Via The Hindu
Children’s literature is at the intersection of at least three major areas of experience – that of the readers – children, the writers who are, most of the time, adults, and academics, who are adults too. Does this make it an area which is too heavily populated by protagonists who end up not being the central players? It is indeed a peculiarity of the field that both the creators and the analysers are not active participants of childhood, and therefore, can have only a slightly removed engagement with it – through memories of their own childhood, and through observation. This is a paradox that Reading Children recognises in its introduction itself, and reveals a self-reflexivity about its subject: children’s literature reveals much more “about adult preoccupations and fears than about adults themselves.” The lenses through which the studies are carried out are primarily historical, sociological, feminist, and on occasion biographical, (although of course there are intersections between these fields) and the sense of self-reflexivity is carried on into each article in the book.
The book is a collection of eleven articles which are roughly chronological – the early articles concentrate on Kipling and Indian writing for children in colonial times, Victorian literature and German literature in the nineteenth century, and the later ones on literature such as Winnie the Pooh, and the Amar Chitra Katha series.
Sue Walsh’s article on Kipling’s Mowgli Stories reveal that the Jungle Books are the subject of much academic debate. She argues that the Mowgli stories are the “perspective of the white colonial boy-child born and raised in India.” Through the deconstruction of the meanings of ‘human’ and ‘animal’, and through further intricate linguistic analysis of the text, she uncovers ambiguous identity constructions that Mowgli strives towards. The Jungle Books can no longer be read simplistically as stories about an Indian boy who grew up in the jungle with animals who loved and protected him.
These, and many more articles in the book have been motivated by a genuine concern to understand children’s literature in a context that is wider than that within which the writer is situated. The number of perspectives included make it a valuable resource for teachers, scholars, parents, and anyone interested in children.