Pippi Longstocking and the father of enjoyment
AbstractIn his essay, “Interpretation and the apparent sameness of children’s novels”, Perry Nodelman comes to a conclusion that seems to distress him. He asserts that interpretation should allow literary critics to figure out what makes good books better than not-so-good books, that it should bring to light those qualities that make a book unique or especially deserving of our esteem. Unfortunately, he finds that this is not the case with children’s literature. Indeed what one uncovers when one interprets high quality, beloved children’s books is not their thematic distinctiveness or originality, but their correspondences and similarities. Specifically, he says that children’s novels “all balance the same set of opposites: home and exile, escape and security, the familiar and the foreign, the strange and the comfortable, fear and acceptance, isolation and togetherness, the disorderly and the patterned” and that “all in some way combine what one wishes for with what one must accept…and all create balances between these extremes” (Nodelman 1985, 18, 20). He concludes that we must find “other means of interpretation” if we wish to understand excellence in children’s fiction (Nodelman 1985, 20).
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