The Fledgling Critical Context - Essay

Jane Langton

Critical Context

Considered Jane Langton’s highest literary achievement, The Fledgling was a Newbery Honor Book for 1981 and a nominee for an American Book Award in 1982. This work is the fourth in a five-book fantasy series (Langton’s favorites among her works) about the Hall family, consisting of The Diamond in the Window (1962), The Swing in the Summerhouse (1967), The Astonishing Stereoscope (1971), The Fledgling, and The Fragile Flag (1984). Georgie Dorian makes her first appearance in The Swing in the Summerhouse as a four-year-old with a passionate desire to read so that she can decode the messages in the world around her. In The Fledgling, Georgie takes center stage to receive the message in the gift that the Goose Prince has given her. In The Fragile Flag, Georgie fulfills her responsibility to protect the earth by leading a children’s march to Washington, D.C., where she persuades the president to cancel a nuclear missile program. Langton’s political activism, born of the Vietnam War era, underpins this last of the Hall family novels. Important to all five of the novels is Langton’s residence near historically rich Concord, Massachusetts. That Langton would choose for the epigraph of The Fledgling a quotation not from Thoreau’s familiar Walden (1854) but from his posthumously published essay “Walking” (1862) shows the depth of her immersion in the Transcendental tradition.