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

2.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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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: 2.5 x 15.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 549 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,083,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From School Library Journal

Is the success of children's literature troublesome? Is it phenomenal? How do we judge the value of children's literature within the current culture that fosters the commercialization of childhood itself? In a series of essays mostly based on speeches given at various conferences, a scholar and social critic examines these and other provocative questions. Describing his passionate essays as "active talk," Zipes is nevertheless sometimes dense and arcane especially when he ventures into the political arena. He is most interesting when he writes directly about children's literature-the fairy tales retold by Wanda G g, the checkered history of the Grimm tales and their retellers, the history of storytelling and the appeal of Struwwelpeter. The phenomenon of Harry Potter is the subject of his final essay, and as he moves from literary to social critic, he finds Harry "part of the eternal return to the same-and, at the same time, part of the success and process by which we homogenize our children." Though the book is sometimes tedious, Zipes is always thought-provoking in his arguments.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


If [Zipes'] scholarship could be spread over several curricule vitae, the breadth and quality of it could certainly bring tenure to three or four scholars. -- Donald R. Hettinga
. . . he gives clear voice to the forces behind the huge boom in children's book publishing since the 1980s, which has served to form a safe veil of promoting literacy that disguises its own truth, namely that children are seen as commodities and used as pawns to increase parental consumerism. -- Adolescence content and an imposition of order in the imagination of the child, and, consequently, a constriction of the child's imaginative life. -- Susan Perren, Globe & Mail, Toronto
...stimulating esssays emphasize the curious status of children's literature as one defined, produced, and marketed not by children but by adults... -- Choice, J.J. Benardete, CUNY Hunter College
...invaluable chapters treat the 'contamination'...of Grimm's fairy tales in the 20th century, suggesting how such retellings refurbish folklore so as to 'question both past and present social conditions' and show young people how they may 'play creatively with the forces dictating how they are to shape their lives.'. -- Choice, J.J. Benardete, CUNY Hunter College
89 Pts !!!!! Must Read. -- Today's Books
[Zipes's] passion for his topic is clear...his essays spotlight complex issues that deserve wide consideration. -- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Zipes is always thought-provoking in his arguments. -- School Library Journal
While not every reader will agree entirely with Zipes's thesis, professionals need to be aware of his point of view. -- Library Journal

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Customer Reviews

2.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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
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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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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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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