Radical Children’s Literature for Adults and The Inner City Mother Goose
This article explores the radical possibilities of children’s literature for adults, using as a case study The Inner City Mother Goose, a book of poetry for adults written by Eve Merriam and published, with “visuals” by Lawrence Ratzkin, in 1969. As one of the most frequently banned books of the 1970s, a period in which children’s literature and childhood itself saw dramatic changes, The Inner City Mother Goose is a good representative of the children’s book for adults, suggesting the ways in which parody, satire, and formal conventions of genres typically associated with children’s reading (nursery rhymes, abecedaries, board books, picture books, etc.) can function as aesthetic and formal cues that call the boundaries of adulthood and childhood into question to humorous but also, at times, politically radical effect. In the slippage between audiences, especially as children mischievously embrace texts that invite young people in while implicitly or explicitly excluding them, children not only gain access to ostensibly forbidden knowledge but also gain insight into adult hypocrisy. Most importantly, they gain an incentive to act independently and autonomously so as to eliminate contradictions between the “truths” and values they have been taught and those they have discovered by reading a children’s book that was ostensibly not intended for children.
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