Don’t Tell the Grown-ups
As Lewis Carroll views the pedantic figure of Father William--topsy-turvy--the best-loved children’s literature has a subversive quality to it, a tendency to overturn adult pretensions and ridicule adult institutions. Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS, according to Lurie, go “underground” in more ways than one, caricaturing as they do Victorian educational, political, and judicial systems. Similarly, Mark Twain’s THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER turns the plot of the generic nineteenth century “improving tale” (enthusiastically distributed by religious and educational institutions) on its head; Twain himself declared that the novel was written in reaction against “goody-goody boys’ books.”
Sympathy is often for the rebel, such as Toad in Kenneth Grahame’s THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS--in Lurie’s description, a “juvenile delinquent, with a passion for flashy clothes and fast cars.” Sharing this unconventional spirit, Beatrix Potter plainly prefers her impertinent, reckless characters in PETER RABBIT to her dull, obedient ones.
The creators of children’s literature featured in DON’T TELL THE GROWN-UPS are varied. They include writers and illustrators of exclusively children’s books, authors who also published adult novels, playwrights, and anonymous geniuses to whom we are indebted for a wealth of compelling fairy tales and legends, as well as nursery rhymes, singing games, and...
(The entire section is 379 words.)
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