The Enchantments of Fantasy

Illustration by Elizabeth Foster

“And then one day”, said Mr. Fox, “he just disappeared. No one ever knew where he went.”

“Is that even possible?”, inquired the Little Bunny, “to disappear entirely?”

“Yes it is”, replied Mr. Fox, “but only in magical worlds like this.”

“How extraordinarily Mysterious!” Exclaimed the Little Bunny.

“Mysterious indeed”, agreed Mr. Fox with a wink of his eye.

(text taken from "Postcards from Over There" an unpublished Memoir - by CMRalph)

There are many "How To" books on the market for Writing Children's Literature. But today I wanted to introduce you to 4 from my personal library. These are not "How To" books - they are instead books that look directly at the heart and soul of Children's Fantasy Literature, at it's meanings, foundations and importance in our everyday adult lives.

Because for me, both creatively and in my life in general, it is simply not enough to know HOW to do something without also knowing WHY I'm doing it.

"Our children are growing up without their birthright: the myths, fairy tales, fantasies and folklore that are their proper legacy." The essays in Touch Magic, Jane Yolen's classic call-to-arms advocating the use of fantasy and folklore in children's literature, echo that statement. Yolen argues persuasively that fantasy, folklore, and the realm of story provide children with the necessary tools for facing the world, understanding its ways and capriciousness, indeed, becoming truly human.

“I believe that culture begins in the cradle,” she writes. “To do without tales and stories and books is to lose humanity's past, is to have no star map for our future.” August House now offers a richly expanded version of this seminal volume. With six new essays that tender fresh perspectives on the morality of fairy tales, time travel, the definition of story, and, of course, why such themes are essential to the development of today's children, Touch Magic heralds a new millennium of fantasy, myth, and storytelling.

In speeches, essays, and book reviews, the novelist Katherine Paterson discusses why she writes children's books, where her ideas come from, how she develops her characters and realistic plots, and her experiences growing up in China

Covering the period from the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to Winnie-the-Pooh, Humphrey Carpenter examines the lives and writings of Lewis Carroll, Kenneth Grahame, George Macdonald, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, A.A. Milne and others whose works make up the Golden Age of children's literature. Both a collective biography and a work of criticism, Secret Gardens forces us to reconsider childhood classics in a new light. 'Secret Gardens permits us to see in a fresh light the interaction between cultural history and literature, and to realize that ... it wasn't mere misfits who withdrew into the writing of children's books, but rather the sort of misfits who reflected the prevailing dissatisfactions of the age.' New York Times Book Review.

"A charming book about enchantment, a profound book about fairy tales."—John Updike, The New York Times Book Review

Bruno Bettelheim was one of the great child psychologists of the twentieth century and perhaps none of his books has been more influential than this revelatory study of fairy tales and their universal importance in understanding childhood development.

Analyzing a wide range of traditional stories, from the tales of Sindbad to “The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “The Sleeping Beauty,” Bettelheim shows how the fantastical, sometimes cruel, but always deeply significant narrative strands of the classic fairy tales can aid in our greatest human task, that of finding meaning for one’s life.

Until next time ... Here's "The Cello's Song" from "A Childhood Remembered"


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