Barbara Wersba Human—And Anti-Human—Values In Children's Books: A Content Rating Instrument For Educators And Concerned Parents - Essay

Human—And Anti-Human—Values In Children's Books: A Content Rating Instrument For Educators And Concerned Parents

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Country of the Heart's] strongest asset is Ms. Wersba's realistic depiction of the hard work involved in writing, which destroys the myth that artists lead glamorous lives of leisure. However, the book is seriously flawed overall.

In a style that is flowery to the point of pretentiousness, readers are fed the concept of the "driven artist." States Hadly: "Artists can't have both life and art." By failing to question the validity of this elitist view of the artist, the book reinforces the notion that art and social commitment are necessarily opposed. The extreme individualism implicit in this view is further supported by Hadley's martyr-like desire to suffer her painful dying in isolation.

Steve's desire to find life's meaning through Hadley, to have their love endure forever, to retreat from the world to the bedroom, reflects attitudes towards love that are escapist and sexist. Steve's love is also possessive, implying that jealousy is a natural component of "True Love." Rather than preparing young people to enter into mature, give-and-take relationships, these old romantic notions encourage unreal expectations.

The male pronoun is used for both sexes. Not until the end of the story, when Hadley is dying, is the age factor dealt with—and then not effectively. Because its good features do not compensate for its extreme reinforcement of negative values in human relationships, this book should be avoided. (p. 179)

"The Analyses: 'The Country of the Heart'," in Human—And Anti-Human—Values in Children's Books: A Content Rating Instrument for Educators and Concerned Parents, edited by the Council on Interracial Books for Children, Inc., Racism and Sexism Resource Center for Educators, 1976, pp. 178-79.