Term Paper: Children's Literature Diverges From Adult Writing

Pages: 4 (1310 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

Children's literature diverges from adult writing significantly in tone, language, subject matter, and complexity. This is particularly true of histories. In the context of children's histories one of the most visible differences is a lack of fine detail, a significant reduction in the amount of information covered, and a taming down of events. While these are all standard, what is even more significant in children's histories, is the necessary blending of story with history. For adults reading histories, an interest generally pre-exists the reading. But for children, histories are often taught within the context of school and, therefore, predate or even spark interest. This means that much less can be assumed about the reader and a much greater care must be taken to not only convey the core elements of the history of the person or event, but also that the story must be engaging enough to keep and hopefully capture attention. The line between fact and fiction, between truth and legend can become especially tricky to navigate when writing histories for children about real characters who have become part of popular legend.

This is the case with Pocahontas, Davy Crockett and John Henry. Each of these real people have become characters in the fabric of American history and have become much larger and more important than perhaps they actually were in their time. How authors portray these characters, their historical context, and the reconciliation between fact and fiction demonstrates different views on what children will want to listen to and want to learn more about.

Jean Fritz' version of the story of Pocahontas, the Double Life of Pocahontas, is considered to be one of the most historically accurate and relevant works of children's historical literature (and one of the most award-winning as well). At ninety-six pages, this book is well within the attention span and reach of the middle-school reader. The strength of her book is found in the accessibility of detail and in the language used. Fritz's portrayal of this earliest of American histories is filled with idiom that a child would immediately understand. The illustrations assist greatly in this. She describes the passengers aboard the ships heading to Virginia as being "sick to death of each other," including biological details that children latch onto "John smith reported that he made 'wild vomits into the black night'," and a simplicity of concept delivery that speaks volumes but uses limited verbiage, "[the Indians] seemed friendly, glad to exchange corn for tiny bells and pretty glass beads. (Pocahontas would love those beads.)." Pocahontas herself plays a significant role within the book, but she is not elevated to some form of ultra-heroic status that so often becomes the case when relaying her story. The truth as relayed by Fritz is that Pocahontas was a girl who managed to live two lives in two absolutely different cultures but that the real story is what swirls around her.

This kind of structure and character development is also present in Mary Pope Osborne's Davy Crockett and Julius Lester's John Henry. Osborne's history of Davy Crockett focuses on his accomplishments and upon the history that unfolded around him. but, unlike Pocahontas who was a relatively small (but critical) player in the early interactions between the British and the Native Americans, Davy Crockett was ultimately a singular and powerful figure on his own. This allowed Osborn to treat her main character differently than Fritz'.

She begins the story with the "real" history of Crockett and an acknowledgement that after his death, "a series of...books were published that contained comically exaggerated tales...about his early life.," and credits them as being among the first of the American "tall tales." The history, then spends time not only discovering the truth about Crockett, but peeling away the layers of folklore that surrounds his legend. Here, illustrations are exceptional in that they are semi-abstractionist versions of the tall tales themselves - which makes them particularly effective… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Children's Literature Diverges From Adult Writing.  (2007, November 26).  Retrieved September 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/children-literature-diverges-adult/15501

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"Children's Literature Diverges From Adult Writing."  Essaytown.com.  November 26, 2007.  Accessed September 20, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/children-literature-diverges-adult/15501.