Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

Talking about Terrible Things the Craft of Allegory in Children's Literature

Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

Talking about Terrible Things the Craft of Allegory in Children's Literature

Article excerpt

Unfettered Imaginations

This issue's column explores different kinds of allegories found in children's literature.

TEACHERS OF TEN FACE the challenge of when and how to discuss difficult topics with children. How to respond when a child asks, "Will polar bears be ok?" (Kantrowitz & Springen, 2007, p. 80)? Or, "Who are the people who don't like Jewish people?" Or, "How come Black people were slaves?" Or, "Why does my mom have to be in Afghanistan?" Teachers wonder what approaches to take to talk with children about issues like ecological dangers, intolerance, racism, and war. A lesson appropriate in a sixth-grade classroom is not necessarily appropriate in a first-grade one. And just because students are older, it doesn't mean that the conversations get any easier. Even in colleges and universities, professors struggle with what has been termed, "Difficult Dialogues," so much so that organizations have been developed to support such interactions (http://www.difficultdialogues.org).

This issue's column of Unfettered Imaginations looks at models of allegory in writing for children. Allegory is seen as a method to broach a topic that is not easily discussable (Hamilton, 2011). This use is suggested because allegory is a rhetorical approach in which a story is told that is representative of a larger (and sometimes unrelated) issue. For example, in the well-known allegory, The Lorax (Seuss, 1971), the fate of the Truffula trees at the hands of the Once-ler's needs to create and sell Thneeds is allegorical to the wasteful use of natural resources in the service of unrestrained commercial interests.

Although allegory is related to an extended metaphor (see Ash, 2012), the two are different (Crisp, 2008). In metaphor, two unlike objects are compared. An allegory often relies on a fictional situation to conve}' a larger set of truths. In The Lorax (Seuss, 1971), the Truffula trees are natural resources, the O nee -1er, a corporation, and Thneeds are commercial objects marketed in such a way as to create a need. …

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