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Becoming One's Own Person: Exploring Children's Literature

Updated on October 19, 2016
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I learned about making sheep's wool during my stay in South Africa. An interesting process to oversee.

Books for Children's Literature

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Exploring Literature for Children

The story of every man and every woman is the story of growing up, of becoming a person, of struggling to become one's own person.

The kind of person you become has its roots in your childhood experiences-how much you were loved, how little you were loved and of the people who were significant to you

The ones who were not; the places you have been, and those you did not go to and the things you had and the things you did not get.

Yet a person is always more than the totality of these experiences; the way a person organizes, understands, and relates to those experiences makes for individuality.

Childhood is not a waiting room for adulthood but the place where adulthood is shaped by one's family, peers, society and, most importantly, the person one is becoming.

The passage from childhood to adulthood is a significant journey for each person. It is no wonder today that children's literature is filled with stories about growing up in society.

  • Living in a Family

The human personality is nurtured within the family; here the growing child learns of love and hate, fear and courage, joy and sorrow.

The first ''family life'' stories tended to portray families without moments of anger and hurt, emphasizing only the happy or adventurous moments.

Today the balance scale has titled in the other direction, and it is often more difficult to find a family story with well-adjusted children and happily married parents than it is to find a story about family problems.

If children are to see life wholly and gain some perspective from their reading, educators must help children balance their reading choices.

  • Family Relationships

Episodic stories centered comfortably in a warm family setting are often the first chapter-book stories younger children read independently.

Young readers who more readily follow episodic rather than complicated plots.

Exploring literature for children and to look into the problems in the stories concerned allowed children to learn more. The problems which are small to adults but which loom so large in the lives of children, the sort of problem children can solve themselves.

In Ramona and her mother, Ramona worries that her mother doesn't love her as much as she loves Beezus, her older sister.

In Ramona and her father, Ramona is able to be with her father more often now that she returns from school to find him waiting for telephone calls about jobs he has applied for.

In Ramona's World, Ramona is involved with her new baby sister and beginning to feel the first romantic stirrings for her old friend ''Yard Ape.''

Anastasia Krupnik, Anastasia is the only girl in fourth grade whose name will not fit on the front of a sweatshirt.

To top off the list of ''Things I Love/Things I Hate'' that Anastasia keeps; one of the things she is sure she is going to hate is the arrival of a new baby brother. In an effort to appease her, Anastasia's parents let her choose the baby's name, and she considers the worst ones possible.

The death of her grandmother gives Anastasia some thoughts about the importance of family and of memories, and the new baby was named Sam after her grandfather.

This is whom Anastasia knows only through the reminiscences of her grandmother.

Sam's story is told in the hilarious All about Sam.

Anastasia and Sam with openness, humor, and respect; they are both literate and concerned parents whose careers as artist and English teacher do not interfere with their interactions with Anastasia and Sam.

Lowry has a gift for natural-sounding dialogue and situational humor, anchored by keen observations of human nature and family relationships.

No book has revealed the complexities of sibling rivalry with as much depth as Katherine Paterson’s challenging Newbery Medal-winning story Jacob Have I Loved.

Louise is convinced that she lives in her twin sister's shadow. Caroline, her beautiful, blond, delicate sister, is the talented one, who leaves their island home of Rass each week to take piano lessons.

Louise, or ''Wheeze,'' the hated name Carolina has given her, believes her sister has stolen everything from her; her parents' affection, her friends Call and the Captain, and her chance for an education.

Her half-crazed Bible-quoting grandmother recognizes her burning resentment of Caroline and taunts her with the quote ''Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.''

Paterson has skillfully woven the Bible story of Esau, first born, who was tricked into giving up his birthright to Jacob, the younger of the twin brothers, into this modern novel of sibling rivalry.

Only maturity and a family of her own can help Louise to put her hatred and resentment of her sister to rest.

The novel ends on a theme of reconciliation as Louise, now a midwife in a mountain community, fights to save the life of the weaker second-born baby of a pair of twins. In her Newbery acceptance speech for Jacob Have I Loved, the author, herself the middle child of five, said:

''Among children who grow up together in a family there run depths of feeling that will permeate their souls for good and ill as long as they live.''

Adolescence also seems to be a time for sometimes bitter conflicts between parents and children.

In Keven Henke's ''Protecting Marie,'' twelve year old Fanny finds it difficult to deal with her temperamental father's inconsistencies as the same time as she is thrust into the inconsistencies of early adolescence.

When her artist father, Henry, presents her with the puppy she has longed for all her life and then gives it away because it interferes with his painting.

Fanny is devastated. Although her father repents and brings home Dinner, an older, better-trained do, Fanny finds that she cannot trust her father, and their alienation increases. When the dog disappears one afternoon.

Fanny is sure Henry has given this one away, too. When Henry returns home for Dinner, Fanny reveals her fear for him. ''You don't understand me sometimes,'' she whispered, her voice changing sharply as her emotions rose.

''I am always worrying that you are going to take something away from me.''

In response Henry reveals something of his own vulnerability. There are strong enough bonds of love in this family that, with the stabilizing element of Fanny's mother.

There is a final promise of an improved relationship for Fanny and Henry and a permanent home for dinner.

In the ''Birthday Room,'' Henkes deals with long-held grudges between grown siblings.

Twelve year old Ben's mother has never forgotten her brother Ian for an accident that maimed Ben's hand.

When Ian asks Ben to come for a visit to Oregon, Ben's mother reluctantly agrees to accompany him. There they find that Ian's wife, Nina, is soon to give birth.

Even though sister and sister-in-law form an immediate bond, the tension continues between sister and brother.

Ben, caught in the middle, is distracted by his feelings for Lynnie, a neighbor girl.

However, Ben's efforts to help Lynnie's younger twin siblings , Kale and Elk, with a special project result in a near tragedy when Kale falls out of a tree and breaks his arm and leg.

Ben's feelings of guilt and remorse are mirrored by those of his Uncle Ian and his mother for their own culpability in Ben's accident years before. Unlike these two, however,

Ben accepts responsibility for his role in the accident and sets about to make amends to Kale. At the book's end, perhaps influenced by Ben's example, his mother and Uncle Ian are reconciled.

In a lovely reference to the book's title Ben, pleased to have re-established these family connections, makes room in his life for his new baby cousin.

Complex stories like mother-daughter relationships and the conflicts between two generations which seem to intensify during adolescence.

In Maude Casey's Over the Water, Mary, a fourteen year old Irish Catholic girl living with her family in London, is isolated from friends by her own anger and her mother's fear and bitterness of having had to leave her beloved Irish farm.

When the family returns to the farm for the summer, Mammy's strictness gets even worse and Mary's resentment deepens.

Over the course of the visit, as her grandmother and Aunt Nuala act as buffers between the two, Mary comes to appreciate the strong community that exists in the Irish countryside and to revel in its quiet beauty after the grimy, gray city landscape of London.

She also begins to how the loss of this place must affect her mother.

There is no easy resolution to the conflict between Mary and her mother, but as the end Mary begins to understand something of her mother's sacrifices.

The exquisitely written short stories explore mother-daughter relationships and other conflicts of adolescence.

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© 2013 Devika Primić

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    • DDE profile image
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      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      AliciaC thanks for commenting I appreciate all comments.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very interesting and thought-provoking article, DDE! Thanks for the great analysis.

    • DDE profile image
      Author

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Becoming One's Own Person: Exploring Children's Literature: thanks very much pstraubie48 for commenting on my work glad you came by and shared your opinions.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thanks for sharing. Being nurtured and known as a person from birth is so important. And sharing books with our children is a lifelong gift.

      Thanks for sharing this with us. Angels are on the way ps

    • DDE profile image
      Author

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Au fait I So agree with your view here and I appreciate you sharing your valuable thoughts thanks very much have a lovely Sunday

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      A human being is actually a person as soon as they are born. Human babies need not grow up to accomplish personhood.

      An interesting review of early chapter books. The environment a child grows up in does certainly shape the person they will become.

      I always enjoy reading your insightful articles.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • DDE profile image
      Author

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      FlourishAnyway me too enjoyed it very much thanks for your continuous support

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Great suggestions. Books offer a universe of imagination beyond our own lives and experiences. They can inspire young and developing minds and also let them know that what they are feeling is not unusual. I really like this series, DDE.

    • DDE profile image
      Author

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hello MartieCoetser very kind of you to comment on Becoming One's Own Person: Exploring Children's Literature I enjoyed literature at school reading is such an enjoyable part of any child's life, thanks very much for commenting

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 years ago from South Africa

      ''Among children who grow up together in a family there run depths of feeling that will permeate their souls for good and ill as long as they live.''

      This is so true and I am so glad I have grown up with the best of siblings and friends.

      The only presents my grandchildren get from me on their birthdays and Christmas are BOOKS...... The more children read, the broader and deeper will their perceptive on life and humanity be.

      Excellent hub!

    • DDE profile image
      Author

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi sheilamyers thanks for commenting so nice of you to come by here.

    • DDE profile image
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      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      rose-the planner thank you very much for the well-mentioned comment , and or votes up, have a good weekend.

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      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      These are some great plots for kids to read about. I also like how you point how kids can learn more about themselves (or at least their problems) by reading stories like these.

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      This is such a superb and insightful article with a very important message. I really loved your line that read, "Childhood is not a waiting room for adulthood but the place where adulthood is shaped by one's family, peers, society and, most importantly, the person one is becoming". I thought the children's literature you showcased is exceptional. You are a very talented writer! Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up). -Rose

    • DDE profile image
      Author

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi CraftytotheCore thanks for the kind comment

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Brilliantly written as usual! Terrific suggestions.

    • DDE profile image
      Author

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      billybuc thanks for commenting I appreciate your kind comments

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wonderful suggestions and your message is so very important...not just for children but for adults as well.