Children's Literature Term Paper

Total Length: 1162 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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Children's literature aimed at young children poses a unique challenge for an individual attempting to analyze a work of fiction. Normally, the student of fiction can quote from the text with a reasonable expectation that the attitude of the text can be conveyed to the reader of the essay. Simply by reading the selected, quoted passage the reader of the essay ought to get a sense of the book. However, when discussing a picture book, conveying the tone of a work becomes more difficult because the illustrations and the words are inexorably linked. Often, to a very young or pre-literate child reading the book, the pictures are even more important than the words.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (featuring "Little Red Running Shorts" as one of its tales) was written by Jon Sciezka and illustrated by Lance Smith. It is an interesting example of this phenomenon of how in much of children's literature; a text cannot be separated by the illustrations that accompany it. It is an elaborately illustrated picture book, and the illustrations critically impact the way that the reader experiences the text. It is also a parody of certain elements of children's literature and of fables and thus it contains elements that can only be understood by an adult. The jokes both function on a literal level that pander to children and delights children with grossness and misbehavior. It also delights adults in the cleverness it shows in making fun of the morality of children's tales. Yet for both children and adults, they must see what is depicted as well as read the words to understand the book's intentions.

Reading to children is often thought of as an intellectually or morally 'improving' activity. But The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales not only parodies this notion, but parodies the very notion of reading altogether.
Rather than having a conventional title page, a table of contents, end cover, and front cover, the narrator makes fun of these typical literary conventions. Characters, rather than being confined to conventional places in their proper stores, escape both the linear form of their narratives and the constructions of the illustrations themselves, seemingly breaking out of the pages of their tales as well as the text that tells their tale. The illustrations reinforce the text in their cutout style quality. Parody is itself a kind of 'cut-and-paste' narrative style of a realistic form, and the highly detailed yet surreal cut-and-paste texture of the illustration is thus a perfect match for the text. The images of the characters look fairly realistic, but the way they are apparently superimposed upon the page does not look real. There is a darkness in color palate and texture of the illustrations that does not seem quite childlike, yet does not look like a shaded, full-perspective realistic illustration, either.

There is a narrator to the text, but the narrator only reinforces the attitude of the text, making fun of the appearance of the pages, the very pages that are technically giving him 'life.' One gets a sense that, if he could, like a living cartoon 'Jack' would burst out of the page into live action. This is not so much because of the way he looks, as he is still quite obviously from a picture book world, but because of the way he seemingly can appear everywhere in the book.

Anything can happen in the world of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid….....

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