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Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children's Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter Hardcover – Nov 13 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (Nov. 13 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415928117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415928113
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 15.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 549 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,149,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Since I am going to talk about children and since I am probably going to say many unwise things with which some children might disagree, I would like to give children the first word and quote three wise statements from the January 1997 "Monthly Forum for Young Writers" in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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By A Customer on Aug. 8 2002
Format: Hardcover
I'm glad not to be alone in seeing the Harry Potter books as only an empty marketing success and Zipes is acute when he comments on the banality of "Americanized" culture continued today by media giants like Disney. But Zipes is guilty of the same mamby pamby moralism that he criticizes in others, if you've read his Oxford Book of Fairy Tales you'll find that it's an unimaginative collection of innocuous speech codes and flaky feminist paranoia which is tedious and boring. Much of the "homogeneity" he complains about in popular culture comes from the dictates of "least objectionable programming" which advertisers like and is not unlike the political correctness found in elite Western institutions, where Zipes hails from obviously. J.K. Rowlings caricatures are embarrassingly "diverse" as if from a from a sensitivity training pogram which good leftists like Zipes should respect after all. Zipes reiterates all the liberal platitudes which have become suburban marketing clichés. Although he doesn't exactly advocate body piercing or tattoos. Not yet anyway. In short it's difficult to see where Zipes complaints lie since corporate progressives are pretty much dictating his own taste.
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Format: Paperback
In this collection of essays based on speeches and lectures, the author - an admirer of Adorno - poses questions that should concern parents and teachers everywhere: Who decides what is "appropriate" literature for children? How are children introduced to this literature, and what do they make of it?

The first four chapters of the book, peppered with the somewhat off-putting jargon of literary theory, deplore the vertical integration of publishing empires, the marketing of books in association with toys, games, gadgets, T-shirts, etc., which results in "cultural homogenization" of the children. Adults decide "what's good for children" and use literature, among other tools, to manipulate and control them.

In chapters 5-9, the discussion gains momentum by using concrete examples of literature written for children. Changing attitudes toward Grimms' Fairy Tales and the "Struwwelpeter" stories of Heinrich Hoffmann have spawned multiple translations, bowdlerizations, dramatizations and parodies. The author shows how the "sexist" content of most fairy tales (the hero is almost always a male) has triggered feminist re-interpretations. Finally, there is no "authentic" version of fairy tales; all of them, including the ones collected by the Brothers Grimm, have been "contaminated", i.e. adapted and collated from multiple sources.

The final chapter on the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books seems to be the one most American readers have focused on. It stresses the stereotypical aspects of the stories and the commercial hype that attended their release, and, again, their sexist nature - one of the author's pet peeves.

While some of these arguments seem excessively gloomy, all of them deserve our thoughtful consideration.
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Format: Hardcover
While I admire Zipes work in general, I think he's missed the point about Harry Potter. Zipes remarks that Harry is a classic boy scout, a straight arrow (...). He complains that the novels follow a tedious and grating fairy tale formula (...). The only difference between Harry and anyone else, according to Zipes, is that Harry has a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead (178).
Zipes misses the point on the importance of the scar - the scar is the central metaphor of the series and the importance of scars and wounding says something about our culture's adoption of this particular hero.
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By A Customer on Oct. 24 2001
Format: Hardcover
Zipes has good points to make. Some children's work IS watered down and/or derivative. The concept that we should really THINK about what our "Children's Literature" is saying to us is though provoking, as are his specific arguments.
The Harry Potter chapter was well done. Zipes dares to make the points that Rowling's work is sexist and elitist, that the characters are cliches, and that more people _say_ they have read them than actually have.
What I felt the book lacked was a concrete plan to improve the situation--then again I'm not sure that was what he was after.
A great read for students of literature in general!
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By G. P. Winkler on July 5 2001
Format: Hardcover
I read the final chapter, on Harry Potter, as part of a class on Rowling's work. Zipes has a few good points to make, but they suffocate under needless jargon and tedious, evidence-free assertions about "cultural commodities" and the like.
Zipes's point, so far as I could make it out, is that Harry Potter became a "phenomenon" only because the books are incredibly conventional (a "hodgepodge" of pop-culture motifs) and formulaic. I agree that each novel follows a recurring pattern, even a formula, but Zipes never says why that's bad. (Perhaps it's obvious to lit-crit folk.) And the pop-culture ties, IMHO, lend texture to Rowling's parallel universe--which, I increasingly think, is not fantasy but satire.
Actually, Zipes goes further, seemingly asserting that ONLY a conventional work could become a phenomenon, given the "hegemonic groups" that run our culture. That's a big, interesting assertion, and I wish Zipes had fleshed it out with reasoning, details, and examples. It would help too to know more about these nameless hegemons. Who are they? How do they enforce their cultural supremacy? (In fairness to Zipes, he may address these points earlier in the book.)
Several readings of the Harry Potter chapter--and a thumbs-down from the prof, who read the whole volume--have left me thinking this is a book to skip.
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