A Brief History of Children’s Literature


A Brief History of Children’s Literature

Natalie Bright

We are blogging about what we write this month on WordsmithSix. Some of the stories in my head are for children.

While cleaning out cabinets, I discovered an old textbook and since I also write for children, the history of Kid Lit was fascinating to me. “Tell me a story” is as old as time, and generations have passed down embellished family tales for centuries. I hope you find this interesting.

The Ancient World [ancient Rome; 50 BCE to 500 CE]

  • oral tale; composed not to be read but to be heard
  • children listened to poems of Homer, the Iliad, the Trojan War, the Odyssey
  • adults might be drawn by love story; children by adventure, monsters
  • Aesop’s Fables–animal tales with pointed morals

The Middle Ages [500 to 1500 CE]

  • Reading
    • fewer children could read; little written for them
    • childhood generally ignored and kept as short as possible
  • Fables and other tales
    • The Deeds of the Romans [late 13th C] collection of moral tales and fables; sources of plots for centuries]
    • animals’ stories have always been favorites of children
    • biblical stories; lives of saints; local legends
    • no distinction between fantasy and reality; storytellers freely mingled magic, enchantment, the ludicrous, and the serious
    • the literature was rich with childlike imagination, full of wonder, mystery, excitement

The European Renaissance [1500-1650 CE]

  • Instructional Books
    • children more literate
    • reading materials were instructional books (Books of Courtesy) and works written primarily for adults
    • still had Aesop’s Fables
    • by end of the 17th century social changes were well underway and there was a path cleared for a genuine literature for children.

The 17th Century

  • childhood began to take on new importance
  • adults began to recognize the special needs of childhood, including the need for childhood reading
  • two specific influences brought a heightened sense of special needs of the child
    • Religious: rise of Puritanism, that placed special emphasis on the individual’s need to tend to his or her own salvation
    • Intellectual: work of John Locke, the English philosopher who believed every child possessed the capacity for leaning and that it was the responsibility of adults to see to the proper education of children
  • Bunyan, Defoe, Swift
    • children continued to adopt certain adult works of literature–Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels

The 18th and Early 19th Centuries

  • John Newbery
    • Little Pretty Pocket Book (1744) first significant publication for children
  • Rousseau and the Moral Tale
    • expressed his ideas about education in Emile (1762), emphasized the importance of moral development–through simple living
    • books taught children how to be good and proper human beings
    • children¹s writing was considered inferior to adult writing and therefore mostly composed by women
  • Rise of the Folktales
    • 1729–Tales of Mother Goose by Charles Parrault, retellings including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty
    • throughout the eighteenth century, more and more retellings appeared
    • beginning of 19th century–Grimm brothers
    • folktales were not considered expressly for children
    • some adults felt them unsuitable for children as they contained adult themes, alarming frankness and violence, lack of moral messages however children, nevertheless, continued to read and love the old tales

The Victorians: The Golden Age

  • during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) children’s literature first blossomed as first-rate authors and illustrators began to turn their talents to children and their books
  • Fantasies
    • 1865, Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson–math prof at Oxford) published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and began a new era in children¹s literature
    • first significant publication for children that abandoned all pretense of instruction and was offered purely for enjoyment
    • Kingsley’s The Water Babies (1863); MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin (1872); Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (1900); Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908).
  • Adventure Stories (for boys)
    • especially popular Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883); Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1976) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
    • British children seemed to prefer stories set in faraway and unfamiliar places; Americans more attracted to adventure stories set in America and rags-to-riches stories
    • Dime Novels–sensational, lacking style and depth, cheap–were immensely popular
  • School Stories (for boys)
    • antics of boys at boarding schools: Tom Brown’s School Days (1857)
    • school stories (virtually always coming-of-age tales) occasionally appear in the 20th century, such as The Chocolate War
  • Domestic Stories (for girls)
    • tales of home and family life focusing on the activities of a virtuous heroine, usually coming from dire straits and achieving good fortune and ultimate happiness in the person of a handsome young man
    • Alcott’s Little Women (1868) and Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  • Children’s Book Illustration
    • books of 18th century and earlier either lacked illustrations altogether or contained crude woodblock illustration–serious artists did not draw for children’s books
    • At the end of the 19th century, changes in publishing and printing attracted great illustrators
    • by end of the 19th century, stunningly illustrated children’s books were available at reasonable prices
    • by 1st quarter of 20th century, libraries were designating children’s rooms–or at least children¹s shelves–children’s literature had at last come of age.

Twentieth Century: Widening Worlds

  • greater diversity in children’s books
  • picture books to poetry to fantasy to realistic fiction to informational books

BIO: Natalie Bright is the author of a middle grade series for kids, TROUBLE IN TEXAS: Book 1 Hangin’ Day; Book 2 The Great Train Caper; and coming soon Book 3 Murder in the Morning. She also writers true rescue horse stories for kids, easy readers for 3rd/4thgrade level: Flash: The Story of Meand TAZ & THE BIG FLAPPY THING.

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THE JOURNEY


THE JOURNEY

By Natalie Bright

This month we’re blogging about genre: what do you write and why? Some days it’s all uphill, chasing this writing fever.

My youngest son graduated high school this year and as we complete the paperwork process for college, I realized he may take his life in a whole new direction than what I had planned. He is a talented artist, since a very early age with a gift for color and design. I made him go to summer art camp as a pre-teen and he says I ruined the joy of drawing for him. He is a gamer, so I tried to steer him towards graphic design,  and he could build a resume by redesigning my website and helping me with social media memes and promo videos. That’s not happening.

Our oldest is also very smart with a talent for business and math. He loves to read, particularly history, and has asked me several times about book premise ideas; “Have you ever read a book where this happens? …” I told him to write it, and that he would find tons of fans with that idea. I had visions of him going to writing conferences with me, and maybe I’d be standing in line at his book signing event one day. But his passion lies in an entirely different area than anything I’d ever considered. It’s not going to be the family business or writing, and that makes me sad.

I remember hurrying home to tell my father about the English and poetry classes I had taken in college, and about my poetry journal. I wrote a book when I was in high school. His reply, “You should take some business classes.” I followed his advice and didn’t get back to writing until twenty years later. Dad had a different idea for my journey, just like I had envisioned our kids’ path.

Light bulb moment: we each have our own path to find. My journey in writing and publishing is MY journey, and MINE alone. No one is going to make me sit down at the computer and hold my hand. I have so many ideas and projects in my head. So many opportunities. The only problem I have is time.

This week has been particularly difficult with day job deadlines, the stories tug at me every minute, but that’s okay. I can do this. I can make everybody happy. I took my laptop with me while we were out of town last weekend, only to realize that I can’t write with someone in the same room. I read over what I had worked on in critique this week and it was horrible. The struggle is real.

Time. I wish I would exercise more and plan healthier meals for my family. I wish the day job would go away, but since my husband is the boss that’s not likely.  I wish I could join the five o’clock morning writers’ group, but my brain doesn’t come alive until seven. I wish I could stay awake all night and finish something. Time.

What I can do is give in to the journey and the stories in my head. What I must do is shut the door and write. Wish me luck. But first, I told my husband, “Yes, I’ll watch Season 3 of Stranger Things with you.”  One-half a step forward and three steps back is my journey.

How do you stay true to your writing? How do you carve out time to get things done?

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

Hollywood in the Desert


Hollywood in the Desert

Natalie Bright

 

The Old Tucson movie set continues to be recognized as the pre-eminent film location in the Southwest, after its construction in 1939. Hollywood legends have walked the streets from John Wayne, Dean Martin, Glen Ford, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others. It was the location for the show High Chaparral, which aired from 1967 to 1971 staring Cameron Mitchell and Mark Slade, among others. Films, television shows, commercials, and even music videos, have been filmed here. If you are a fan of westerns, as I am, plan a visit to the site. Located about a 30 minutes drive from Tuscon, Arizona there are also eateries, shops, and a great shoot-out performance with stunt men.  For more pictures about my recent trip to Tuscon to attend the Western Writers of American convention, go to my Instagram @natsgrams.

CHARACTER TRAITS


CHARACTER TRAITS

Natalie Bright

 

 

Whether you craft detailed character profiles or you let the character take you on their journey, it is helpful to really KNOW your character’s personality. By understanding the inner core of your characters, you understand their personalities, motivations, and how they will react to conflict and to each other. There are several books that make your job easier.

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein

From Sex to Schizophrenia: Everything you need to develop your characters! As a psychology-based book for writers, this is an excellent addition for your reference library. With insightful summaries, you can dig deep into motivation and conflict, and create complex characters that readers love.

45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

This book explores the common male and female archetypes that have been used in story-telling for centuries. This gives you ideas for traits, habits, hidden secrets, desires and greatest fears as a foundation for creating compelling characters and storylines. Dig deep and ask why. This will help you understand your characters’ motivation, making them intriguing and realistic. And added bonus are the examples for each archetype drawn from literature, television and movies. This is a great book.

Happy Writing!

Storytelling Narration


Storytelling Narration

“Stories are our primary tools of learning and teaching, the repositories of
our lore and legends. They bring order into our confusing world. Think about
how many times a day you use stories to pass along data, insights, memories
or common-sense advice.”

– Edward Miller, founder of Edward Elementary, illustrator and product
designer

Active Story Narration


Active Story Narration

Natalie Bright

Defined:story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious. The art, technique, or process of narrating, or of telling a story.

Verbs can be a valuable tool in telling a story.

The right verb can evoke emotion, create strong imagery, and set the scene in the mind of your reader. Active verbs can be powerful and put your story in motion. In grade school when my sons worked on their homework using “spicey” words. I love that!

The “B” verbs have got to go: be, being, been, was, were, is. Hands up: who else is a “was” fan. I use it all the time. During my second pass of edits I find and replace as many of them as I possibly can. You probably have some common or overused verbs in your work. They only dull your sentences.

Here are a few examples:

Is fighting TO: attacked.

Was mad TO: flipped out.

Was walking TO: shuffled.

Was running TO: darted.

Don’t be afraid to let your verbs do the heavy lifting in your story narration.

 

COMMON THEMES FOR STORY NARRATION


COMMON THEMES FOR STORY NARRATION

Natalie Bright

My work in progress involves a narrow focus for research, but I’m finding so much great historical information I want the readers to know it all too. For my nonfiction book though, I’m forcing myself to stop chasing every topic that I might stumble across and instead, keep to the theme.

If you have trouble staying on task within your story narration like I sometimes do, you might consider writing under a common theme. Themes can be used for fiction as well. Write the theme in big letters and post it on your bulletin board so that you can be reminded. Your character’s motivation, conflicts, and the way they react to that obstacle can reflect the theme.

Some of the more common ones are listed below, and you might recognize them in your favorite books or movies.

Perseverance:

The main character never gives up no matter what obstacles are thrown in his path to achieving his goal. As the writer, you can make his life miserable, throw everything at him you can, and he will persevere.

Cooperation:

The main character is a leader who encourages others to work together, and the band of characters cooperate to solve the problem.

Courage:

The main character discovers his/her own inner strength to overcome fear and finds the courage to take the risk.

Acceptance:

The main character accepts their fate, accepts the reality of their world, or accepts others’ differences.

 

The Hero’s Journey: A Narrative Pattern


The Hero’s Journey: A Narrative Pattern

Natalie Bright

 

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” WILLA CATHER

 

It’s impossible to cover the topic of narration during this month without touching upon THE HERO’S JOURNEY.

First identified by American scholar Joseph Campbell, it appears in storytelling across generations. Once you understand the basic narrative pattern you will recognize it immediately in myth and legends, more often in Hollywood blockbuster movies. Many filmmakers owe their success to this enduring story pattern.

The main character, the hero, accomplishes amazing feats on behalf of the rest of us. The story focuses on his journey or adventure. The hero is a universal character, crossing time and cultures.

The stages are as follows:

  1. The Ordinary World
    2. The Call of Adventure
    3. Refusal of the Call
    4. Meeting the Mentor
    5. Crossing the First Threshold
    6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
    7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
    8. The Ordeal
    9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
    10. The Road Back
    11. Resurrection
    12. Return with the Elixir

One of the most obvious movies that uses this pattern of narration is STAR WARS. Luke Skywalker receives the call to adventure but refuses at first.  Watch this movie again and take notes as you follow the outline above. I encourage you to find out more about the Hero’s Journey and how it can help you develop your characters and the plot of your book.

Happy Writing!

 

SCENE AND SEQUEL


SCENE AND SEQUEL

Nattalie Bright

At a writer’s conference held on the campus of WTA&M University in Canyon, Texas, award-winning author Dusty Richards talked to us about scene and sequel when plotting. This is the method that he used to write his popular Byrnes Family Ranch series.

Scene structure = goal, conflict, disaster

Every scene starts with:

  1. character
  2. the viewpoint character
  3. what does he want to accomplish in the confrontation that about to happen
  4. a stepping stone to the big-picture story goal

The story goal in the scene can be stated through dialogue beforehand, internal dialogue through character thought, or stated in the opening line of the scene.

What happens next is the sequel. The pattern of sequel is:

  1. emotion
  2. quandary
  3. decision
  4. action

More on scene and sequel next week.

Follow us all month long as we blog about Story Plot. Happy writing!

 

The Perfect Story


The Perfect Story

Natalie Bright

Generations of parents passed down bits of wisdom to their offspring in the form of stories before he could write those stories down. “Tell Me a Story” gave way to “Read Me A Story”; a long-held family tradition.

The story holds our attention because of conflict. At the core of every story are three basic plots for conflict.

Man against Man

Man against Nature

Man against Himself

The story that holds our attention whether it’s a blockbuster movie or bestselling book, contains a form of all three.