Cover image for Boys and girls forever : children's classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter
Boys and girls forever : children's classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter
Lurie, Alison.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Books, 2003.
Physical Description:
xvi, 219 pages ; 21 cm
The underduckling : Hans Christian Andersen -- Little women and big girls : Louisa May Alcott -- The oddness of Oz -- Is there anybody there? : Walter de la Mare's solitary child -- John Masefield's boxes of delight -- Moomintroll and his friends -- Dr. Seuss comes back -- Haroun and the sea of stories -- The perils of Harry Potter -- What fairy tales tell us -- Boys and girls come out to play : children's games -- Poetry by and for children -- Louder than words : children's book illustrations -- Enchanted forest and secret gardens : nature in children's literature.
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PR830.C513 L87 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Are some of the world's most talented children's book authors essentially children themselves? In this engaging series of essays, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alison Lurie considers this theory, exploring children's classics from many eras and relating them to the authors who wrote them, including Little Women author Louisa May Alcott and Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum, as well as Dr. Seuss and Salman Rushdie. Analyzing these and many others, Lurie shows how these gifted writers have used children's literature to transfigure sorrow, nostalgia, and the struggles of their own experiences.

Author Notes

Novelist Alison Lurie was born September 3, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois to Harry and Bernice Stewart Lurie. She is an American novelist and academic. Lurie won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1984 novel Foreign Affairs. She received an A.B. from Radcliffe College in 1947. After finishing college, Lurie worked as an editorial assistant for Oxford University Press in New York, but she wanted to make a living as a writer. After years of receiving rejection slips, she devoted herself to raising her children. Lurie had taught at Cornell University since 1968, becoming a full professor in 1976 specializing in folklore and children's literature.

Lurie's first novel was "Love and Friendship" (1962) and its characters were modeled on friends and colleagues. Afterwards, she published "The Nowhere City" (1965), "Imaginary Friends" (1967), "The War Between the Tates" (1974), which tells of the collapse of a perfect marriage between a professor and his wife, "Only Children" (1979), and "The Truth About Lorin Jones" (1988). "Foreign Affairs" (1984) won the Pulitzer Prize; it tells the story of two academics in England who learn more about love than academia.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In clear, lively, unpretentious style, Lurie writes serious literary criticism about the best children's books, classic and contemporary. Most of these 14 essays first appeared in the New York Review of Books, and as in her first collection, Don't Tell the Grown-Ups (1990), she talks to adults about the stories and how they reflect the changing image of childhood. This time she also focuses on the writers' own lives and what their stories say about their growing up or not wanting to grow up. In a great piece on J. K. Rowling (a "folktale heroine," once a welfare mother, who "has clearly now become a fabulously rich princess"), Lurie places Harry Potter in the honorable tradition--from Tom Sawyer to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz--where the child characters are neither perfect nor obedient, and it's not always easy to distinguish the adult ogre from the helpful giant. Neither condescending nor preachy, this is for parents, teachers, children's literature students, and for any reader who wonders why some stories are always with us. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

A perceptive critic, Lurie (Don't Tell the Grown-Ups) has long been a close observer of children's literature. This welcome volume collects a number of her essays on the subject, most of which appeared in other versions in the New York Review of Books. As she wittily deconstructs the lives and works of authors as varied as Louisa May Alcott ("she was the daughter of what would now be described as vegetarian hippie intellectuals, with fringe religious and social beliefs, and spent nearly a year of her childhood in an unsuccessful commune"), Hans Christian Andersen, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss, a common theme emerges, for Lurie contends that those who write best for children are "in some essential way... children themselves." James Barrie liked to play pirates and Indians; Babar author Laurent deBrunhoff climbed trees into his 70s and John Masefield's daughter described him as "a wonderful playmate - essentially, another child." Children's book authors may bristle at this assertion, as well as at Lurie's somewhat offhand dismissal of the art of children's literature. Speaking of "established authors" who try their hand at writing for children, for instance, she notes "they are as it were on vacation, and under no pressure to produce a Great Work." Still, the essays are consistently entertaining, enlightening and erudite, and Lurie's insights into a host of classic titles, including such topics as gender role reversal and social satire in the Oz books, the enduring power of symbolism in fairy tales and changing literary tastes over the past two centuries, bring clarity to an always-evolving form. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved