A Gatheringof Days, by Joan W. Blos, is an example of historical fictionthat carefully depicts setting—in this case, a small NewHampshire farm in the 1830s. Blos brings rural 19th-century America to life through descriptions of littlethings, such as home remedies, country pleasures, andcountry hardships.

Blos describes in detail the preparation of a cold rem-edy: The character goes to the pump for water, blows upthe fire, heats a kettle of water over the flames, wrings outa flannel in hot water, sprinkles the flannel with turpen-tine, and places it on the patient’s chest. Blos alsodescribes discipline and school life in the 1830s. Disobe-dience can result in a thrashing. Because of their sex, girlsare excused from all but the simplest arithmetic. Readersvicariously join the characters in breaking out of the snowwith a team of oxen, tapping the maple sugar trees, andcollecting nuts. Of this last experience, the narrator says,“O, I do think, as has been said, that if getting in the cornand potatoes are the prose of a farm child’s life, then nut-ting’s the poetry” (p. 131).

The setting in Joëlle Stolz’s The Shadows of Ghadamesis 19th-century Libya. The author develops a historicalbackground for this Muslim country by focusing on thevery traditional and often hidden lives of women inGhadames, where “the men are often away on the deserttracks while the women wait for them on the rooftops”(p. 3). The author makes this a believable setting by de-scribing cultural details such as the rooftop world of thewomen where they cook and weave, the belief in spirits,the treatment for illnesses, the authority of men in thefamily and in the culture, the women’s baths, and the con-flict caused by two wives living in the same family. The au-thor concludes with a theme that suggests that changesare coming to this Islamic world. An interesting culturalcomparison to this book is Suzanne Fisher Staples’sShabanu: Daughter of the Wind, a story of a Muslim family

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who lives in the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan. Staples’snovel is discussed in Chapter 9, “Contemporary RealisticFiction.”

In Number the Stars, set in Copenhagen during the1940s, Lois Lowry develops a fictional story around theactions of the Danish Resistance. Actions of King Christ-ian add to the historical accuracy of the time period. Inaddition to depicting historically accurate backgrounds.Lowry develops the attitudes of the Danish people. Con-sequently, readers understand why many Danes riskedtheir lives to relocate the Jewish residents of Denmark.

Detailed illustrations by Steve Noon for Anne Mil-lard’s A Street Through Time: A 12,000-Year Walk ThroughHistory allow viewers to identify many aspects of life as itwould appear in the same setting beginning in 10,000 B.C.and progressing into a modern town. Text covering earlyperiods such as “Roman Times,” “Viking Raiders,” and“Medieval Village” provide numerous details that couldclarify nonillustrated books of historical fiction.

The authors of historical fiction and biography mustnot only depict the time and location but also be aware ofvalues, vocabulary, and other speech patterns consistentwith the time and location. To do this, the authors mustbe immersed in the past and do extensive research. For ex-

ample, Joan Blos researched her subject at the New YorkPublic Library, libraries on the University of Michigancampus, and the town library of Holderness, New Hamp-shire. She also consulted town and county records in NewHampshire and discussed the story with professional his-torians. Lois Lowry visited Copenhagen and researcheddocuments about the leaders of the Danish Resistance.

Setting as Symbolism. Settings often have symbolicmeanings that underscore what is happening in the story.Symbolism is common in traditional folktales, wherefrightening adventures and magical transformations occurin the deep, dark woods, and splendid castles are the sitesof “happily ever after.” Modern authors of fantasy and sci-ence fiction for children often borrow symbolic settingsfrom old folktales to establish moods of strangeness andenchantment, such as the parallel universes created in thehigh fantasies by authors such as J. K. Rowling in HarryPotter and the Goblet of Fire and Philip Pullman in TheGolden Compass, but authors of realistic fiction also usesubtly symbolic settings to accentuate plot or help developcharacters.

In one children’s classic. The Secret Garden, byFrances Hodgson Burnett, a garden that has been lockedbehind a wall for 10 years symbolizes a father’s grief afterthe death of his wife, his son’s illness, and the emotionalestrangement of the father and son from each other. Thefirst positive change in the life of a lonely, unhappy girl oc-curs when she discovers the buried key to the garden andopens the vine-covered door: “It was the sweetest, mostmysterious-looking place anyone could imagine. The highwalls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stemsof climbing roses which were so thick that they were mat-ted together” (p. 76). Finding the garden, working in it,and watching its beauty return bring happiness to the girl,restore health to the sick boy, and reunite the father andson. The good magic that causes emotional and physicalhealing in this secret kingdom is symbolized by tiny newshoots emerging from the soil and the rosy color that thegarden’s fresh air brings to the cheeks of two pale children.

In a later book. Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Ter-abithia, a secret kingdom in the woods is the “other world”shared by two young people who do not conform to thevalues of rural Virginia. The boy, Jess, would rather be anartist than follow the more masculine aspirations of his fa-ther, who accuses him of being a sissy. Schoolmates tauntthe girl, Leslie, because she loves books and has no televi-sion. Jess and Leslie find that they have much in common,so they create a domain of their own, in which a beautifulsetting symbolizes their growing sense of comradeship, be-longingness, and self-love.

Even the entrance to their secret country is symbolic“It could be a magic country like Narnia, and the only wayyou can get in is by swinging across on this enchantedrope” (p. 39). They grab the old rope, swing across thecreek, and enter their stronghold, where streams of light

Lois Lowry develops a setting that is historically accurate forWorld War II Denmark. (From Number the Stars by Lois Lowry,copyright © 1989. Reproduced with permission of HoughtonMifflin Co.)

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A boy and girl create a secret kingdom in which they can escapethe problems of the real world. (Illustration by Donna Diamondfrom Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Copyright ©1977 by Katherine Paterson. A Newbery Medal winner. Bypermission of Thomas Y. Crowell, Publishers.)

ThemeThe theme of a story is the underlying idea that ties theplot, characters, and setting together into a meaningfulwhole. When evaluating themes in children’s books, con-sider what the author wanted to convey about life or soci-ety and whether that theme is worthwhile for children. Amemorable book has a theme—or several themes—thatchildren can understand because of their own needs. Lau-rence Perrine (1983) states:

There is no prescribed method for discovering theme. Some-times we can best get at it by asking in what way the maincharacter has changed in the course of a story and what, ifanything, the character has learned before its end. Sometimesthe best approach is to explore the nature of the central con-flict and its outcome. Sometimes the title will provide an im-portant clue. (p. 110)

Authors of children’s books often directly state thetheme of a book, rather than imply it as authors com-monly do in books for adults. For example. Wendy An-derson Halperin’s Love Is . . . develops various definitionsof love, such as “Love is kind.” On one side of the doublepage, the artist depicts the consequences when that typeof love is not present; the facing page depicts the conse-quences when that love is added. Theme may be stated bycharacters or through the author’s narrative. The charac-ters’ actions and the outcome of the story usually developand support the theme in children’s literature. Picture sto-rybooks, with their shorter texts and fewer themes, allowreaders to analyze, trace, and discuss evidence of theme ina briefer, whole story. For example, many readers identifythe theme in Patricia Polacco’s Appelemando’s Dreams as“It is important to dream.” The following evidence fromthe book supports this theme:

1. The boy who does not have anything to do in a drabvillage makes his life interesting by dreaming aboutmagic chariots pulled by galloping hues of color.

2. Appelemando shares his beautiful colored dreamswith his friends and makes them happy.

3. The friends try to capture Appelemando’s dreamson paper so that they can keep them forever.

4. The children fear that they will lose Appelemando’sdreams after the villagers angrily make them washthe dreams off the village walls.

5. The dreams allow the children to be found afterthey lose their way in the forest.

6. The villagers weep for joy after they followAppelemando’s vision and find the children.

7. The villagers conclude, “Never again would theyquestion the importance of dreams” (p. 28,unnumbered).

8. The village becomes a colorful and dreamy placethat people enjoy visiting.

dance through the leaves of dogwood, oak, and evergreen,fears and enemies do not exist, and anything they want ispossible. Paterson develops credible settings as Jess andLeslie go from the world of school and home to the worldthey make for themselves in Terabithia.

A dilapidated house, with its uncared-for backyard,becomes a symbolic setting in Janet Taylor Lisle’s After-noon of the Elves. In this setting, two girls, Hillary and Sara-Kate, make discoveries about each other and the im-portance of accepting people who are different. The girlswork together in a miniature village that Sara-Kate main-tains was built by elves. Like Paterson, Lisle creates twocredible settings: (1) Hillary’s normal world of school andhome and (2) the almost otherworldly existence of a yardthat is entered through a thick hedge. Like many other au-thors of books that have symbolic settings, Lisle relates thesettings to the theme.

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Themes in books written for younger children fre-quently develop around experiences and emotions thatare important to the younger readers. For example, JamesHowe’s Horace and Morris But Mostly Dolores develops thevery understandable theme that friendship is important.The theme in Douglas Wood’s What Dads Can’t Do devel-

ops the importance of a father’s love by showing numer-ous father-and-child relationships.

In contrast, themes developed in books written forolder readers frequently focus on human developmentand the consequences that may result from choices. Forexample, Suzanne Fisher Staples’s heroine in Shiva’s Firediscovers “‘That is a basic human frailty—we always wantto know what will happen if we do one thing rather thananother. Not knowing is the mystery of destiny. If you arestill for a moment, no doubt you will hear your heart tellyou what you must do’” (p. 264). Human frailty is also re-vealed in the concluding volume to Philip Pullman’s tril-ogy, The Amber Spyglass.

Theme Revealed by Changes in Characters. In TheWhipping Boy, Sid Fleischman develops the theme thatfriendship is important. He shows how the main charac-ters change in their attitudes toward each other. For ex-ample, the names that the main characters call each otherprogress from hostility to comradeship. At the beginningof the story, Jemmy thinks of the prince as “Your RoyalAwfulness.” Likewise, the prince refers to Jemmy as“Jemmy-from-the-Street” and “contrary rascal.” As thestory progresses and the two characters learn to respectand admire each other, Jemmy refers to the prince as“friend” and the prince calls himself “Friend-o-Jemmy’s.”

Theme and the Nature of Conflict. Stories set in othertime periods frequently develop themes by revealing howthe main characters respond to conflicts caused by society.For example, Rudolf Frank’s No Hero for the Kaiser, set inWorld War I, develops several antiwar themes. Frank de-picts the harsh nature of war by exploring the actions andresponses of a boy who is unwittingly drawn into battle.Through the viewpoint of the boy. Frank reveals that ittakes more courage not to fight than to fight, that it is im-portant to respect oneself, and that “guns never go off bythemselves” (p. 13). Frank reinforces these themes throughsymbolism, similes, and contrasts. The contrasts are espe-cially effective as Frank compares the same soldiers at homeand on the battlefield and contrasts peacetime and wartimemeanings for terms such as bull’s-eye, shot, and field.

Prejudice is a harmful force in historical fiction, suchas Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond,Paula Fox’s The Slave Dancer, Mary Stolz’s Cezanne Pinto:A Memoir, Uri Orlev’s The Island on Bird Street, and Mil-dred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The themeof prejudice as a harmful force is also found in biographiessuch as Russell Freedman’s The Voice That Challenged aNation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rightsand in informational books such as Diane McWhorter’s ADream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement From 1954 to1968.

The Theme of Personal Development. Literature of-fers children opportunities to identify with other people’sexperiences and thus better understand their own growing

An In-Depth Analysis of Themein One Book

Sharon Creech’s 1995 Newbery Medal winner, Walk TwoMoons, allows readers to analyze the effectiveness of the au-thor’s use of theme and to consider how it relates to 13-year-old Sal, her grandparents, her friend, her father, and hermother, who has left home. The themes in Creech’s book tiethe plot, characters, and setting together into a meaningfulwhole. For example, Creech uses mysterious messages leftby a stranger to tie together the plot, characters’ actions, andmotivation. The messages are also written in the form ofthemes.

The first message is “Don’t judge a man until youhave walked two moons in his moccasins” (p. 51). Fatherthen interprets the meaning of the message on page 61. Thesecond message is “Everyone has his own agenda” (p. 60).This message is tied to Gramps’s interpretation of the mes-sage (p. 60). Prudence’s and Sal’s actions (p. 104), andPhoebe’s thoughts about her agenda (p. 140). The thirdmessage is “In the course of a lifetime what does it matter”(p. 105). This message is related to Sal’s thoughts about themeaning of the message (p. 106). The fourth message is“You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over yourhead, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair”(p. 154). This message is related to Phoebe’s story (p. 155),Phoebe’s father’s response (p. 162), Phoebe’s crying andSal’s response (p. 169), hope related to the story ofPandora’s box (pp. 174–175), the birds of sadness aroundPhoebe’s family (p. 189), and the birds of sadness aroundMrs. Cadaver (p. 220). The fifth message is “We never knowthe worth of water until the well runs dry” (p. 198). This mes-sage is related to the discussion about Mrs. Cadaver’s andSal’s realization that the messages have changed the waythey look at life.

The final and sixth message is the same as the first:“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in hismoccasins” (p. 252). The importance of this message is de-veloped when Gramps and Sal play the moccasin game inwhich they take turns pretending they are walking in some-one else’s moccasins (p. 275) and when Gramps’s gift to Salis to let her walk in her mother’s moccasins. This book pro-vides an interesting source for tracing the emergence ofthemes and the relation of those themes to various charac-ters and conllicts developed in the text.

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Superior rats consider the morality of their actions in a complexplot. (Illustration by Zena Bernstein from Mrs. Frisby and theRats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. Copyright © 1971 byRobert C. O’Brien. [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971].Reprinted with the permission of Atheneum Publishers.)

Technology Resources

The Bulletin of the Centre for Children’s Books is a reviewjournal, providing starred reviews, editorials, andauthor/illustrator profiles. You can link to this valuablesite from the Companion Website atwww.prenhall.com/norton

up. Consequently, the themes of many children’s booksdeal with developing self-understanding. In an early study,Gretchen Purtell Hayden (1969) concluded that the fol-lowing themes related to personal development are pre-dominant in children’s books that had received theNewbery Medal up to that time: difficulties in establishinggood relationships between adults and children, the needfor morality to guide one’s actions, the importance of sup-port from other people, an acceptance of oneself and oth-ers, a respect for authority, the ability to handle problems,and the necessity of cooperation. As you read more cur-rent books, search to see if these themes are still found inthe literature.

In Robert O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats ofNIMH, intellectually superior rats search for a moralcode to guide their actions. They have studied the humanrace and do not wish to make the same mistakes, but theysoon realize how easy it is to slip into dishonest behavior.Some equipment that they find allows them to steal elec-tricity, food, and water from human society, which thenmakes their lives seem too easy and pointless. Eventually,the rats choose a more difficult course of action, movinginto an isolated valley and working to develop their owncivilization.

One book that develops the importance of supportfrom another human being is Theodore Taylor’s The Cay.When Phillip and his mother leave Curaçao to find safetyin the United States, their boat is torpedoed by a Germansubmarine. Phillip, a white boy, and Timothy, a black WestIndian, become isolated first on a life raft and then on atiny Caribbean island. Their need for each other is in-creased when Phillip becomes blind after a blow to thehead and, in spite of his racial prejudice, must rely on Tim-othy to survive. Phillip’s superior attitudes gradually van-

ish, as he becomes totally dependent on another person.When Phillip is finally rescued. He treasures the way inwhich a wonderful friend has helped change his life for thebetter.

The Cay also stresses the theme of accepting oneselfand others, as does Joan W. Blos’s A Gathering of Days, inwhich Catherine experiences injustice for the first timewhen she and her friends secretly help a runaway slave.Catherine learns to respect authority as well when afteryears of responsibility for her widowed father and little sis-ter, she must trust and obey her new stepmother.

Many children’s books deal in some way with the ne-cessity of overcoming problems. Characters may confrontproblems within themselves or in their relationships withothers, or problems caused by society or nature. Memo-rable characters face their adversaries, and through a ma-turing process, they learn to handle their difficulties.Handling problems may be as dramatic and planned asMafatu’s search for courage in Armstrong Sperry’s Call ItCourage or may result from accident, as in Theodore Tay-lor’s The Cay.

Cooperation, the importance of personal growth, andthe need for kindness and sharing are all themes in E. L.Konigsburg’s The View From Saturday. These themes aredeveloped as a group of sixth graders form a winning teamfor the Academic Bowl.

StyleAuthors have a wide choice of words to select from andnumerous ways to arrange words to create plots, charac-ters, and settings and to express themes. Many authors usewords and sentences in creative ways. To evaluate style,read a piece of literature aloud; the sound of a story shouldappeal to your senses and be appropriate to the content ofthe story. The language should help develop the plot,bring the characters to life, and create a mood. For exam-ple, Ruth Krauss’s Bears uses an appealing rhyming text,as bears are in such locations as on the stairs and underthe chairs.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, by Paul Goble, wasa Children’s Choice selection. The most frequent reasonthat children give for choosing this book is the author’suse of language. Goble uses precise similes to evoke alandscape of cliffs and canyons, beautiful wild horses, andthe high-spirited Indian girl who loves them. One stal-lion’s eyes are “cold stars,” and his floating mane and tailare “wispy clouds.” During a storm, the horses gallop“faster and faster, pursued by thunder and lightning . . .

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like a brown flood across hills and through valleys” (p. 12,unnumbered).

Sid Fleischman uses many metaphors and similes tocreate the setting in The Midnight Horse, such as “It wasraining bullfrogs. The coach lurched and swayed along theriver road like a ship in rough seas. Inside clung three pas-sengers like unlashed cargo. One was a blacksmith, an-other was a thief, and the third was an orphan boy namedTouch” (p. 1).

Fleischman also uses similes to develop characters.For example, Touch, the orphan, is described as “skinnyand bareheaded, with hair as curly as wood shavings”(p. 1), and “he chose to bring himself up, free as a sail tocatch any chance wind that came along” (p. 29). Comparethese similes with those for Otis Cratt, the thief, who is de-scribed as a long-armed man who looked “like a looselywrapped mummy” (p. 3), was drawn to the blacksmith’sbillfold “like a compass needle to true north” (p. 4), andran “like a wolf returning to its den” (p. 29). Fleischmanuses similes that relate to the actions of each characterwithin the story.

Figurative language also helps develop characters,plot, and setting in Jan Hudson’s Sweetgrass, a historicalnovel about the Blackfoot, set on the Canadian prairies.Early in the story, for example, sweet berries symbolize a

young girl’s happiness and hopes: “Promiseshung shimmering in the future like glowingberries above sandy soil as we gathered ourbags for the walk home” (p. 12). Later, thesame girl’s acceptance of a disillusioning re-ality is symbolized again by berries, whichare then bitter.

Authors also may select words and sen-tence structures with rhythms evoking, dif-ferent moods. Armstrong Sperry createstwo distinct moods for Mafatu in Call ItCourage. As Mafatu goes through the jun-gle, he is preoccupied and moves leisurely.Sperry uses long sentences to set this mood:“His mind was not in this business at all: hewas thinking about the rigging of his canoe,planning how he could strengthen it here,tighten it there” (p. 77). This dreamy pre-occupation changes rapidly as Mafatusenses danger. Sperry’s verbs become harshand his sentences short and choppy asMafatu’s tension builds: “The boarcharged. Over the ground it tore. Foamflew back from its tusks. The boy bracedhimself” (p. 78).

Kate DiCamillo, winner of the 2004Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux,uses an usual style in which the narratorinterjects comments by talking to thereader; this usually happens at the end of achapter. For example, after the father de-

clares that the mouse, Despereaux, cannot live, the nar-rator states, “But reader, he did live. This is his story”(p. 15). Or, the narrator may intervene when readersshould think about a word meaning, such as, “At leastLester had the decency to weep at his act of perfidy.Reader, do you know what ‘perfidy’ means? I have a feel-ing you do, based on the little scene that has just unfoldedhere But you should look up the word in your dictionary,just to be sure” (p. 45).

DiCamillo reveals her purpose for writing in this stylein an interview when she states that she uses it so the nar-rator can help readers navigate the complexity of the plotwith its multiple story lines (Horning, 2004): “When Des-pereaux goes down to the dungeon both times, you as thereader don’t feel abandoned because the narrator is therewith you. It’s kind of like somebody who’s taking the jour-ney with you but who knows a little bit more than you do,and implicitly says, ‘It’s going to be all right.’ Kids seem toenjoy it” (p. 46).

Linda Sue Park also interjects the voice of the authorin her Project Mulberry. At the end of each chapter, she in-serts a dialogue between the main character, Julia Song,and herself as author, Ms. Park. Julia states: “If you’re in-terested in learning about how this book was written—background information, mistakes, maybe even a secret or



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An In-Depth Analysis of Author’s Use of Style in One Book

sting. Later, her mother-in-law is compared to little red ants thatswarm all over you and continually bite. When her mother-in-lawdeserts her in a town filled with begging widows, Koly feels likea kitten who has been dropped down a well.

The mood, developed through figurative language,changes after Koly discovers hope in a home for widows that isfounded to help people like her gain respect and an ability to earna living. Notice how the mood of the comparisons changes asKoly also discovers hope: When with relief she takes off herwidow’s sari, she feels like the snake that rids itself of its confin-ing skin. Later, the author uses Koly’s considerable ability withembroidery to show that if we use our talents, life can be like abeautiful tapestry.

The idea for a tapestry also becomes symbolic for thechanges in Koly’s life. In the following quote, the author uses thesymbolism of quilting to show the changes in Koly’s life as sheprogresses from sadness to happiness: “Once again I began toquilt for my dowry. My first quilt was stitched as I worried aboutmy marriage to Hari, the second in sorrow at Hari’s death.Chandra’s quilt was stitched to celebrate her happiness. This timeas I embroidered, I thought only of my own joy. ‘When it’s fin-ished,’ I wrote Raji, ‘we’ll be married.’ In the middle of the quilt,spreading its branches in all directions, I put a tamarind tree toremind me of the tree in my maa and baap’s courtyard and the treein the home I was going to. . . . I stitched a rickshaw and Raji inthe fields and me embroidering in the room Raji had made for me.Around the quilt for a border I put the Yamuna Rier, the reeds andherons beside it” (pp. 207–208).

In addition to the symbolism found in embroidery, the au-thor uses references to Indian poetry and mythology to developthe story’s style. As students of children’s literature, you mightconsider the importance of the author’s references to this poetry.In the author’s note, the poet is identified as Rabindranath Tagor,who lived between 1861 and 1941 and was considered one ofIndia’s greatest poets who also wrote plays and stories, com-posed music, and was an advocate for India’s independence fromGreat Britain. In 1913, he received the Nobel Prize for literature.

Gloria Whelan, the author of a National Book Award winner,Homeless Bird, develops a strong heroine who must overcomethe traditional life dictated for her by India’s tradition of arrangedmarriages and lower esteem for women. One of the strengths ofWhelan’s book is her use of figurative language through similes,metaphors, and symbolism; this is especially important in thereferences to birds and the title of the book. Notice in the follow-ing quote how Koly uses positive comparisons to describe her fa-ther’s writing: “I watched as the spoken words were written downto become like caged birds, caught forever by my clever baap”(p. 2). In another place, the author uses a comparison with cagedanimals to reveal Koly’s feelings of being trapped: “As I lay therein the strange house, I felt like a newly caged animal that rushesabout looking for the open door that isn’t there” (p. 24). Thetheme of the lonely and trapped feelings associated with a home-less bird is developed throughout the book to describe Koly’semotions until at the end of the book, she finds happiness at lastand the homeless bird is allowed to fly to its home.

The author also uses very descriptive similes and meta-phors to portray Koly’s feelings as the time of her arranged mar-riage approaches. When she realizes that the family of herprospective bridegroom is more interested in her dowry than inher, the author uses a simile that foreshadows Koly’s future. Nowshe thinks, “Was my marriage to be like the buying of a sack ofyams in the marketplace?” (p. 13). After her marriage, the authoragain uses a reference to the marketplace as her mother-in-lawholds her arm “as I have seen women in the marketplace holdinga chicken’s neck before they killed it” (p. 22).

When Koly realizes fully the disastrous consequences ofher marriage, the author compares her feelings to those of a smallfly caught in the web of a cunning spider. After Koly discovers thather husband has tuberculosis and will probably die, the authoragain describes her feelings through a vivid simile: “My hopeslipped away like a frightened mouse into a dark hole” (p. 42).After Koly’s husband dies, the author uses numerous compar-isons to develop characterizations: Koly’s mother-in-law is sus-picious of books, and she treats them like scorpions that might

two—you’ve come to the right place. Some people likethat sort of thing. It’s mostly conversations between meand the author, Ms. Park. We had a lot of discussions whileshe was writing. Here we go” (p. 12).

Both Nikki Grimes and Marilyn Nelson adopt a stylethat effectively uses poetry to develop characterization. InBronx Masquerade, Grimes develops the power of poetry asAfrican American students expand a poetry assignmentand use poetry for self-evaluation. In this fictional story,the author gives a short introduction to a character whoattends a Bronx high school, presents a poem that this stu-dent might have written as part of a poetry assignment,

and then includes peer responses to the poetry. For exam-ple, following a section about Janelle Battle and a poem,“Inside,” that she might have written, Grimes includesthis reaction by Tyrone after he hears the poem: “Younever think other folks got feelings. Like Janelle. I must’vecracked wise a hundred times about her weight. Nevereven thought about it. It was just something I did for alaugh. Listen to her now, it doesn’t seem all that funny”(p. 50). In Carver: A Life in Poems, Marilyn Nelson usespoetry to tell segments of George Washington Carver’s lifeas an African American poet, painter, musician, botanist,and naturalist.

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Chris Raschka’s newly illustrated version of DylanThomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales provides readersand listeners with a way to enjoy Thomas’s vivid languagethat captures his childhood memories. For example, no-tice how he uses all the senses in the introduction to hisbook:

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea,like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky thatwas our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bringout whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-whitebell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the fireman.(unnumbered)

Karen Cushman’s style in Rodzina, historical fictionset on an orphan train heading west in the 19th century,includes storytelling. The author uses this technique to re-late prior experiences and to entertain the worried or-phans. Notice in the following quote how the authorportrays the historical period and relates a humorous storymeant to entertain the orphans:

I’ll tell you about the time my papa won a pig in a raffle. Hethought he’d lead it home on a string like a dog, but the pig,

being no dog, just grunted and sat down. Papa tried to carryit. The pig squealed and squirmed so much, Papa dropped itand had to chase after it through the muddy streets until hecaught it again. Papa decided he and the pig would take astreetcar. . . . [to take the pig on the streetcar] he went intoa bakery and got a flour sack. He put the pig in the sack, tiedit up tight with a string, and waited for a trolley. He paid hisnickel, sat down, and shoved the pig underneath his seat. Thepig began to squeal, and to cover the noise, Papa began tosing. (p. 77)

The story continues as the children laugh and start totell their own stories. Many of these stories are exagger-ated, such as one about a mother who knitted socks in hersleep or a father who was so lazy that he hired someone todo his snoring. The stories, told in the language of the pi-oneers, help depict the historical period.

Point of ViewDifferent people may describe an incident in differentterms: The feelings they experience, the details they men-tion, and their judgments about what occurred may varybecause of their backgrounds, values, and perspectives.



The author’s style develops a strong heroine and reflects a vividsetting. (From Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan. Copyright ©2000 by Gloria Whelan. Published by HarperCollins. Reprintedby permission of the publisher.

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Consequently, the same story may change drasticallywhen told from another point of view. How would PeterRabbit’s story be different if Beatrix Potter had told it fromthe viewpoint of the mother rabbit? How would Arm-strong Sperry’s Call It Courage differ if told from the view-point of a Polynesian tribesman who loves the sea ratherthan from that of a boy who fears it? Author PatriciaLauber (1991) emphasizes the importance of point of viewwhen she states. “The best stories have a point of view.

An In-Depth Analysis of Point of View in One Book

portance of point of view. Through Mary Alice’s point of view, weunderstand how she goes from someone who fears her grand-mother and does not want to be with her to someone who under-stands and respects her grandmother’s actions, beliefs, and val-ues. Early in the novel, Peck describes Grandma’s actions towardHalloween tricksters, her interpretation of being able to gather allthe nuts on the ground in a neighbor’s yard, and her attitude to-ward borrowing pumpkins from a neighbor’s garden and thenbaking them into pies to donate to a school function. We discoverthrough Mary Alice’s point of view that “to Grandma, Halloweenwasn’t so much trick-or-treat as it was vittles and vengeance.Though she’d have called it justice” (p. 38).

Peck continues to develop a plot that focuses on MaryAlice’s growing understanding of and respect for her feisty grand-mother’s actions, beliefs, and values. By the end of the book, weas readers care about both Mary Alice and her grandmother andwhat will happen to them. The closeness of the two characters isrevealed when Mary Alice leaves school during a tornado alertbecause she wants to “come home” and make sure that hergrandmother is all right. This closeness is again reinforced whenMary Alice realizes: “Sometimes I thought I was turning into her.I had to watch out not to talk like her. And I was to cook like herfor all the years to come” (p. 123). This closeness is again high-lighted through Mary Alice’s first-person point of view when shedeclares, “‘Grandma, I don’t want to go back to Chicago. I want tostay here with you’” (p. 126).

By developing this relationship through Mary Alice’s pointof view, Peck helps us understand the changes that allow MaryAlice to progress from someone who thought she was at the endof the world with no one to care about her to a character whoshows considerable love, respect, and admiration for her grand-mother. Peck’s last two pages are situated in the future when,years later, Mary Alice returns to her grandmother’s house to bemarried.

As students of children’s literature, you may wish to con-sider how Peck uses point of view to develop characterizationsand plot in A Long Way From Chicago. Could you predict any ofthe happenings in A Year Down Yonder? Does Peck use any ofthe same techniques to develop point of view in A Long WayFrom Chicago?

The point of view developed in Richard Peck’s 2001 NewberyMedal winner, A Year Down Yonder, enables readers to analyzethe effectiveness of several of the purposes for establishing apoint of view. Readers may also develop an understanding of thetechniques the author used to make them care about the charac-ters and what will happen in the story.

First, the author builds on his previous book, A Long WayFrom Chicago, which was a 1999 Newbery Honor book and aNational Book Award finalist. In the first book, the author devel-ops the characters of two children who during each summer ofthe Depression travel from Chicago to a small town in southernIllinois to visit their grandmother. Peck involves readers by mak-ing them care about the boy and the girl. Through the details hechooses to describe, we have a strong feeling about the back-grounds, values, and perspectives of the main characters, espe-cially the feisty grandmother.

In A Year Down Yonder, Peck focuses on 15-year-oldMary Alice and her grandmother, who spend a year together dur-ing the recession of 1937. The book begins as Mary Alice isasked to live with her grandmother after her father loses his job.Let us begin our discussion of point of view with Lauber’s (1991)concern that a major purpose of point of view is to make readerscare about the characters and how the story will develop. A con-siderable portion of Peck’s novel is told through Mary Alice’spoint of view. Most readers will immediately sympathize with herand understand her feelings when she thinks: “Oh, didn’t I feelsorry for myself when the Wabash Railroad’s Blue Bird trainsteamed into Grandma’s town. . . . My trunk thumped out ontothe platform from the baggage car ahead. There I stood at the endof the world with all I had left. Bootsie [her cat] and my radio”(p. 4). In the first chapter, Peck develops Mary Alice’s point ofview about the town as a place where everyone knows everythingabout you, about going to a school where she knows nobody andwhere the students do not want to make friends with a new girlthey consider a rich city girl, about missing her brother who al-ways stuck up for her, and about her view of her grandmother whohas definite opinions of her own and is considered not only feistybut also difficult to get along with.

Tracing how Peck uses Mary Alice’s changing point ofview about her grandmother is an interesting way to show the im-

They involve readers by making them care—care aboutthe characters, whether people or animals, care about atown, care about an idea, and most of all, care about howit all comes out” (p. 46).

Avi’s Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novelstimulates interesting discussions about point of view andfosters responses to literature. The book, a fictional novelwritten in documentary format, allows readers to inter-pret each incident, draw their own conclusions about the

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truthfulness of the documents, and decide which charac-ters are changed the most. As a consequence, readersgain insights into how emotions can define and distortthe truth.

As children read this novel, they can analyze how Avidocuments various reactions to and points of view on thesame incident through the use of memos, letters, diarypages, discussions, phone and personal conversations,speeches, and telegrams. Avi also develops characters,conflicts, and various emotional responses through thesesame documents. Consequently, the book can be used tostimulate personal responses among readers.

Paul Fleischman’s Bull Run is a story of the first battleof the Civil War. It is unique because Fleischman developsthe story around the points of view of 16 people involvedin the battle: Eight characters tell their story from the per-spective of the Union, and eight others reflect the per-spective of the Confederacy. Fleischman’s charactersrange from generals to foot soldiers. Some of the charac-ters tell their stories while waiting for men to return from

battle, and others are artists, photographers, and doctorswho observe or play important parts in the battle. By theend of the book, all of the characters reflect the disillu-sionment and horror associated with this first battle.

Rosalyn Schanzer’s George vs. George: The AmericanRevolution as Seen From Both Sides is also unique becausethe author contrasts the point of view of George Wash-ington and King George III. The author shows the differ-ent views about topics that led to the Revolutionary War,such as differing beliefs about taxation and forms of gov-ernment. The text format that alternates between thetwo sides provides an excellent way for readers to con-trast the views and the consequences of the differingviewpoints. The author’s use of historical sources showsreaders the importance of research when writing aboutcontroversy. Readers also discover that there are twosides to most issues.

The resolution of the conflict in Bruce Edward Hall’sHenry and the Kite Dragon illustrates the importance of un-derstanding another’s perspective if conflict is to be elim-inated. The story is set in Chinatown in the 1920s.Conflict arises when the boys from Little Italy throw rocksat Grandfather Chin’s dragon kite. It is not until Henryand Grandfather discover that the boys from Little Italyraise homing pigeons and the dragon kite frightens the pi-geons that the two sides reach a compromise: The kiteswill fly in the morning and the homing pigeons will fly inthe afternoon. After reading this book, students hopefullyunderstand the importance of identifying point of viewwhen solving problems.

An author has several options when selecting point ofview. A first-person point of view speaks through the “I” ofone of the characters. An author who wishes to use a first-person narrative must decide which character’s actionsand feelings should influence the story. An objective pointof view lets actions speak for themselves; the author de-scribes only the characters’ actions, and readers must in-fer the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

An omniscient point of view tells the story in the thirdperson (“they,” “he,” or “she”). The author is not re-stricted to the knowledge, experiences, and feelings of oneperson; the feelings and thoughts of all characters can berevealed. A limited omniscient point of view, however, con-centrates on the experiences of one character but has theoption to be all-knowing about other characters. A lim-ited omniscient point of view may clarify conflicts and ac-tions that would be less understandable in a first-personnarrative.

Although no point of view is preferred for all chil-dren’s literature, an author’s choice can affect how muchchildren of certain ages believe and enjoy a story. Con-temporary realistic fiction for children age 8 and older of-ten uses a first-person or a limited omniscient point ofview that focuses on one child’s experiences. Older chil-dren often empathize with one character if they have hadsimilar experiences.

In this book, set in the recession of 1937, the author developsseveral strong points of view. (Cover Art by Steve Cieslawski,copyright © 2000 by Steve Cieslawski, cover art, from A YearDown Yonder, by Richard Peck. Used by permission of DialBooks for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

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A survey by Susan Swanton (1984) showed thatgifted students owned more books and used public li-braries more than did other students. Fifty-five percent ofthe gifted students whom Swanton surveyed identified thepublic library as their major source of reading materials, asopposed to only 33% of the other students, most of whomidentified the school library as their major source forbooks. Thirty-five percent of the gifted children ownedmore than 100 books. Only 19% of other students ownedan equal number of books. Swanton made the followingrecommendations for cooperation between public li-braries and schools:

1. Promote students’ participation in summer readingprograms that are sponsored by public libraries.

2. Inform parents about the value of reading aloud tochildren, of giving children their own books, and ofparents as role models for developing readers.

3. Encourage school librarians to do book talksdesigned to entice children into reading.

4. Provide field trips to public libraries.

5. Advertise public library programs and services.

6. Make obtaining the first library card a special event.

These recommendations have not changed. Nilsen andDonelson (2001) stress many of the same activities to pro-mote reading by young adults, especially the need tomatch books with readers, provide book talks, make dis-plays to promote books, and develop programs to interestreaders.

ReadabilityReadability is another major consideration in choosing lit-erature for children: A book must conform to a child’sreading level in order for the child to read independently.Children become frustrated when books contain too manywords that they don’t know. A child is able to read inde-pendently when he or she can pronounce about 98–100%of the words in a book and answer 90–100% of the com-prehension questions asked about it. Reading abilities inany one age group or grade level range widely, so adultsworking with children must provide and be familiar withan equally wide range of literature. Many children havereading levels lower than their interest levels. Thus, theyneed many opportunities to listen to and otherwise inter-act with, fine literature.

Consistency of point of view encourages readers tobelieve in a story. Such belief is especially crucial in mod-ern fantasy, where readers are introduced to imaginaryworlds, unusual characters, and magical incidents. Awriter may describe a setting as if it were being viewed bya character only a few inches tall. To be believable, how-ever, the story cannot stray from the viewpoint of thetiny character: The character’s actions, the responses ofothers toward the character, and the setting must beconsistent.

The Right Book for Each ChildBecause of developmental stages, children have dif-ferent personal and literary needs at different ages.Children in the same age group or at the same stageof development also have diverse interests and read-ing abilities that you must consider. Understanding

why and what children read is necessary in order to helpthem select materials that stimulate their interests andenjoyment. Studies show that the most powerful determi-nants of adult reading are accessibility, readability, and in-terest; these factors also influence children’s reading. Ifdeveloping enjoyment through literature is a major objec-tive of your reading program for children, you must makeavailable many excellent books, consider children’s read-ing levels, and know how to gain and use informationabout children’s reading interests.

AccessibilityLiterature must be readily accessible if children are to readat all. To determine which books interest them, learnabout their heritage, recognize and appreciate good liter-ature, and understand themselves and others through lit-erature, children must have opportunities to read andlisten to many books. As suggested, a literature programfor children should include a wide variety of high-qualityliterature, both old and new. Unfortunately, as a result ofvarious legislative mandates that vie for classroom time,children may not have enough opportunities to read liter-ature in school.

Accessibility in the home is also important for devel-oping interest in books. In a review of studies of childrenwho read early and who do voluntary reading, LesleyMandel Morrow (1991) discusses environments that fos-ter-children’s early interest in books. She concludes thatthe environments must have a large supply of accessiblebooks, plus parents who read to children regularly andwho are responsive to their children’s questions aboutbooks. In addition, these parents must serve as models byreading a great deal themselves. In a panel discussion onthe importance of reading during the summer, educatorsinterviewed by Eden Ross Lipson (2001) stressed thevalue of reading for pleasure during this time because chil-dren gain a love for reading and also return to school asbetter readers.

Technology Resources

The Children’s Literature Web Guide is an excellentsite that includes award lists, conference information,and links to sources for parents, teachers, storytellers,writers, and illustrators. If you visit only one siteconcerning children’s literature, this should be it. Linkto it from the Companion Website atwww.prenhall.com/norton

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Books listed in the bibliographies at the end of thechapters in this book are identified by grade level andreadability, although a book will not be applicable to everychild in the grade indicated.

Interest and Reader ResponseInterests also are extremely important when developingliterature programs. Margaret Early (1992/1993) states,“Decades of experience have shown that children aremore likely to develop as thoughtful readers when they arepursuing content that interests them” (p. 307). You canlearn about children’s interests from studies of children’sinterests and from interest inventories. You should con-sider information gained from each source.

Dianne Monson and Sam Sebesta (1991) reviewedthe research on children’s interests and reading prefer-ences. They conclude, “The results of a good number ofstudies reveal agreement of types of subject matter thatappeal to students of a particular age level and supportthe notion that interests change with age” (p. 667). How-ever, although research on reader interest on can providesome general ideas about what subjects and authors thatchildren of certain ages, sexes, and reading abilities pre-fer, it is important not to develop stereotyped views aboutchildren’s preferences. Without asking questions aboutinterests, there is no way to learn, for example, that afourth-grade boy is a Shakespeare buff, because researchinto children’s interests does not indicate that a fourthgrader should like Shakespeare’s plays. Or consider afirst-grade girl whose favorite subject is dinosaurs, whichshe can identify by name: Discovering this would be im-possible without an interview, because research does notindicate that first-grade girls are interested in factual, sci-entific subjects. These two cases point to the need to dis-cover children’s interests before helping them selectbooks. Informal conversation is one of the simplest waysto uncover children’s interests: Ask a child to describewhat he or she likes to do and read about. Usually, youshould record the information when working with a num-ber of children.

Reading Interests of Young AdultsYoung adult literature refers to the books that have thewidest appeal to older adolescents. These books are usu-ally of interest to students from junior high through highschool; the ages are usually from 12 to 18. Alleen PaceNilsen and Kenneth Donelson (2001) provide the follow-ing characteristics of young adult literature that alsomatch young adults’ reading interests: (1) The literatureis written from the viewpoint of young people; (2) themain characters frequently overcome problems withoutthe help of their parents; (3) the story lines are fast paced;(4) the literature includes a variety of genres and subjects;(5) many different ethnic and cultural groups are repre-sented in the literature; (6) the books are usually opti-

mistic, and the characters make worthy accomplishments;and (7) the books deal with emotions and problems thatare important to young adults.

A study of Canadian Adolescent Boys and Literacy(O’Donnell, 2005) identified several common themesthat are of interest to boys and keep them reading: per-sonal interest, action, and success. Notice how thesethemes are related to many of the characteristics justlisted. The authors of the study recommend that teachersuse these themes to interest boys in their reading.

Other studies of favorite books identified by youngpeople suggest the range of genres and subject matter thatolder readers select. For example, an interesting readingpromotion and survey of best-loved books was conductedin the United Kingdom by the BBC. This large survey re-ceived almost a million votes and resulted in the identifi-cation of 200 top books selected by voters. The followingbooks are the top 10 titles listed in order of their popular-ity (Reading Today, February/March 2004):

1. J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

2. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

3. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

4. Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to theGalaxy

5. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

6. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

7. A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh

8. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

9. C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

10. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

A number of these books are discussed in the variousgenre chapters of this textbook. The books also indicatethat the selection criteria associated with conflict, plot,characterization, setting, theme, point of view, and au-thor’s style are just as important when selecting and eval-uating books for young adults as they are when selectingliterature for younger readers. The range of books alsosuggests that it is important to select books that match theinterests of the readers.

The Child as CriticChildren are the ultimate critics of what they read,and you should consider their preferences whenevaluating and selecting books to share with them.For the last few years, a joint project of the Interna-tional Reading Association and the Children’s Book

Council has allowed approximately 10,000 children fromaround the United States to evaluate children’s bookspublished during a given year. Each year, their reactionsare recorded, and a research team uses this information tocompile a list called “Children’s Choices” in the followingcategories: beginning independent reading, younger chil-dren, middle grades, older readers, informational books,

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and poetry. This very useful annotated bibliography ispublished each year in the October issue of The ReadingTeacher, and it can be obtained from the Children’s BookCouncil, 67 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003.

A summary of children’s reading choices by ChristineHall and Martin Coles (1999) provides an interesting listfor discussion. They conclude:

1. Children read fewer books as they grow older.

2. In the Children’s Reading Choices Survey, theaverage number of books read in the month prior tothe survey was 2.52.

3. Children at ages 10, 12, and 14 are eclectic in theirreading habits.

4. Strongly plotted adventure stories are popular at allages.

5. Ten-year-olds choose to read poetry, but interest inpoetry declines with age.

6. Most children respond positively when asked theirviews about reading.

7. Younger children spend more of their leisure timereading than do older children.

Children choose books from a wide variety of genres.Some are on lists of highly recommended children’s books;others are not. Many educators and authorities on chil-dren’s literature are concerned about the quality of booksthat children read. To improve their ability to make validjudgments about literature, children must experiencegood books and investigate and discuss the elements thatmake books memorable. Young children usually just enjoyand talk about books, but older ones can start to evaluatewhat they do and do not like about literature.

Ted Hipple and Amy B. Maupin (2001) discuss theimportance of encouraging students to find the artistry inthe details of a novel. They state, “It is a good teachingtactic to ask students to find selections—passages, indi-vidual sentences, even single words—they like. Whenenough students have responded positively to something,that something, even a required novel, may suddenly takeon a new significance: peers like it, too” (p. 41). In addi-tion, they recommend that students read Lois Lowry’s TheGiver, Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, and Louis Sachar’sHoles and compare and contrast the measures of quality inthe books using plots, characters, themes, artistry in de-tails, and emotional impact. These books are excellentchoices because they have been identified as popular withreaders as well as winners of the Newbery award.

One sixth-grade teacher encouraged her students tomake literary judgments and to develop a list of criteria forselecting good literature (Norton, 1993); the motivationfor this literature study began when the students won-dered what favorite books their parents might have readwhen they were in the same grade. To answer this ques-tion, the children interviewed their parents and otheradults, asking them which books and characters weretheir favorites. The children listed the books, characters,and number of people who recommended each book on alarge chart.

Each student then read a book that a parent or an-other respected adult had enjoyed. (Many adults alsoreread these books.) Following their reading, the childrendiscussed the book with the adult, considering whatmade or did not make the book memorable for them. Atthis time, the teacher introduced the concepts of plot,characterization, setting, theme and style. The childrensearched the books that they had read for examples of

ISSUE The Content of Children’s Books: Pleasure Versus the Message

“Read This, It’s Good for You” is the title of a criti-cal evaluation of books. Children’s author NatalieBabbitt1 discusses books that have messagesabout instructing children in the values of reading.She asks, “What’s the use of writing a story for chil-dren about the value of reading when it will be readonly by those children who are already readers?”(p. 23). She argues that in many books, there is nostory. Instead, there is a message about the way lifeis supposed to be. In place of books whose mainpurpose is delivering a message, Babbitt wantschildren to learn to love reading by reading bookssuch as Millions of Cats, Make Way for Ducklings,and Where the Wild Things Are.

Babbitt concludes, “Good stories are alwaysa pleasure to read, and we like pleasure, re-gardless of our ages. The risk with messagebooks, and message attitudes, is that children’s

books will get classed with broccoli and end upshoved under the mashed potatoes of televi-sion” (p. 24).

Author John Neufeld2 provides a contrast-ing view for evaluating books in an article titled“Preaching to the Unconverted.” He states, “Ihave often been criticized for being didactic.Sometimes that criticism has been warranted.At other times, I have felt that reviewers wereunable to distinguish between information of-fered—valuable information for young peo-ple—and what they perceive as a Message. . . .I may direct a reader’s attention to, or help fo-cus it on, an idea or problem, but I can only in-duce readers to decide whether that story ap-plies to their lives” (p. 36).

Neufeld believes that the stories that lastare the ones that encourage readers to think

about what they would do in similar circum-stances. Neufeld concludes. “Stories aboutyoung people, for young people, are feasts au-thors serve their youthful readers. I like to thinkthat some of what we offer sticks to theirbones” (p. 36).

As you read and evaluate children’s litera-ture, consider the impact of the content to bringpleasure and increase joy in reading versus theimportance of the message. Which is more im-portant, pleasure or message? Which type ofbook do you remember from your own child-hood? What was the impact of the book on you?

1Babbitt, Natalie, (1997, May 18). Read this, it’s good foryou. The New York Times Book Review, 23–24.2Neufeld, John. (1996, July). Preaching to the unconverted.School Library Journal, 42, 36.

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The 1998 Newbery winner, Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, isthe story of 14-year-old Billie Jo’s pain, forgiveness, and growthafter the accidental death of her mother in Depression-eraOklahoma. (Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse. Copyright © 1997. New York, Scholastic Press. Reprinted by permission ofScholastic, Inc.)

each element. Finally, they listed questions to ask them-selves when evaluating a book; see the Evaluation Crite-ria at the beginning of the chapter.

A review of 14 questions shows how closely they cor-respond to the criteria that should be used in evaluatingplot, characterization, setting, theme, and style.

There are numerous lists of “Best Books” that can beused to motivate students to read, critically evaluate, andselect their own lists of best books. For example, RickMargolis (2004) asked well-known authors of children’sliterature to select current books that they believe will beclassics in future years; Chart 3.2 lists his findings. Askstudents to read some of those books and discuss how theywould rate them. Students also can develop their own listsof books and discuss why they chose them.

Another listing of books that makes interestingsources for students to discuss and evaluate is the “Off theCuff” awards, in which children’s booksellers vote for theirpicks of books in various categories. This listing is usuallyprinted in Publishers Weekly. For example, Chart 3.3 pre-

sents a few of those listed for “The 2004 Cuffies,” from theJanuary 10, 2005 issue. (These books are all discussed inthe various genre chapters in this text.)

When children are encouraged to share, discuss, andevaluate books and are given opportunities to do so, theyare able to expand their reading enjoyment and to selectworthwhile stories and characters. Sharing and discussioncan take place in the library, in the classroom, or at home.

CHART 3.2 Best books recommended by authors

Recommending Author Recommended Book

David Almond Kevin Henkes’s Lily’s Purple PlasticPurse

Eve Bunting Katherine Paterson’s Bridge toTerabithia

Susan Cooper David Almond’s SkelligNancy Farmer Peggy Rathmann’s The Day the

Babies Crawled AwayPaul Fleischman William Steig’s Abel’s IslandKaren Hesse Richard Mosher’s ZazooPolly Horvath Remembers it was a story about

a candy store.Patrice Kindi Nancy Farmer’s The Ear, the Eye

and the ArmE. L. Konigsburg Judith Viorst’s The Tenth Good

Thing About BarneyLeonard Marcus Don Brown’s Uncommon TravelerMarilyn Singer Patrice Kindle’s Owl in LovePeter Sís William Steig’s Doctor De SotoRuth White Lois Lowry’s The GiverVirginia Euwer Wolff Brian Pinkney’s Max Found Two


CHART 3.3 Examples from the cuffie awards

Award Title

Picture Book Sarah Stewart’s The FriendNovel Gennifer Choldenko’s Al

Capone Does My ShirtsMelina Marchetta’s Saving

FrancescaVote to Win Newbery Nancy Farmer’s The Sea of

TrollsVote to Win Caldecott Sarah Stewart’s The FriendMost Memorable Katherine Hannigan’s Ida B . . .Character and Her Plans to Maximize

Fun, Avoid Disaster, and(Possibly) Save the World

Funniest Book Jon Scieszka’s Science VerseBest Nonfiction Phillip Hoose’s The Race to

Save the Lord God BirdBest Anthology Helen Ward’s Unwitting

Wisdom: An Anthology ofAesop’s Fables

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Teaching With Literary Elementshether developing a literature pro-gram, developing literature-basedreading instruction, or sharing liter-ature on a one-to-one basis, re-member the dual roles of literature:providing enjoyment and develop-ing understanding. If you want chil-

dren to respond to, love, and appreciate literature,provide them with a varied selection of fine literature andgive them many opportunities to read, listen to, share, dis-cuss, and respond to literature.

Involving Children in PlotCreative drama interpretations based on story textshelp children expand their imaginations, stimulatetheir feelings, enhance their language, and clarifytheir concepts. Through the playmaking process,children discover that plot pro-

vides a framework, that there is a be-ginning in which the conflict isintroduced, a middle that moves theaction toward a climax, and an endwith a resolution to the conflict.

Nursery rhymes are excellent forintroducing both younger and olderchildren to the concept that a storyhas several parts—a beginning, a mid-dle, and an end. The simple plots inmany nursery rhymes make them idealfor this purpose. For example,“Humpty Dumpty” contains three def-inite actions that cannot be inter-changed and still retain a logicalsequence: (1) a beginning—“HumptyDumpty sat on a wall,” (2) a middle—“Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,”and (3) an end—“All the king’s horsesand all the king’s men couldn’t putHumpty Dumpty together again.”Children can listen to the rhyme, iden-tify the actions, discuss the reasons forthe order, and finally act out each part.Encourage them to extend their partby adding dialogue or characters to thebeginning, middle, or ending incident.Other nursery rhymes illustrating se-quential plots include “Jack and Jill,”“Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake, Baker’sMan,” and “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”

After children understand the importance of plotstructure in nursery rhymes, proceed to folktales, such as“Three Billy Goats Gruff,” in which there also is a definiteand logical sequence of events. Divide the children ac-cording to the beginning incidents, middle incidents, andending incidents. After each group practices its part, putthe groups together into a logical whole. To help childrenlearn the importance of order, have them rearrange the in-cidents: They will discover that if the ending incidents areacted it out first, the story is over and there is no rising ac-tion or increasing conflict.

Diagramming plot structures is another activity thathelps children appreciate and understand that many sto-ries follow a structure in which the characters and theproblems are introduced at the beginning of the story, theconflict increases until a climax or turning point isreached, and then the conflict ends. Have children listento or read stories and then discuss and identify the

The rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” contains three definite actions that cannot be interchangedand still retain a logical sequence. (From Humpty Dumpty.)

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important incidents. For example, the important inci-dents in Dianne Snyder’s The Boy of the Three-Year Napare placed on the plot diagram in Figure 3.1.

Stories in which the conflict results because charac-ters must overcome problems within themselves can alsobe placed on plot diagrams. Caron Lee Cohen (1985)identifies four major components in the development ofperson-against-self conflicts: (1) problem, (2) struggle, (3) self-realization, and (4) achievement of peace or truth.Literature selections such as Marion Dane Bauer’s On MyHonor, in which the author develops struggles within themain characters, are good for this type of discussion and plot diagramming. In this plot structure, identify (1) the problem and the characters, (2) the incidents thatreflect increasing struggle with self, (3) the point of self-realization, and (4) the point at which the main characterattains peace or truth. Because person-against-self con-flicts are frequently complex, lead students in identifyingsignificant incidents and ask them to provide support forthese major struggles.

For example, in On My Honor, the problem results forBauer’s character Joel because he betrays his parents’ trustand swims with his friend in a treacherous river. The strug-gle continues as Joel feels increasing guilt, tries not to ac-cept his friend’s disappearance and probable death, andblames his father for allowing the two boys to go on a bikeride in the first place. Self-realization begins when Joel ad-mits that Tony drowned and realizes that his father is notthe cause of his problem: “But even as he slammed

through the door and ran up the stairsto his room, he knew. It wasn’t his fatherhe hated. It wasn’t his father at all. Hewas the one. . . . Tony died because ofhim” (p. 81).

Peace and truth begin, althoughthe seriousness of the problem does notallow complete resolution. After Joelsobbingly tells his father the wholetruth, he feels “tired, exhausted, but tin-glingly aware” (p. 89). Even thoughthere cannot be a total resolution of theconflict, because Joel’s father cannotgive him the reassurance he desires ortake away his pain, Joel forgives his fa-ther and asks him to stay in the roomuntil he (Joel) falls asleep.

Students can compare Bauer’sperson-against-self conflict with that inPaula Fox’s One-Eyed Cat (see Chapter9). Additional person-against-self con-flicts for older students include CynthiaRylant’s A Fine White Dust, a traumaticstory in which a 13-year-old boy be-comes involved with an unscrupuloustraveling evangelist and struggles to un-derstand his own beliefs, Karen Hesse’s

Out of the Dust, a story in which the protagonist blamesherself and her father for her mother’s accidental death,and Audrey Couloumbis’s Getting Near to Baby, in whichthe protagonist must overcome her grief and gain insightsinto the healing process following the death of the baby inthe family.

Although many of the books with person-against-selfconflicts are written for older students, several books canbe used with younger students. For example, ArthurYorinks’s Hey, Al is a picture storybook in which Al andhis dog, Eddie, overcome dissatisfaction and decide that“Paradise lost is sometimes Heaven found” (p. 27, un-numbered). Evaline Ness’s Sam, Bangs & Moonshine is apicture storybook in which the main character faces theconsequences of her lies.

Involving Children inCharacterizationAuthors of books with notable characters developthree-dimensional personalities that allow readersto gain insights into those characters’ strengths,

weaknesses, pasts, hopes, and fears. You can help studentsunderstand how authors develop characters by discussingbooks in which the authors use several characterizationtechniques. You can also help students understand the of-ten complex nature of inferencing about characters bymodeling activities in which you analyze evidence fromthe text and speculate about the characters.

Poor widow.Clever, but lazy,son who refusesto work (Taro).

Widow getsmerchant torepair herhouse.

Widow getsmerchant toenlarge herhouse.

Widow getsmerchant togive son ajob.

Motherreveals herplan to son.

Son marriesmerchant'sdaughter andworks at hisjob.

FIGURE 3.1 Plot diagram for Dianne Snyder’s The Boy of the Three-Year Nap

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Characterization TechniquesHave students search for examples in which an author re-veals a character through such techniques as narration,thoughts, actions, and dialogue. Have them list examplesin which each of these techniques is used and identify whateach example reveals. Have the students summarize whatthey know about a specific character and discuss whetherthe characterization is flat or rounded.

A group of students led by Diana Vrooman (1989)used this approach to identify and discuss the characteriza-tion of Sarah in Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall.First, Vrooman introduced the story and reviewed the tech-niques that authors may use to develop characters. Second,she listed on the board the techniques that MacLachlanuses to reveal Sarah’s character in Sarah, Plain and Tall.Third she read the first chapter aloud and asked students toidentify the examples in the chapter and to stipulate whatthey learned about Sarah from those examples. Fourth, sheasked the students to complete the search for other exam-ples of Sarah’s characterization in the remaining chapters.Finally, she asked the students to summarize Sarah’s char-acterization and to defend whether they believed thatSarah was a rounded character. Chart 3.4 shows a few of thecharacterizations and proofs for Sarah.

The students concluded that Sarah was a fully devel-oped, three-dimensional character. In addition, they dis-covered the techniques that authors use to develop suchwell-rounded characters. The same book can be used toanalyze the characterization of the young boy, Caleb, orthe young girl, Anna.

Modeling InferencingSome of MacLachlan’s characterizations in Sarah, Plainand Tall are stated, but others are implied. Students fre-quently need much assistance in analyzing implied char-acterizations. Researchers such as Laura Roehler and

Gerald Duffy (1984) and Christine Gordon (1985) havedeveloped modeling approaches that place an adult in anactive role with students and that show the adult’sthought processing to the students. Modeling is one of themost effective ways to improve comprehension (Dole,Duffy, Roehler, & Pearson, 1991) and to help studentsunderstand characterization (Norton, 1992). The follow-ing activity demonstrates the modeling process with Pa-tricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Requirements for Effective Reasoning. Effective infer-encing requires readers to go beyond the information thatan author provides in a text. Readers must use clues fromthe text to hypothesize about a character’s emotions, be-liefs, actions, hopes, and fears. They must also be awarethat authors develop characters through narration, acharacter’s thoughts or the thoughts of others about thecharacter the character’s actions, and the dialogue be-tween the characters.

An Introduction to Inferencing. Review characteriza-tion by asking students to identify how authors developthree-dimensional, believable characters; share examplesof each technique of characterization as part of this re-view. Also explain that students will listen as you ask aquestion, answer the question, provide evidence from thestory that supports the answer, and share the reasoningprocess you used to reach the answer. Explain that afterstudents have listened to you proceed through the se-quence, they will use the same process to answer ques-tions, identify evidence, and explore their own reasoningprocesses. As part of this introduction, discuss the mean-ings of evidence and reasoning. Encourage the students toidentify evidence about a character in the literature andto share how to use this evidence.

The Importance of Inferencing. Ask students to ex-plain why it is important to be able to make inferences

CHART 3.4 Revealing characterization in Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall

Author’s Technique Characterization Evidence

Narration Plain and tall “She was plain and tall.” (p. 19)Loved by animals “The dogs loved Sarah first.” (p. 22)Loved animals “The sheep made Sarah smile. . . . She talked to them.” (p. 28)Intelligent “Sarah was quick to learn.” (p. 52)

Thoughts about the character Loved the sea Anna thought: “Sarah loved the sea, I could tell.” (p. 12)Homesick Anna thought: “Sarah was not smiling. Sarah was already lonely.”

(p. 20)The character’s actions Adventurous Sarah answers an advertisem*nt asking for a wife. (p. 9)

Sense of humor When Sarah finished describing seals, she barked like one. (p. 27)Hardworking Sarah learned how to plow the fields. (p. 33)

Dialogue Strong “I am strong and I work hard.” (p. 9)Independent Papa tells Sarah that the cat will be good in the barn. Sarah tells

Papa that the cat will be good in the house. (p. 19)Confident “I am fast and I am good.” (p. 46)

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about characters. Encourage them to discuss how infer-encing characterizations makes a story more exciting, en-joyable, and believable.

An Introduction to the Story. There are two importantsettings in Sarah, Plain and Tall: (1) the pioneer setting inone of the prairie states and (2) the pioneer setting inMaine. To identify students’ understandings of these loca-tions and time periods, ask them to pretend that they aresitting on the front porch of a cabin in one of the prairiestates in the 1800s, to look away from the cabin, and todescribe what they see; make sure that they describeprairie grass, wheat fields, few trees, a dirt road, and flat orgently rolling land. Ask them to tell which colors they see.Then ask them to turn around and describe what they seethrough the open door of the cabin; make sure that theydescribe a small space, a fireplace, and characteristic fur-nishings, such as wooden chairs and a wooden table.

The Maine setting is also important to this story be-cause Sarah’s conflict results from love of a very differentsetting. Ask the students to pretend that they are sittingon the coast of Maine, to look out at the ocean, and to de-scribe what they see. Next, have them turn toward theland and describe the setting. Discuss with students thedifferences between the prairie and the Maine coast andconsider whether the differences in these settings couldcause conflicts for a character.

The First Modeling Example. Read orally from the be-ginning of the book through the line. “That was the worstthing about Caleb,” on page 5. Ask, “What was Anna’s at-titude toward her brother, Caleb, when he was a baby?”Answer, “Anna disliked her brother a great deal. We mighteven say she hated him.” Provide the evidence. Say,“Anna thinks that Caleb is homely, plain, and horridsmelling. She associates Caleb with her mother’s death.”Provide the reasoning you used to reach the answer. Forexample, “The words Anna uses, especially horrid, are of-ten associated with things that we do not like. I know fromthe reference to the happy home that Anna loved hermother. When she says that her mother’s death was theworst thing about Caleb, I believe that she blamed him forthe death.”

The Second Modeling Example. At this point, verifythat the students understand the procedure. If they donot, continue by completely modeling another example. Ifthe students understand the process, let them join the dis-cussion by providing an answer, the evidence, and the rea-soning. It is advisable to have the students jot down briefanswers to the questions, evidence, and reasoning; thesenotes will increase the quality of the discussion that fol-lows each question.

The next logical discussion point occurs at the bot-tom of page 5. Read through the line, “And Papa didn’tsing.” Ask students the question. “What is Anna reallytelling us about her inner feelings?” They should provide

answers similar to this one: “She believes that nothing canreplace her lost mother and that the home will not behappy again.” Ask the students to provide evidence, suchas, “The author tells us that the relatives could not fill thehouse. The days are compared to long, dark, winter days.The author states that Papa did not sing.” Next, ask themto provide reasoning, such as, “The author created a verysad mood. We see a house filled with relatives that do notmatter to Anna. I know what long, dark, winter days arelike. I can visualize a house without singing. I think Annais very unhappy, and it may take her a long time to get overher loss.”

Continue this process, having the students discussthe many instances of implied characterization in thebook. The letters Sarah writes to Mr. Wheaton (p. 9), toAnna (pp. 9–10), and to Caleb (p. 11) are especially goodfor inferencing about the characters because studentsneed to infer what was in the letters written by Anna andCaleb. To help the students infer the contents of those let-ters, ask them to write the letters themselves.

Longer stories, such as Sarah, Plain and Tall, lendthemselves to discussions according to chapters. Stu-dents can read and discuss several chapters each day. Af-ter each session, however, ask the students to summarizewhat they know about Sarah, Anna, Caleb, and Papa.Ask them, “What do you want to know about thesecharacters?”

Involving Children in SettingBelievable settings place readers in geographic loca-tions and time periods that they can see, hear, andeven feel. In literature, authors use settings for fourpurposes: (1) creating appropriate moods, (2) devel-oping antagonists, (3) developing historical and ge-

ographical backgrounds, and (4) suggesting symbolicinterpretations.

Settings That Create MoodsAuthors use settings to create moods. Through wordchoices and the visual pictures the words product, authorscreate moods that range from humorous and happy tofrightening and foreboding. Asking students to tell theirreactions to words and illustrations and comparing wordsand illustrations in a text help them understand and eval-uate the appropriateness of a mood. For example, studentscan respond to the frightening, eerie mood created byMarcia Brown’s illustrations for Blaise Cendrars’s poemShadow and examine the influence in it of words, such asprowler, and descriptions, such as “teeming like snakes.”When a house sits precariously under a wave, as in Shel-ley Jackson’s The Old Woman and the Wave, readers can re-spond to the frightening mood or the more symbolic fearof the unknown.

Teachers can use illustrated texts, such as Karen Ack-erman’s Song and Dance Man, to show students very dif-

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ferent moods. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations create awarm, happy mood as children watch their beloved grand-father recreate the joyful days of his youth. The transitionfrom a common, dreary, crowded attic to an uncommonexperience is enhanced by the artist’s drawing of a brightlycolored, shadowy shape.

Additional literature selections that develop warm,happy moods through both illustrations and text are Cyn-thia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains. KateBanks’s And If the Moon Could Talk. Margaret Wild’s OurGranny, and Alexandra Day’s Frank and Ernest Play Ball.Funny, even absurd, moods are created in both the textand illustrations of Doreen Cronin’s Click, Clack, Moo:Cows That Type, Simms Taback’s There Was an Old LadyWho Swallowed a Fly, Patricia Polacco’s Meteor. SusanMeddaugh’s Martha Speaks. Kevin Henkes’s Owen, andAngela Johnson’s Julius.

Authors of fantasy frequently prepare their readersfor the fantastical experiences to come by creating settingsand moods in which fantasy seems possible. Sharing anddiscussing introductions to fantasies allow students to ap-preciate and understand the techniques that authors useto prepare them for both fantasy and conflict. For exam-ple, read and discuss the following introduction to NatalieBabbitt’s Tuck Everlasting:

The road that led to Treegap had been trod out long beforeby a herd of cows who were, to say the least, relaxed. It wan-dered along in curves and easy angles, swayed off and up in apleasant tangent to the top of a small hill, ambled down againbetween fringes of bee-hung clover, and then cut sidewiseacross a meadow. Here its edges blurred. It widened andseemed to pause, suggesting tranquil bovine picnics: slowchewing and thoughtful contemplation of the infinite. Andthen it went on again and came at last to the wood. But onreaching the shadows of the first trees, it veered sharply,swung out in a wide arc as if, for the first time, it had reasonto think where it was going, and passed around.

On the other side of the wood, the sense of easinessdissolved. The road no longer belonged to the cows. Itbecame, instead, and rather abruptly, the property of people.And all at once the sun was uncomfortably hot, the dustoppressive, and the meager grass along its edges somewhatragged and forlorn. On the left stood the first house, a squareand solid cottage with a touch-me-not appearance, sur-rounded by grass cut painfully to the quick and enclosed by acapable iron fence some four feet high which clearly said,“Move on—we don’t want you here.” So the road wenthumbly by and made its way, past cottages more and morefrequent but less and less forbidding, into the village. But the village doesn’t matter, except for the jailhouse and thegallows. The first house only is important; the first house, theroad, and the wood. (pp. 5–6)

After you read this introduction, to enhance personalresponse, have the students consider the effect of the con-trasts Babbitt used, the influence of personification, andthe impact of wording such as “tranquil bovine picnics,”“veered sharply,” “touch-me-not,” and “grass cut painfullyto the quick.” Have the students speculate about thechanging mood in the introduction and the type of story

that might follow. Of course, have them read the story toverify their predictions.

Settings That Develop AntagonistsAuthors of both historical fiction and contemporary ad-venture stories frequently develop plots in which natureor society is the antagonist. Vivid descriptions of eithernature or society are essential if readers are to understandwhy and how the setting has created conflicts or even life-and-death perils.

Sharing and discussing quotations will help studentsidentify, respond to, and appreciate vivid descriptions.Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Storm is written for young read-ers. The author, however, vividly describes a frighteningstorm and a girl who fears the storm and faces her fears ofa ghostly creature who supposedly roams the Englishmarshlands. Crossley-Holland uses personification andmetaphor to develop believable settings. For example, hesays that the storm “whistled between its salty lips andgnashed its sharp teeth” (p. 14) and “gave a shriek”(p. 27). Other elements in nature respond: The moon“seemed to be speeding behind grey lumpy clouds, run-ning away from something that was chasing it” (p. 23).The young girl responds in ways that suggest fear: “Anniefelt a cold finger slowly moving from the base of her spineup to her neck and then spread out across her shoulders”(p. 12), and she swayed in the saddle as she “thought shecould bear it no longer—the furious gallop, the gallop ofthe storm, the storm of her own fears” (p. 35). By the endof the story, Annie has faced her fears of both the stormand the ghost.

It is more difficult for students to understand the set-ting if society, and not nature, causes the conflict becausethey must understand both the larger societal attitudesand the reasons that the characters are in conflict withthose attitudes. Thematic studies that allow students to read from several genres are usually best for develop-ing understanding about complex subjects, such as anti-Semitism or slavery. In thematic studies, students can usenonfictional sources to authenticate the settings in his-torical fiction. For example, a series of books about theHolocaust might include nonfiction, biography, historicalfiction, and even time-warp fantasy. Beginning with Bar-bara Rogasky’s nonfictional Smoke and Ashes: The Story ofthe Holocaust, students can discover the historical back-ground of the time period, the roots of anti-Semitism, thedevelopment of ghettos and concentration camps, andthe tragic consequences. Have the students read MiltonMeltzer’s nonfictional Rescue: The Story of How GentilesSaved Jews in the Holocaust to provide historical back-ground about heroic people who risked their own lives tosave other people, and Michael Leapman’s Witnesses toWar: Eight True-Life Stories of Nazi Persecution. Next, havethe students read Albert Marrin’s biographical text, Hitler.Pages 17–20 are especially revealing: In them, Marrin

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discusses the roots of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and his de-veloping hatred. For example:

Once Adolph began to hate, it became harder and harder tostop hating. From the age of nineteen, his hatred deepened,grew stronger, until it passed the bounds of sanity. He hadonly to hear jews mentioned, to see them or think he sawthem, to lose self-control. . . . One day, he vowed, he’d geteven with them. They’d pay, every last one of them, for thehumiliation they’d caused him. (p. 20)

Have the students read Uri Orlev’s historical fiction,The Island on Bird Street and The Man From the Other Side,Lois Lowry’s historical fiction about the Danish resis-tance, Number the Stars, and Jane Yolen’s time-warp story,The Devil’s Arithmetic. Then have the students use thebackground information from the first three books to eval-uate the authenticity of the settings that cause so muchconflict in the fictional books.

Settings That Develop Historical andGeographical BackgroundsSettings in historical fiction and biography should be sointegral to the story and so carefully developed that read-ers can imagine the sights, sounds, and even smells of theenvironment. For example, have groups of studentschoose one of the settings developed in Elizabeth GeorgeSpeare’s The Sign of the Beaver, such as the log cabin, thewilderness, or the Penobscot village. Lead them to dis-cover as much information as possible about the sights,sounds, and even tastes associated with that environment,and have them identify and analyze quotations that de-scribe the setting.

Students enjoy creating maps and illustrations de-picting well-defined settings. Have students use detailsfrom historical fiction or fantasy to draw maps, homes, orother settings. Carefully crafted fantasy worlds provide ev-idence for map locations and show the importance of set-tings in creating believable worlds. For example, afterstudents read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, ask them todraw maps of Middle Earth. C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, theWitch and the Wardrobe includes detailed informationabout Narnia. Likewise, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventuresin Wonderland provides descriptions of Wonderland.

After students have read literature with well-developed settings, divide the class into groups and askeach group to draw a map so that visitors to the landwould be able to travel through it. Ask the students to de-fend their map locations by providing evidence from theliterature. After the maps are completed, ask each groupto share its map with the larger group and to defend whyit placed landmarks in specific places.

Two sources provide interesting stimulation for thesedrawing tasks. Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi’sThe Dictionary of Imaginary Places (2000) includes mapsand descriptions of numerous fantasy worlds. RosalindAshe and Lisa Tuttle’s Children’s Literary Houses: FamousDwellings in Children’s Fiction (1984) includes interpreta-

tions of the homes found in Frances Hodgson Burnett’sThe Secret Garden, T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone,Esther Forbes’s Johnny Tremain, and Louisa May Alcott’sLittle Women.

Settings That Are SymbolicThe easiest symbolic setting for students to understand isprobably the once-upon-a-time setting found in folktales;readers know that “once upon a time” means much morethan long ago. When they close their eyes, they oftenvisualize deep woods or majestic castles, where enchant-ment, magic, and heroic adventures are expected. Folktalesettings are excellent introductions to symbolic settings.

Authors of other types of literature also use symbolicsettings to develop understanding of plots, characters, andthemes. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden isone of the best literature selections for showing symbolicsettings. Students can trace parallel changes that take place in the garden and in the people living inMisselthwaite Manor. For example, the story begins in acold, dreary mansion surrounded by gardens that are dor-mant from winter. The characters are equally unrespon-sive. Mary is “the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. . . . She had a little thin face and a little thin body,thin light hair and a sour expression” (p. 1). Colin is an un-pleasant invalid, Mr. Craven is still in mourning for hisdead wife, and Colin and his father are estranged. How-ever, the setting and the people begin to change afterMary finds the door to the secret garden. Finding the keyto the garden is the symbolic turning point, after whichthe characters and the garden are slowly nurtured back toboth physical and emotional health.

As students trace the parallel changes in the gardenand in the people, they can ask themselves the followingquestions: Why does the author focus attention on a gar-den that has been locked and mostly uncared for for 10 years? What is the significance of a key that opens adoor? How do the people change, and what happens tothe garden? Why does the author draw parallels betweennurturing a garden and healing people both physically andemotionally? Does the garden meet Perrine’s require-ments for symbolism in literature? Is the garden a goodsymbolic setting for both characterization and plot devel-opment? Why or why not?

Students also can explore the symbolism of gardens inPhilippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden and other books.

Involving Children in ThemeStudents need many opportunities to read and dis-cuss literature in order to identify controlling ideasor central concepts in stories. Themes are difficultbecause they frequently are implied rather than di-rectly stated. Students learn about themes, however,

by studying the actions of characters, analyzing the cen-tral conflict, and considering the outcome of a story.

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When looking for theme, it is important to consider howthe main character changes in the story, what conflicts arefound in the story, what actions are rewarded or punished,and what the main character has learned as a result. Eventhe title may provide clues to the theme.

The following sequence of events develops an under-standing of theme in Ann Grifalconi’s Darkness and theButterfly. First, explain to the students that theme is thecontrolling idea or central concept in a story. Themes of-ten reveal important beliefs about life, and a story maycontain more than one theme. When searching fortheme, ask, “What is the author trying to tell us thatwould make a difference in our lives?” Review some of theways in which authors reveal themes, such as throughconflict, the characters’ actions, the characters’ thoughts,the outcome of the story, the actions that are rewarded orpunished, and narrative. In addition, the title and illus-trations may provide clues.

Next, read Darkness and the Butterfly aloud. Ask thestudents, “What is the author trying to tell us that wouldmake a difference in our lives?” They will probably iden-tify two important themes: (1) It is all right to have fears—we all may have fears that cause us problems—and (2) wecan and must overcome our fears.

After the students have identified the themes, readthem the story a second time. This time, have them searchfor proof that the author is developing these themes.Their discussion and evidence probably will include someof the following examples:

1. It is all right to have fears; we all may have fearsthat cause us problems.

a. The illustrations show contrasts between thebeauty of the world in the day, which is withoutfear, and the monsters that surface in Osa’smind at night.

b. The actions of the mother show that she isunderstanding. She even gives beads to helpOsa feel less fearful.

c. The actions of Osa show that she is a normalchild during the day but a fearful child at night.

d. The wise woman tells Osa that she was onceafraid, “ ’specially at night!”

2. We can and must overcome our fears.

a. The author tells the story of the yellowbutterfly, the smallest of the small, as it fliesinto the darkness.

b. The butterfly story is based on an importantAfrican proverb, “Darkness pursues thebutterfly.”

c. The wise woman tells Osa. “You will find yourown way.”

d. The wise woman compares finding your way tothe wings of the butterfly.

e. The dream sequence reveals the beauties of thenight.

f. The actions of the butterfly show that it is notafraid.

g. Osa reveals her self-realization: “I can go bymyself. I’m not afraid anymore.”

h. The author states that Osa, the smallest of thesmall, “found the way to carry her own lightthrough the darkness.”

i. The butterfly symbolizes that the smallest, mostfragile being in nature can light up thedarkness, trust the night, and not be afraid.

j. The title of the book is Darkness and theButterfly.

Folktales, with their easily identifiable conflicts andcharacterizations, are excellent for developing under-standing of theme. For example, when searching forthemes in John Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters,students discover that greed and selfishness are harmfuland that kindness and generosity are beneficial.

Involving Children in StyleMany of the discussions and activities related to plot,characterization, setting, and theme emphasize anauthor’s style. By selecting words that create visualimages and arranging the words to create moods orto increase tension, authors show the power of care-

fully chosen words and sentence structures. When readingcarefully crafted stories, you may not even notice the tech-niques that authors use. When you read aloud a carefullycrafted story and one that is not so well developed, how-ever, the differences become obvious. This section looks atdeveloping students’ appreciation for personificationthrough narrative stories and for pleasing style.

PersonificationMany of the most enjoyable books read to and by youngerchildren develop characterizations through personifica-tion. This is probably so believable because children tendto give human characteristics to their pets and toys. Per-sonification is an excellent introduction to style foryounger children because the texts that include personifi-cation of objects and animals often are reinforced throughillustrations that also personify the subjects.

Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House provides an en-joyable introduction to personification. As you read aloudappropriate pages, ask students: What pronoun is usedwhen the author talks about the house? What actions canthe house do that are similar to your actions? What feel-ings does the house express that are similar to your feel-ings? What causes the house to have each of thesefeelings? When have you had similar feelings? How do theillustrations help you understand the house’s feelings and

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character? After the students have discussed the answersto these questions, share with them that the author is giv-ing the house human feelings and behaviors through boththe text and the illustrations.

Extend this understanding of personification in TheLittle House by asking the students to use pantomime orcreative drama to act out the feelings expressed in thebook. For example, have them listen to the text being readand pantomime the feelings expressed by the house. Havethem create conversations that might occur between thehouse and her country or city neighbors. Have them tellthe story from the point of view of one of the other objectsfound in the story.

Use similar discussions with books in which toys arepersonified, such as Anthony Browne’s Gorilla andMargery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit. Books in whichanimals are personified include Alexandra Day’s Frankand Ernest on the Road, Diana Engel’s Josephina Hates HerName, and Lillian Hoban’s Arthur’s Great Big Valentine.

Pleasing StyleJette Morache (1987) recommends having older studentscollect and share quotations from literature that they findpleasing or that support other literary elements, such ascharacterization, setting, and theme. Morache recom-mends having students work in groups to find quotes thatillustrate a certain technique, to compare and discuss thequotes chosen by their group and other groups, to compilea page of quotes that they find particularly appealing, andto develop a list of qualities that make a “quotable quote.”This type of activity is appropriate for developing appreci-ation for any of the literary elements discussed in thischapter. Have students find quotes to support characteri-zation, setting, and theme.

Quotes also can emphasize specific literary tech-niques, such as personification, symbolism, simile, ormetaphor. Older students might read Henry WadsworthLongfellow’s “Hiawatha” and Jamake Highwater’s Anpao;An American Indian Odyssey to find examples of personifi-cation in nature. Jan Hudson’s Sweetgrass is filled withsymbolism, similes, and metaphors. Cynthia Voigt’s Dicey’sSong has many references to music, a sailboat, and a treeas symbols.

Students can also search books to find introductoryparagraphs in which the author’s style heightens their in-terest and makes them want to know more about thecharacter and the story. For example, Tomie dePaola pro-vides a vivid setting through words and references toknown literature in 26 Fairmount Avenue.

Webbing the Literary ElementsWebbing is an excellent way to help children under-stand important characteristics of a story (Norton,1992). Webbing also helps students increase theirappreciation of literature and improve their reading

and writing competencies. In addition, webbing helps stu-dents understand the interrelationships among the liter-ary elements. Prior to the webbing experience, introducethe literary elements of setting characterization, conflicts(plot), and themes by including many of the activities pre-viously discussed in this chapter. To introduce the idea ofwebbing literary elements, first read and discuss folktaleswith the children. Then, draw simple webs with the titleof the book in the center and the elements of setting,characterization, conflicts, and themes on spokes that ex-tend from the center. Lead discussions that help studentsidentify the important characteristics being placed on theweb.

Figure 3.2 is a complex web for Karen Cushman’sCatherine, Called Birdy, a historical fiction novel set in me-dieval England. Notice on the web that the story takesplace in an English manor. It also has strong characteriza-tions, conflicts, and themes. An interesting comparisoncan be made by also webbing Cushman’s The Midwife’sApprentice, a tale set in the same time period but with aheroine from the lowest level of society.

Suggested ActivitiesFor more suggested activities for evaluating and selecting

children’s literature, visit the CompanionWebsite at www.prenhall.com/norton

■ Find examples of person-against-person, person-against-society, person-against-nature, and person-against-selfconflicts in children’s literature. Do some books developmore than one type of conflict? What makes the conflictbelievable? Share these examples with your class.

■ Read one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books.Do you agree with the child who said that she would likethe character Laura for her best friend? How has the authordeveloped Laura into a believable character? Give examplesof techniques that Wilder uses to reveal Laura’s nature.

■ The following five authors or illustrators from the UnitedStates have won the Hans Christian Andersen Award:Virginia Hamilton, Paula Fox. Meindert Dejong, MauriceSendak, and Scott O’Dell. Pretend that you are a memberof the worldwide committee. What qualities encourage youto select books of these authors and illustrators?

■ Compare the top teachers’ choices and the top children’schoices (“Going Places,” Reading Today, 2001). The topadult choices: E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Chris VanAllsburg’s The Polar Express, Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs andHam, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. RobertN. Munsch’s Love You Forever, Shel Silverstein’s The GivingTree, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, WilsonRawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows, and Jan Brett’s TheMitten. The top children’s choices include J. K. Rowling’s“Harry Potter” series, R. L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series, Dr.Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat,Marc Brown’s “Arthur” series, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web,Phyllis Reynold Naylor’s “Shiloh” trilogy, Gary Paulsen’sHatchet, Louis Sachar’s Holes, and Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

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Children’s LiteratureFor full descriptions, including plot summaries and award

winner notations, of these and other titles forenhancing children’s understanding of literaryelements, please visit the CD-ROM thataccompanies this book.

Aardema, Verna. Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain: A Nandi Tale.Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. Dial, 1981 (I:5–8 R:6).

__________. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. Illustrated byLeo Diane Dillon. Dial, 1975 (I:5–9 R:6).

Ackerman, Karen. Song and Dance Man. Illustrated by StephenGammell. Knopf, 1988 (I:3–8 R:4).

Alcott. Louisa May. Little Women. Little, Brown, 1868 (I:10� R:7).Alexander, Lloyd. The Arkadians. Dutton, 1995 (I:10� R:6).Almond, David. The Fire-Eaters. Delacorte, 2003 (I:12–YA R:7).Avi. Nothing but the Truth: A Documentary Novel. Orchard, 1991

(I:12�).__________. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Orchard, 1990

(I:10� R:6).Babbitt, Natalie. Tuck Everlasting. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1975

(I:8–12 R:6).Banks, Kate. And If the Moon Could Talk. Illustrated by Georg

Hallensleben. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998 (I:3–6 R:4).Barrett, Tracy. Anna of Byzantium. Delacorte, 1999 (I:10� R:5).Barton, Byron. I Want to Be an Astronaut. Crowell, 1988 (I:2–6).

Social structures,values, and beliefs of

the times control life andownership of land

Holy days areimportant for life

in Medieval England

The world isfull of possibilitiesif you only search

Catherine's battlewith her

independent nature

individual rightsvs. socialstructure

Catherine's desiresfor an adventurous

life vs. society'srequirements for


Catherine vs.her prospective


Catherine's wishes vs. her father's desires


and sewing


sense ofhumor


tries to makedaughter afine lady

desires tomarry daughterto wealthy suitor

spinning embroidering





daily lifesocial





Conflicts Characterization

PersonAgainst Self











FIGURE 3.2 Web of Catherine, Called Birdy.Source: Donna E. Norton’s The Effective Teaching of Language Arts, 6th edition. Merrill, 2004.

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Bat-Ami, Miriam. Two Suns in the Sky. Front Street, 1999 (I:12�R:6).

Bauer, Joan. Hope Was Here. Putnam, 2000 (I:10� R:5).Bauer, Marion Dane. On My Honor. Clarion, 1986 (I:10� R:4).Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. Viking, 1939, 1977 (I:4–9 R:5).Ben-Ezer, Ehud. Hosni the Dreamer. Illustrated by Uri Shulevitz.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997 (I:5–9 R:5).Benjamin, Carol Lea. The Wicked Stepdog. Crowell, 1982 (I:9–12

R:4).Berenzy, Alix. A Frog Prince. H. Holt, 1989 (I:6–10 R:6).Blos, Joan W. A Gathering of Days. Scribner, 1979 (I:8–14 R:6).Blume, Judy. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Bradbury,

1970 (I:10� R:6).__________. Blubber. Bradbury, 1974 (I:10� R:4).Bober, Natalie. Countdown to Independence: A Revolution of Ideas

in England and Her American Colonies: 1760–1776. Simon &Schuster, 2001 (I:12� R:6).

Brooks, Bruce. The Moves Make the Man. Harper & Row, 1984(I:10� R:7).

__________. What Hearts. HarperCollins, 1992 (I:101 R:6).Brown, Margaret Wise. Goodnight Moon. Illustrated by Clement

Hurd. Harper, 1947 (I:2–7).Browne, Anthony. Gorilla. Watts, 1983 (I:3–8 R:4).Bunting, Eve. The Wednesday Surprise. Illustrated by Donald

Carrick. Clarion, 1989 (I:3–9 R:5).Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. Illustrated by

Tasha Tudor. Lippincott, 1911, 1938, 1962 (I:8–12 R:7).Burton, Virginia Lee. The Little House. Houghton Mifflin, 1942

(I:3–7 R:3).Cadnum, Michael. In a Dark Wood. Orchard, 1998 (I:10� R:6).Carrick, Carol. Stay Away From Simon! Illustrated by Donald

Carrick. Clarion, 1985 (I:7–10 R:3).Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Illustrated by

John Tenniel. Macmillan, 1866; Knopf, 1984 (I:8� R:6).Cendrars, Blaise. Shadow. Illustrated by Marcia Brown. Scribner,

1982 (I:all).Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Retold by Barbara

Cohen. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Lothrop, Lee &Shepard, 1988 (I:8� R:5).

Chipman, Liz. From the Lighthouse. Dutton, 2004 (I:12–YA R:6).Chotjewitz, David. Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi.

Translated by Doris Orgel. Atheneum, 2005 (I:12–YA R:7).Cleary, Beverly. The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Illustrated by

Louis Darling. Morrow, 1965 (I:7–11 R:3).__________. Ramana and Her Father. Illustrated by Alan Tiegreen.

Morrow, 1977 (I:7–12 R:6).__________. Ramana Quimby, Age 8. Illustrated by Alan Tiegreen.

Morrow, 1981 (I:7–12 R:6).Cole, Brock. The Goats. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987 (I:8� R:5).Cooper, Helen. Pumpkin Soup. Doubleday, 1999 (I:3–8).Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. Laureleaf, 1999.Couloumbis, Audrey. Getting Near to Baby. Putnam, 1999 (I:10�

R:4).Creech, Sharon. Heartbeat. HarperCollins, 2004 (I:10–YA).__________. Walk Two Moons. HarperCollins, 1994 (I:12� R:6).__________. The Wanderer. HarperCollins, 2000 (I:10� R:6).Cronin, Doreen. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Illustrated by

Betsy Lewin. Simon & Schuster, 2000 (I:4–7).

Crossley-Holland, Kevin. Storm. Illustrated by Alan Marks.Heinemann, 1985 (I:6–12 R:5).

Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963.Delacorte, 1995 (I:10� R:6).

Cushman, Karen. Catherine, Called Birdy. Clarion, 1994 (I:12�R:9).

__________. The Midwife’s Apprentice. Clarion, 1995.__________. Rodzina. Houghton Mifflin, 2003 (I:8–12 R:5).Dabcovich, Lydia. Sleepy Bear. Dutton, 1982 (I:3–6 R:1).Day, Alexandra. Frank and Ernest Play Ball. Scholastic, 1990 (I:5–8

R:5).__________. Frank and Ernest on the Road. Scholastic, 1994 (I:5–8

R:5).dePaola, Tomie. 26 Fairmount Avenue. Putnam, 1999 (I:6�).DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux. Illustrated by Timothy

Basil Ering. Candlewick, 2003 (I:8� R:4).Dorris, Michael. Morning Girl. Hyperion, 1992 (I:8� R:4).Edmonds, Walter D. The Matchlock Gun. Dodd, Mead, 1941

(I:8� R:5).Engel, Diana. Josephina Hates Her Name. Morrow, 1989 (I:5–8

R:4).Farmer, Nancy. A Girl Named Disaster. Orchard, 1996 (I:10�

R:6).Fenner, Carol. Yolonda’s Genius. McElderry, 1995 (I:10� R:3).Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. Harper & Row, 1964 (I:8–12

R:3).Fleischman, Paul. The Borning Room. HarperCollins, 1991 (I:10�

R:5).__________. Bull Run. Illustrated by David Frampton. HarperCollins,

1993 (I:10� R:5).__________. Dateline: Troy. Illustrated by Gwen Frankfeldt & Glenn

Morrow. Candlewick, 1996 (I:12� R:7).Fleischman, Sid. The Midnight Horse. Illustrated by Peter Sís.

Greenwillow, 1990 (I:8–12 R:5).__________. The Whipping Boy. Illustrated by Peter Sís. Greenwillow,

1986 (I:8� R:5).Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain. Illustrated by Lynd Ward.

Houghton Mifflin, 1943 (I:101 R:6).Foreman, Michael. War Boy: A Country Childhood. Little, Brown,

1990 (I:all R:6).Fox, Paula. Monkey Island. Orchard, 1991 (I:10� R:6).__________. One-Eyed Cat. Bradbury, 1984 (I:10� R:5).__________. The Slave Dancer. Illustrated by Eros Keith. Bradbury,

1973 (I:12� R:7).Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Edited by

Otto H. Frank & Mirjam Pressler. Translated by SusanMassotty. Doubleday, 1995 (I:12� R:5).

Frank, Rudolf. No Hero for the Kaiser. Translated by PatriciaCrampton. Illustrated by Klaus Steffens. Lothrop, Lee &Shepard, 1986 (I:10� R:7).

Freedman, Russell. Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery. Clarion,1993 (I:10� R:6).

__________. Lincoln: A Photobiography. Clarion, 1987 (I:81 R:6).__________. The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson

and the Struggle for Equal Rights. Clarion, 2004 (I: R: ).__________. The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane.

Holiday House. 1991 (I:8� R:5).

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Fritz, Jean. Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt Illustrated by MikeWimmer. Putnam, 1991 (I:8� R:5).

__________. The Cabin Faced West. Illustrated by FeodorRojankousky. Coward, McCann, 1958 (I:7–10 R:5).

__________. The Great Little Madison. Putnam, 1989 (I:10� R:6).__________. Make Way for Sam Houston. Illustrated by Elise

Primavera. Putnam, 1986 (I:9� R:6).__________. Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold. Putnam, 1981

(I:8� R:5).George, Jean Craighead. Julie of the Wolves. Illustrated by John

Schoenherr. Harper & Row, 1972 (I:10–13 R:7).__________. My Side of the Mountain. Dutton, 1959 (I:10� R:6).__________. Water Sky. Harper & Row, 1987 (I:10� R:6).Gipson, Fred. Old Yeller. Illustrated by Carl Burger. Harper & Row,

1956 (I:10� R:6).Goble, Paul. The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. Bradbury, 1978

(I:6–10 R:5).Grahame, Kenneth. Wind in the Willows. Illustrated by E. H.

Shepard. Scribner, 1908 (I:7–12 R:7).Grifalconi, Ann. Darkness and the Butterfly. Little, Brown, 1987

(I:4–8 R:4).Grimes, Nikki. Bronx Masquerade. Dial, 2002 (I:10–YA R:5).Grimm, Brothers. Rumpelstiltskin. Retold and illustrated by Paul

O. Zelinsky. Dutton, 1986 (I:all R:5).Hall, Bruce Edward. Henry and the Kite Dragon. Illustrated by

William Low. Philomel, 2004 (I:5–9 R:4).Halperin, Wendy Anderson. Love Is . . . Simon & Schuster, 2001

(I:all).Hamilton, Virginia. Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a

Fugitive Slave. Knopf, 1988 (I:9� R:6).__________. Many Thousand Gone: African Americans From Slavery

to Freedom. Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. Knopf, 1993(I:8� R:5).

Hannigan, Katherine. Ida B . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun,Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World. Greenwillow,2004 (I:8� R:5).

Hansen, Joyce. I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary ofPatsy, A Freed Girl. Scholastic, 1997 (I:10� R:4).

Harrington, Janice N. Going North. Illustrated by JeroneLagarrigue. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004 (I:8–10 R:4).

Hastings, Selina, retold by. Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady.Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1985(I:9–12 R:6).

Hautman, Pete. Godless. Simon & Schuster, 2004 (I:14–YA R:6).Henkes, Kevin. Owen. Greenwillow, 1993 (I:3–7 R:4).Hesse, Karen. Out of the Dust. Scholastic, 1997 (I:10� R:6).__________. Stowaway. Simon & Schuster, 2000 (I:10� R:6).Highwater, Jamake. Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey.

Illustrated by Fritz Scholder. Lippincott, 1977 (I:12� R:5).Hoban, Lillian. Arthur’s Great Big Valentine. Harper & Row, 1989

(I:5–7 R:2).Howe, James. Horace and Morris But Mostly Delores. Illustrated

by Amy Waldo. Atheneum, 1999 (I:4–8).Hudson, Jan. Sweetgross. Tree Frog, Philomel, 1984, 1989 (I:10�

R:4).Hurmence, Belinda. A Girl Called Boy. Houghton Mifflin, 1982

(I:10� R:6).

Ibbotson, Eve. Journey to the River Sea. Dutton, 2002 (I:10� R:5).Jackson, Shelley. The Old Woman and the Wave. DK, 1998 (I:4–7

R:4).Johnson, Angela. Julius. Illustrated by Dav Pilkey. Orchard, 1993

(I:3–7 R:4).__________. Tell Me a Story, Mama. Illustrated by David Soman.

Watts, 1989 (I:3–7 R:4).Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day. Viking, 1962 (I:2–6 R:2).Konigsburg, E.L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E.

Frankweiler. Atheneum, 1967 (I:9–12 R:7).__________. Journey to an 800 Number. Atheneum, 1982 (I:10�

R:6).__________. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. Atheneum, 2004

(I:8� R:5).__________. The View From Saturday. Atheneum, 1996 (I:10� R:6).Lamb, Charles, & Mary Lamb, retold by. Tales From Shakespeare.

Illustrated by Elizabeth Shippen Green Elliott. Crown, 1988(I:8�).

Lang, Andrew. The Red Fairy Book. Illustrated by H.J. Ford &Lancelot Speed. McGraw-Hill, 1967 (I:all R:6).

Leapman, Michael. Witnesses to War: Eight True-Life Stories ofNazi Persecution. Puffin, 2000.

L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time. Farrar, Straus & Giroux,1962 (I:10� R:5).

Levine, Ellen. Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists TellTheir Own Stories. Putnam, 1993 (I:all).

Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. HarperCollins, 1997 (I:10�R:6).

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Illustrated byPauline Baynes. Macmillan, 1950 (I:9� R:7).

Lisle, Janet Taylor. Afternoon of the Elves. Watts, 1989 (I:10�R:5).

Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad Are Friends. Harper & Row, 1970(I:5–8 R:1).

Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Houghton Mifflin, 1993 (I:10� R:5).__________. Number the Stars. Houghton Mifflin, 1989 (I:8–12 R:5).Lyon, George Ella. One Lucky Girl. Illustrated by Irene Trivas.

Dorling Kindersley, 2000 (I:6� R:4).MacLachlan, Patricia. The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt. Harper

& Row, 1988 (I:7–12 R:4).__________. Mama One, Mama Two. Illustrated by Ruth Lercher

Bornstein. Harper & Row, 1982 (I:5–7 R:2).__________. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Harper & Row, 1985 (I:7–10 R:3).Marrin, Albert, Hitler. Viking Kestrel, 1987 (I:10� R:7).Maruki, Toshi. Hiroshima No Pika. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1982

(I:8–12 R:4).McCully, Emily Arnold. The Ballot Box Battle. Knopf, 1996 (I:7–9

R:4).McKinley, Robin. The Hero and the Crown. Greenwillow, 1984

(I:10� R:7).McKissack, Patricia C. The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the

Supernatural. Illustrated by Brain Pinkney. Knopf, 1992 (I:allR:5).

McWhorter, Diane. A Dream of Freedom: The Civil RightsMovement From 1954 to 1968. Scholastic, 2004 (I: R: ).

Meddaugh, Susan. Martha Speaks. Houghton Mifflin, 1992 (I:4–8R:4).

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Meltzer, Milton. Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews inthe Holocaust. Harper & Row, 1988 (I:10� R:6).

__________. Thomas Jefferson: The Revolutionary Aristocrat. Watts,1991 (I:10� R:6).

__________, ed. The Black Americans: A History in Their Own Words1619–1983. Crowell, 1984 (I:10�).

Merriam, Eve. Halloween ABC. Illustrated by Lane Smith.Macmillan, 1987 (I:all).

Millard, Anne. A Street Through Time: A 12,000-Year WalkThrough History. Illustrated by Steve Noon. DK, 1998 (I:all).

Milne, A. A. Winnie-the-Pooh. Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard.Dutton, 1926, 1954 (I:6–10 R:5).

Morpurgo, Michael. Kensuke’s Kingdom. Illustrated by MichaelForeman. Mammoth, 2000 (I:8� R:5).

__________. Private Peaceful. Scholastic, 2003 (I:12–YA R:6).Mowat, Farley. Lost in the Barrens. Illustrated by Charles Geer.

McClelland & Stewart, 1956, 1984 (I:9� R:6).Murphy, Jim. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of

the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. Clarion, 2004 (I:12� R:6).Myers, Walter Dean. Now Is Your Time The African-American

Struggle for Freedom. HarperCollins, 1991 (I:10� R:6).Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Shiloh. Atheneum, 1991 (I:8� R:5).Nelson, Marilyn. Carver: A Life in Poems. Front Street, 2001

(I:12–YA R:8).Ness, Evaline. Sam, Bangs & Moonshine. Holt, Rinehart &

Winston, 1966 (I:5–9 R:3).North, Sterling. Rascal. Dutton, 1963 (I:10� R:6).Noyes, Alfred. The Highwayman. Illustrated by Charles Keeping.

Oxford, 1981 (I:10�).O’Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Illustrated

by Zena Bernstein. Atheneum, 1971 (I:8–12 R:4).O’Dell, Scott. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Houghton Mifflin, 1960

(I:10� R:6).Orlev, Uri. The Island on Bird Street. Translated by Hillel Halkin.

Houghton Mifflin, 1984 (I:10� R:6).__________. The Man From the Other Side. Translated by Hillel

Halkin. Houghton Mifflin, 1991 (I:10� R:6).Park, Linda Sue. Project Mulberry. Clarion, 2005 (I:9–YA R:5).Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia. Illustrated by Donna

Diamond. Crowell, 1977 (I:10–14 R:6).__________. Jacob Have I Loved. Crowell, 1980 (I:10 R:6).Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet. Bradbury, 1987 (I:10� R:6).__________. Nightjohn. Delacorte, 1993 (I:12� R:6).Pearce, Philippa. Tom’s Midnight Garden. Illustrated by Susan

Einzig. Lippincott, 1958 (I:8� R:6).Peck, Richard. A Long Way From Chicago. Dial, 1998 (I:10� R:5).__________. A Year Down Yonder. Dial, 2000 (I:10� R:5).Pienkowski, Jan. Haunted House. Dutton, 1979 (I:all).Polacco, Patricia. Appelemando’s Dreams. Philomel, 1991 (I:6–9

R:5).__________. Meteor! Dodd, Mead, 1987 (I:6–10 R:7).Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Warne, 1902 (I:2–7 R:5).Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. Knopf, 2000 (I:10� R:7).__________. The Golden Compass. Knopf, 1996 (I:10� R:7).__________. The Subtle Knife. Knopf, 1997 (I:10� R:7).Quintana, Anton. The Baboon King. Translated by John

Nieuwenhuizen. Walker, 1999 (I:10� R:5).

Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game. Dutton, 1978 (I:10–14 R:5).Rathmann, Peggy. Ruby the Copycat. Scholastic, 1991 (I:5–8 R:3).Rodowsky, Colby. Sydney Herself. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989

(I:11� R:6).Rogasky, Barbara. Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust.

Holiday House, 1988 (I:10� R:6).Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Scholastic, 2000

(I:all).Rylant, Cynthia. Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds.

Illustrated by Barry Moser. Harcourt Brace, 1991 (I:all R:5).__________. A Fine White Dust. Bradbury, 1986 (I:10� R:6).__________. The Islander. DK, 1998 (I:10� R:6).__________. Missing May. Orchard, 1992 (I:10� R:6).__________. When I Was Young in the Mountains. Illustrated by

Diane Goode. Dutton, 1982 (I:4–7 R:3).Sachar, Louis. Holes. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998 (I:10� R:5).Salisbury, Graham. Under the Blood-Red Sun. Doubleday, 1995

(I:10� R:5).San Souci, Robert D. Cendrillon . . . A Caribbean Cinderella.

Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Simon & Schuster, 1998 (I:all).Schanzer, Rosalyn. George vs. George: The American Revolution as

Seen From Both Sides. National Geographic, 2004 (I:8� R:5).Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. Clarion,

2004 (I:10–YA R:6).Scieszka, Jon. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.

Illustrated by Lane Smith. Viking, 1992 (I:all R:4).Seeber, Dorothea P. A Pup Just for Me: A Boy Just for Me.

Illustrated by Ed Young. Philomel, 2000 (I:6�).Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. Harper & Row,

1963 (I:4–8 R:6).Seredy, Kate. The White Stog. Viking, 1937; Puffin, 1979 (I:10–14

R:7).Seuss, Dr. The Cat in the Hat. Random House, 1957 (I:4–7 R:1).Shulevitz, Uri. The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela: Through Three

Continents in the Twelfth Century. Farrar, Straus and Giroux,2005 (I:10–YA R:6).

Snyder, Dianne. The Boy of the Three-Year Nap. Illustrated byAllen Say. Houghton Mifflin, 1988 (I:4–9 R:4).

Speare, Elizabeth George. The Sign of the Beaver. HoughtonMifflin, 1983 (I:8–12 R:5).

__________. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Houghton Mifflin, 1958(I:9–14 R:4).

Sperry, Armstrong. Call It Courage. Macmillan, 1940 (I:9–13 R:6).Spinelli, Jerry. Wringer. HarperCollins, 1997 (I:9� R:4).Staples, Suzanne Fisher. Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. Farrar,

Straus & Giroux, 1996 (I:12� R:6).__________. Shiva’s Fire. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000 (I:10�).Steptoe, John. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale.

Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1987 (I:all R:4).Stolz, Joëlle. The Shadows of Ghadames. Delacorte, 2004

(I:10–YA R:6).Stolz, Mary. Cezanne Pinto: A Memoir. Knopf, 1994 (I:10� R:6).Strachan, Ian. Flowed Glass. Little, Brown, 1990 (I:10� R:6).Taback, Simms. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.

Viking, 1997 (I:all).Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Dial, 1976 (I:10�


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Taylor, Theodore. The Cay. Doubleday, 1969 (I:8–12 R:6).Thomas, Dylan. A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Illustrated by Chris

Raschka. Candlewick, 2004 (I:all).Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit. Houghton Mifflin, 1938 (I:9–12 R:6).Trivizas, Eugene. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.

Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Macmillan, 1993 (I:4–8 R:5).Turner, Megan Whalen. The Thief. Greenwillow, 1996 (I:11�

R:6).Voigt, Cynthia. Bad Girls. Scholastic, 1996 (I:9� R:7).__________. Dicey’s Song. Atheneum, 1982 (I:10� R:5).Vos, Ida. Hide and Seek. Translated by Terese Edelstein & Inez

Smidt. Houghton Mifflin, 1991 (I:8–12 R:5).Wells, Rosemary. Max’s Chocolate Chicken. Dial, 1989 (I:2–6).Whelan, Gloria. Homeless Bird. HarperCollins, 2000 (I:10� R:5).White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web. Illustrated by Garth Williams.

Harper & Row, 1952 (I:7–11 R:3).__________. Trumpet of the Swan. Puffin, 1970 (I:7–11 R:5).White, Ruth. Belle Proter’s Boy. Farrar. Straus & Giroux, 1996

(I:10� R:6).

White, T.H. The Sword in the Stone. Collins, 1938 (I:10� R:7).Wild, Margaret. Our Granny. Illustrated by Julie Vivas. Ticknor &

Fields, 1994 (I:3–6 R:5).Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House in the Big Woods. Harper &

Row, 1932 (I:8–12 R:6).Williams, Margery. The Velveteen Rabbit. Illustrated by William

Nicholson. Doubleday, 1958 (I:6–9 R:5).Williams, Vera B. Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea. Illustrated by

Vera B. Williams & Jennifer Williams. Greenwillow, 1988(I:5–10).

Wood, Douglas. What Dads Can’t Do. Illustrated by DougCushman. Simon & Schuster, 2000 (I:3–8).

Yolen, Jane. The Devil’s Arithmetic. Viking Kestrel, 1988 (I:8�R:5).

Yorinks, Arthur. Hey, Al. Illustrated by Richard Egielski. Farrar,Straus & Giroux, 1986 (I:all).

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Evaluating and selecting literature for children - [PDF Document] (2024)


How can you evaluate children's literature? ›

To effectively evaluate literature readers must look at the ways in which authors of children's books use plot, characterization, setting, theme, style, and point of view to create memorable stories.

How do you select children's literature? ›

Here's what you can look out for:
  1. Choose good books that are easy to relate to. ...
  2. Opt for books that teach kids important things. ...
  3. Choose books that may not be your personal pick. ...
  4. Find books that are not too difficult to read for kids. ...
  5. Look for kids' books with strong illustrations. ...
  6. Choose books that are fun to read aloud.

What are the points to be noted while you select children's literature? ›

Vivid, clear imagery is a must for children ages 4–8, and the images are most effective when they correspond to the storyline. Wordless books are also a wonderful source of language development, requiring your child to interpret the illustrations as the story progresses.

What criteria did you use to determine what books would be considered quality literature? ›

Criteria for selecting quality books for the library:

Literary merit: The book should exhibit high-quality writing, engaging storytelling, and well-developed characters.


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