Children’s Literature: Theology, Imagination, and the Arts

by Anna Blanch on November 3, 2011

I’m over at Transpositions today introducing the Children’s Literature Symposium which will begin next Monday. Curating these symposia is one of the most time consuming aspects of Transpositions, but it is also the part where you start to make real connections between disparate aspects of the church, artistic practice and academic theology. For that reason, the wrangling is completely worth it!

I quoted from Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories” in the introduction – if you’ve never read this essay exploring the history and purpose of Fairy Stories, do yourself a favour!

Here’s another snippet:

Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker’s art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called “willing suspension of disbelief.” But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying (more or less willingly) to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed. [source]

It’s got me thinking about my favourite books as a child. I love “Amelia Bedelia” and “chicken Little” among others.

What were your favourites?


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  • Martha

    My 2-yr-old loves Amelia Bedelia too (as I did), though of course she doesn't get it. I also love reading "The Owl & the Pussycat" illustrated by Jan Brett to her, and several of Jan Brett's other books. I love the richness of the illustrations. i really can't wait to get into some older stuff with her though!

    • Goannatree

      I'm glad you love to read with her! my niece loves "Heather the highland cow"!

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