Young Readers Guide to Life in the Middle Ages
If you had a toothache, the doctors would explain to you that little worms were tunneling into the enamel of your teeth. On the other hand, this was also an age that saw the building of stunning cathedrals, and a time when Shakespeare took literature to new heights.
Instead, you give us an enormous amount of everyday detail about the Middle Ages. But why exactly do I need to know what kind of toilet paper a particular earl used? Mortimer: It's about gaining an understanding of what the human race is actually like. I believe we can gain a much deeper understanding by looking back in time.
Humans are unbelievably adaptable. As a group, we contended with the plague in the 14th century and with the terrible flu in the 16th century. We're extraordinarily creative, even under enormous pressure. Mortimer: Absolutely. There was real filth and stench in the streets until less than years ago. But people then were fussier than we imagine today. Bad breath was considered embarrassing beyond description, and 16th century people combated it with toothpowder or licorice lozenges.
Good-manners guides were severe in their censure of belching, farting or even smacking one's lips at the table. Even in the simplest households, everyone washed their hands before and after the meal. Mortimer: That's true. A man passing an acquaintance urinating by the side of the road would simply doff his hat in friendly greeting. Where else were they supposed to go? The flushable water closet wasn't invented by Sir John Harington until -- and for another years after that, it was regarded as a useless curiosity.
In a town, only the wealthy could afford to have a private cesspit emptied regularly. In comparison, today's young men are as docile as lambs. Mortimer: The excessive violence was partly a product of the fact that adults in those days drank alcohol constantly. It was considered the only way to ingest liquids without poisoning oneself.
And because of these marauding drunks, it was quite dangerous to be out alone. Women, in particular, almost never traveled on their own. Mortimer: Chivalry has its darker side. Just think of the awful example of Sir John Arundel and his men. During a spell of bad weather, his band found shelter at a convent. They used their time there to rape all the nuns and steal valuables. When the gang moved on, it was to rob a church, raid a wedding party and gang rape the bride. When the weather finally improved enough for them to return to their ship and set sail, they forced many of the nuns to come with them as sex slaves.
But when the weather worsened again, they threw the nuns overboard to lighten the ship's load and keep it from capsizing. Mortimer: Yes, but they were limited. Rape could almost never be proved. It was the woman's word against the man's. If the woman became pregnant, this was taken as proof that the sex had been consensual because people in the Middle Ages believed a woman could conceive only when sexually aroused.
Mortimer: Men in those days were very strong -- as long as they got enough to eat. They may not have been bodybuilders, but they did hard physical labor out in the fields every day. Even young boys were good with weapons, such as the longbow, and were expected to play an active role in defending their communities. Many took part in life-or-death fights from a young age. Future knights received training from the age of six or seven. Jousting served both as sport, and as training for war, in which the aim was to unseat the opponent and break his neck.
Mortimer: Violence dominated daily life -- and humor, as well. Both men and women found nothing more amusing than seeing someone get hurt.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
King Edward II, for example, paid one of his kitchen servants a bonus equivalent to a year's salary because the man had given his king a good laugh by coming unseated from his horse several times, hitting the ground painfully. Mortimer: The majority of people were busy just trying to find enough to eat. They took whatever was available locally and didn't have the luxury of being choosy. Only vegetables were truly unpopular because they were believed to be poisonous.
Cabbage was cooked until every last trace of vitamins was gone. What people really liked was meat. At the marketplace, though, they always had to wonder: Is this meat from a pig that was raised for slaughter? Or does it come from a wild animal that roamed freely, accidentally ate something poisonous and ended up dead in a roadside ditch?
Mortimer: First of all, there were just two mealtimes, not three.
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Boiled ham, beans and rye bread would be quite a decent meal for a farming family. But people were very resourceful in the kitchen, and they liked to combine savory and sweet foods. Fish in a cinnamon-sugar crust would be nothing out of the ordinary for a medieval dinner. Did people then have an eye for the natural beauty around them? Mortimer: No, that's not something they noticed.
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When your primary concern is the survival of your family, you don't pay much attention to the beauty of the landscape. Realism took a gloomy turn by frequently showing the maltreatment of children from lower classes. The most popular boys' material was Sherlock Holmes , and similar stories from detective magazines. The state took control of children's literature during the October Revolution. Maksim Gorky edited the first children's Northern Lights under Soviet rule. With a children's branch, the official oversight of the professional organization brought children's writers under the control of the state and the police.
Communist principles like collectivism and solidarity became important themes in children's literature. Authors wrote biographies about revolutionaries like Lenin and Pavlik Morozov. Alexander Belyayev , who wrote in the s and s, became Russia's first science fiction writer.
Today, the field is in a state of flux because some older authors are being rediscovered and others are being abandoned. The series is considered representative of Brazilian children's literature and the Brazilian equivalent to children's classics such as C. Lewis , The Chronicles of Narnia and L. Christian missionaries first established the Calcutta School-Book Society in the 19th century, creating a separate genre for children's literature in that country. Magazines and books for children in native languages soon appeared.
Nobel Prize -winner Rabindranath Tagore wrote plays, stories, and poems for children, including one work illustrated by painter Nandalal Bose. They worked from the end of the nineteenth century into the beginning of the twentieth. Tagore's work was later translated into English, with Bose's pictures. His stories were didactic in nature. The first full-length children's book was Khar Khar Mahadev by Narain Dixit , which was serialized in one of the popular children's magazines in Other writers include Premchand , and poet Sohan Lal Dwivedi.
Bengali children's literature flourished in the later part of the twentieth century. Educator Gijubhai Badheka published over books in the Children's literature in Gujarati language , and many are still popular. In , political cartoonist K. Shankar Pillai founded the Children's Book Trust publishing company. The firm became known for high quality children's books, and many of them were released in several languages. He wrote biographies of many historical personalities, such as Kapila Deva. In , the firm organized a writers' competition to encourage quality children's writing.
One of the pioneering children's writer in Persian was Mehdi Azar-Yazdi. Originally, for centuries, stories were told by Africans in their native languages, many being told during social gatherings. Stories varied between mythic narratives dealing with creation and basic proverbs showcasing human wisdom. These narratives were passed down from generation to generation orally. Most children's books depict the African culture and lifestyle, and trace their roots to traditional folktales, riddles, and proverbs.
Publishing companies also aided in the development of children's literature. Children's literature can be divided into categories, either according to genre or the intended age of the reader. A literary genre is a category of literary compositions. Genres may be determined by technique, tone, content, or length. According to Anderson,  there are six categories of children's literature with some significant subgenres :.
The criteria for these divisions are vague, and books near a borderline may be classified either way. Books for younger children tend to be written in simple language, use large print, and have many illustrations. Books for older children use increasingly complex language, normal print, and fewer if any illustrations. The categories with an age range are these:. Pictures have always accompanied children's stories. Generally, artwork plays a greater role in books intended for younger readers especially pre-literate children. Children's picture books often serve as an accessible source of high quality art for young children.
Even after children learn to read well enough to enjoy a story without illustrations, they like their elders continue to appreciate the occasional drawings found in chapter books. According to Joyce Whalley in The International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature , "an illustrated book differs from a book with illustrations in that a good illustrated book is one where the pictures enhance or add depth to the text. Acting as a kind of encyclopedia, Orbis Pictus had a picture on every page, followed by the name of the object in Latin and German.
It was translated into English in and was used in homes and schools around Europe and Great Britain for many years. Early children's books, such as Orbis Pictus , were illustrated by woodcut , and many times the same image was repeated in a number of books regardless of how appropriate the illustration was for the story.
One of the first uses of Chromolithography a way of making multi-colored prints in a children's book was demonstrated in Struwwelpeter , published in Germany in English illustrator Walter Crane refined its use in children's books in the late 19th century. Another method of creating illustrations for children's books was etching , used by George Cruikshank in the s. Most pictures were still black-and-white, and many color pictures were hand colored, often by children. Twentieth-century artists such as Kay Nielson , Edmund Dulac , and Arthur Rackham produced illustrations that are still reprinted today.
After World War II, offset lithography became more refined, and painter-style illustrations, such as Brian Wildsmith 's were common by the s. Professional organizations, dedicated publications, individual researchers and university courses conduct scholarship on children's literature. Wolf, et al. Typically, children's literature scholars from literature departments in universities English, German, Spanish, etc.
This literary criticism may focus on an author, a thematic or topical concern, genre, period, or literary device and may address issues from a variety of critical stances poststructural, postcolonial, New Criticism, psychoanalytic, new historicism, etc.
Results of this type of research are typically published as books or as articles in scholarly journals. The field of Library and Information Science has a long history of conducting research related to children's literature. Most educational researchers studying children's literature explore issues related to the use of children's literature in classroom settings. They may also study topics such as home use, children's out-of-school reading, or parents' use of children's books. Teachers typically use children's literature to augment classroom instruction.
Controversies often emerge around the content and characters of prominent children's books. The academic journal Children's Literature Review provides critical analysis of many well known children's books. In its th volume, the journal discuses the cultural stereotypes in Belgian cartoonist Herge 's Tintin series in reference to its depiction of people from the Congo.
After the scramble for Africa which occurred between the years of and there was a large production of children's literature which attempted to create an illusion of what life was like for those who lived on the African continent. This was a simple technique in deceiving those who only relied on stories and secondary resources.
Books for Young Readers: The Middle Ages and Renaissance
Resulting in a new age of books which put a "gloss" on imperialism and its teachings at the time. Thus encouraging the idea that the colonies who were part of the African continent were perceived as animals, savages and un human like. Therefor needing cultured higher class Europeans to share their knowledge and resources with the locals. Also promoting the idea that the people within these places were as exotic as the locations themselves. Examples of these books include:. Eske Wollrad claimed Astrid Lindgren 's Pippi Longstocking novels "have colonial racist stereotypes",  urging parents to skip specific offensive passages when reading to their children.
Criticisms of the novel The Secret Garden by author Frances Hodgson Burnett claim endorsement of racist attitudes toward black people through the dialogue of main character Mary Lennox. The picture book The Snowy Day , written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats was published in and is known as the first picture book to portray an African-American child as a protagonist. Middle Eastern and Central American protagonists still remain underrepresented in North American picture books.
Additionally, only 92 of the books were written by Africans or African Americans. Latimer has criticized popular children's books for their renditions of people as almost exclusively white, and notes that Dr. Seuss books contain few ethnic minority people. The first black family did not appear in the series until the s, thirty years into its run. Writer Mary Renck Jalongo In Young Children and Picture Books discusses damaging stereotypes of Native Americans in children's literature , stating repeated depictions of indigenous people as living in the s with feathers and face paint cause children to mistake them as fictional and not as people that still exist today.
Barrie 's Peter Pan are widely discussed among critics. Wilder's novel, based on her childhood in America's midwest in the late s, portrays Native Americans as racialized stereotypes and has been banned in some classrooms. Lynn Byrd describes how the natives of Neverland in Peter Pan are depicted as "uncivilized", valiant fighters unafraid of death and are referred to as "redskins", which is now considered a racial slur.
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The presence of empire as well as pro-colonialist and imperialist themes in children's literature have been identified in some of the most well known children's classics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the French illustrator Jean de Brunhoff 's picture book Histoire de Babar, le petit elephant The Story of Babar , The Little Elephant , prominent themes of imperialism and colonialism have been noted and identified as propaganda. An allegory for French colonialism, Babar easily assimilates himself into the bourgeois lifestyle. It is a world where the elephants who have adapted themselves dominate the animals who have not yet been assimilated into the new and powerful civilization.
Rey and Margret Rey 's Curious George first published in has been criticized for its blatant slave and colonialist narratives. Critics claim the man with the yellow hat represents a colonialist poacher of European descent who kidnaps George, a monkey from Africa, and sends him on a ship to America. Details such as the man in colonialist uniform and Curious George's lack of tail are points in this argument. In an article, The Wall Street Journal interprets it as a "barely disguised slave narrative.
Baum 's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. With many women of this period being represented in children's books as doing housework, these two books deviated from this pattern. Drawing attention to the perception of housework as oppressive is one of the earliest forms of the feminist movement. Little Women , a story about four sisters, is said to show power of women in the home and is seen as both conservative and radical in nature. The character of Jo is observed as having a rather contemporary personality and has even been seen as a representation of the feminist movement.
It has been suggested that the feminist themes in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz result from influence of Baum's mother-in law, Matilda Gage , an important figure in the suffragist movement. Baum's significant political commentary on capitalism, and racial oppression are also said to be part of Gage's influence. Examples made of these themes is the main protagonist, Dorothy who is punished by being made to do housework. Another example made of positive representations of women is in Finnish author Tove Jansson 's Moomin series which features strong and individualized female characters.
In addition to perpetuating stereotypes about appropriate behavior and occupations for women and girls, children's books frequently lack female characters entirely, or include them only as minor or unimportant characters. Seuss , would typically be assigned the gender-specific roles of receptionists and nurses. Milne , are primarily male, with the exception of the character Kanga , who is a mother to Roo. On the one hand Growing up with Dick and Jane highlights the heterosexual, nuclear family and also points out the gender-specific duties of the mother, father, brother and sister,  while Young Children and Picture Books , on the other hand, encourages readers to avoid books with women who are portrayed as inactive and unsuccessful as well as intellectually inferior and subservient to their fellow male characters to avoid children's books that have repressive and sexist stereotypes for women.
She also says that capitalism encourages gender-specific marketing of books and toys. She argues girls have traditionally been marketed books that prepare them for domestic jobs and motherhood. Conversely, boys are prepared for leadership roles and war. S; during that time, male characters outnumbered female characters by more than 3 to 2, and male animals outnumbered female animals by 3 to 1. I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl! The book informs the reader that boys are doctors, policemen, pilots, and presidents while girls are nurses, meter maids, stewardesses and first ladies.
Mehdi Ghasemi draws attention to the ways Janaki Sooriyarachchi — the writer and illustrator of The Flying Train — validates feminine and masculine voices and visions and balances gender issues both in the story book's narratives and illustrations. Nancy F. Cott, once said that "gender matters; that is, it matters that human beings do not appear as neuter individuals, that they exist as male or female, although this binary is always filtered through human perception.
I should add that when I say gender, I am talking about meaning. I am talking about something in which interpretation is already involved. A widely discussed and debated topic by critics and publishers in the children's book industry is whether outdated and offensive content, specifically racial stereotypes, should be changed in new editions. Some question if certain books should be banned,  while others believe original content should remain, but publishers should add information to guide parents in conversations with their children about the problematic elements of the particular story.
Jenkins suggests that parents and educators should trust children to make responsible judgments. Some books have been altered in newer editions and significant changes can be seen, such as illustrator Richard Scarry 's book Best Word Book Ever. Several versions of Little Black Sambo have been remade as more appropriate and without prejudice. Bruno Bettelheim in The Uses of Enchantment , uses psychoanalysis to examine the impact that fairy tales have on the developing child. Bettelheim states the unconscious mind of a child is affected by the ideas behind a story, which shape their perception and guides their development.
Their environment and interaction with images in picture books have a profound impact on this development and are intended to inform a child about the world. Children's literature critic Peter Hunt argues that no book is innocent of harbouring an ideology of the culture it comes from. She also attributes capitalism , in certain societies, as a prominent means of instructing especially middle class children in how to behave. Ausdale claims children as young as three have already entered into and begun experimenting with the race ideologies of the adult world.
She asserts racist attitudes are assimilated  using interactions children have with books as an example of how children internalize what they encounter in real life. International awards also exist as forms of global recognition. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the academic journal, see Children's Literature journal.
For the A. Byatt novel, see The Children's Book. For the song, see Children's Story. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Children's and Young Adult Literature portal Books portal. Childhood in literature Book talk Children's literature criticism Disability in children's literature Feminist children's literature International Children's Digital Library Internet Archive's Children's Library Native Americans in children's literature Young adult fiction Lists List of children's book series List of children's classic books List of children's literature authors List of children's non-fiction writers List of fairy tales List of illustrators List of publishers of children's books List of translators of children's books.
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