Cover image for A country called childhood : children and the exuberant world
A country called childhood : children and the exuberant world
Griffiths, Jay, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley, CA : Counterpoint, [2014]
Physical Description:
x, 417 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
"First published 2013 in Great Britain by Hamish Hamilton, part of the Penguin Group, UK"--Title page verso.
Kith -- Enclosure Ltd -- The patron saint of childhood -- By the Mark, Twain! -- Textures of tenderness -- Milk in the ink -- A ludic revolution (and a doodle) -- A clockwork child -- The will of the wild -- The fractal politics of childhood -- Who owns a child? -- On the character fault of exuberance -- Mirrors of the mind -- The quest -- The ship that goes as well on land as on water -- Eureka! -- The secret world of a child's soul -- To affinity.and beyond!
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ767.9 .G738 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ767.9 .G738 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HQ767.9 .G738 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



While traveling the world in order to write her award winning book Wild , Jay Griffiths became increasingly aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle, in particular captured her imagination: why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy - and why is it that children in traditional cultures seem happier?

In A Country Called Childhood , Griffiths seeks to discover why we deny our children the freedoms of space, time and the natural world. Visiting communities as far apart as West Papua and the Arctic as well as the UK, and delving into history, philosophy, language and literature, she explores how children's affinity for nature is an essential and universal element of childhood. It is a journey deep into the heart of what it means to be a child, and it is central to all our experiences, young and old.

Author Notes

Jay Griffiths is the author of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time , Wild: An Elemental Journey , and Love Letter from a Stray Moon , a novella about the life of Frida Kahlo. She is the winner of the inaugural Orion Book Award and of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for the best new non-fiction writer to be published in the USA. She grew up in England and now lives in Wales.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Griffiths (Wild: An Elemental Journey, 2006) is a committed and passionate author, who immerses herself in subjects with an impressive verve that can actually be daunting for readers. Here she crisscrosses the globe to investigate issues of parenting and childhood in both contemporary and historic cultures. Childhood happiness is a big topic, if, arguably, an impossible one to quantify, and Griffiths tackles it by bouncing about in a manner that becomes more than a bit dizzying. From the abuses of fundamentalist authors Michael and Debi Pearl to indigenous Australian traditions, the perils of consumerism, the European school system, The Secret Garden, and a lament for old-fashioned names, this is a book that goes everywhere, and while Griffiths is to be lauded for her wide-ranging interests, there is a frustrating lack of focus. There is also a disappointing level of attention paid to negative aspects of modern medicine (overprescription of Ritalin is roundly demonized), while lives saved by vaccines and research are given only a passing glance.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Griffiths (Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time), who has lived in and studied a diverse range of indigenous cultures, here addresses the "loss of childhood" (a term taken from a Cambridge University study) in wealthy, industrial nations. Griffiths believes this has happened because children have lost touch with their "kith," which is to say the natural world, due to today's omnipresent consumerism. She proposes a sensitive approach that will endow our children with a love of play and the freedom to explore nature. The combination of a sociological perspective with a lyrical style makes this a seductively readable work, each page peppered with references to cultural icons, authors, philosophers, historians, and other great thinkers. Chapters expounding happily on poet John Clare, Mark Twain's Huck and Tom, and Kipling's Mowgli are followed by darker sections about how corporal punishment, obedience, and a loss of metaphysical freedom can damage developing psyches. The independent state of childhood the book depicts as existing in the otherwise disparate indigenous societies of West Papua New Guinea, Australia, and North and South America, where children create their own tribes and exercise self-reliance, seems almost impossibly utopian, but Griffiths convincingly argues that it is real and can be achieved in developed nations. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

The Riddlep. ix
Chapter 1 Kithp. 1
Chapter 2 The Patron Saint of Childhoodp. 13
Chapter 3 Textures of Tendernessp. 27
Chapter 4 By the Mark, Twain!p. 39
Chapter 5 Wolf Milk in the Inkp. 70
Chapter 6 A Ludic Revolution (and a doodle)p. 89
Chapter 7 A Clockwork Childp. 109
Chapter 8 The Will of the Wildp. 118
Chapter 9 The Fractal Politics of Childhoodp. 138
Chapter 10 Who Owns a Child?p. 160
Chapter 11 The Tribe of Childrenp. 178
Chapter 12 On the Character Fault of Exuberancep. 192
Chapter 13 Mirrors of the Mindp. 223
Chapter 14 The Woods and the Questp. 250
Chapter 15 The Ship That Goes as Well on Land as on Waterp. 272
Chapter 16 The Secret World of a Child's Soulp. 294
Chapter 17 Eureka!p. 315
Chapter 18 To Affinity... and Beyond!p. 341
Notesp. 357
Bibliographyp. 383
Indexp. 399
In Thanksp. 419
Dedicationp. 421