A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teenager: From Philip Nel’s Blog, Nine Kinds of Pie

Through children’s literature we can study how social change and cultural values can determine what is suitable for children, and how books and stories reflect the times in which they were written.
This is a great blog post which illustrates the importance and distinctiveness of children’s literature and its different representations of children’s worlds.


Philip Nel is the author of several books about children’s literature and the director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature. He’s also the creator of the website Nine Kinds of Pie, which takes its name from a line in Harold and the Purple Crayon.

He recently published a post that I wanted to share with my readers titled “A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teenager” in which he perfectly expresses all the things I think and feel about children’s books. And, like Nel, I began collecting children’s books as a teenager.

I’ve copied his post below, but I urge readers to check out Nel’s site as well.


Those of us who read, create, study, or teach children’s literature sometimes face skepticism from other alleged adults.  Why would adults take children’s books seriously?  Shouldn’t adults be reading adult books?

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The Liebster Award

I have been nominated by for my first blogging award!  Thank you Donna M. Monnig for the honour.  Donna’s blog Rhyme N Review  is full of her poems and book reviews.  She also talked about books, art, music and movies.liebster-award

The Liebster Award is very unique in the fact it brings recognition to the smaller blogs of the ‘verse.  With that in mind, all of the nominated blogs will have under 200 followers.

The rules:

1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.

2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees. 

3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. 

4. Display the Liebster Award logo. 

5.  No tag back thingys.

Okay, here goes…

11 facts about myself:

  1. I play piano (and own a 1910 G.A. Buckland & co. upright)
  2. I think woodlice are tiny armadillos
  3. I had my first tattoo when I was sixteen
  4. My favourite genre of music is classic rock.
  5. I love the muscle ache after a good workout
  6. I’m enthusiastic about most things but people who don’t know me well enough mistake this for sarcasm
  7. I have a red-belt in karate (8th Kyu)
  8. I love classic cars, especially American muscle cars
  9. My favourite Star Trek character is Scotty (He has integrity. He stands by his principles. He’s Scottish.)
  10. If I could have a superpower it would be flying with a cape
  11. I have a Chinese Dwarf hamster called Bella (saving the best for last)

Answers to the 11 questions I was asked:

What is your favorite poem? – It’s not prestigious, it’s not deep or meaningful, but I just love The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Who’s your favorite poet? – I couldn’t possible pick just one. I would have to put them into categories (I do work in a library after all). My favourite children’s poet is probably Allan Ahlberg because reading his Heard it in the Playground as a child I made me want to write my own poems.  My favourite contemporary poet is probably Carol Ann Duffy. I love how she structures her poems to create meaning in both line and sentence.   My favourite poem of hers is Mean Time.   I also like Christina Rossetti, William Blake, Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare… the list could go on.

Do you prefer rhyming poetry or free verse? – I like both.  I usually prefer reading free verse but I love the sound of a rhyming rhythmic piece.  I prefer writing in rhyme for that reason.

What compels you to blog? – This blog began as a place to share my creative writing, and my journey as a writer, but it has turned into more of a general blog about anything vaguely book-related. It’s nice to be a part of an online community of like-minded people. The communication that we have is why I continue to blog.

What’s your favorite holiday? – I like destinations with a lot of history and culture. I enjoy walking around and visiting museums so I usually stick to cities. I am a huge fan of architecture so I’m always taking pictures of amazing buildings, from old ruins, to futuristic marvels of creativity and imagination

What’s your favorite genre? – I like reading the classics and literary fiction but I also enjoy postmodernist literature, dystopian science fiction, children’s literature (including picture books) comic books and graphic novels, and anything with travel or action.

What’s your favorite book?  Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I read it for the first time last year but I know I will read it again and again. When I was reading it I re-read passages before moving on because I wanted it to last.  I kept on telling everyone about what crazy thing Orr just said, what insane logic Milo Minderbinder just applied, what surreal situation Doc Daneeka  just got into. I became obsessed, and in love with Yossarian.   I changed the tagline on my blog to a line from the character Orr.

If you could do anything in the world, what would it be? – If I didn’t have to work for a living, I would travel, write, illustrate, look after abandoned dogs, protect endagered species, get more tattoos, drive fast cars, learn to be a better pianist and do a lot of scuba-diving.

Are you tired of answering these questions yet? – I got to ramble on about Catch-22 again! So, no…

What do you wish people would write “less” about?  – It depends on the platform but generally people complain about their lives too much.  Be grateful to be alive, people.  Facebook is especially bad for this, and for embellishing the truth.  It’s like Descartes gone wrong.  “I lie therefore it is”.

What does writing mean to you? – I would like for people to see and enjoy my writing but ultimately I write for me.

11 Questions for my nominees:

  1. How would you describe your blog/s?
  2. What would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow?
  3. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
  4. What was the last book you read?
  5. Do you prefer the sun or snow?
  6. Have you ever had a bone broken?
  7. Do you have any pets?
  8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  9. If you could be friends with a celebrity, who would it be?
  10. What is your favorite pastime?
  11. Where do you aspire to be five years from now?    

And finally, my 11 nominees:

  1. Mr. Dapper’s Splendid Online Diary
  2. Mild Musings from a Mediocre Man
  3. Midasinreverse
  4. An Alien Voice Under a Duvet of Dreams
  5. Brokenpenwriter’s Blog
  6. A Writer Inspired
  7. Story Fairy’s Library
  8. Lucy Jordan
  9. Mfourlbyhfoure poetry
  10. Heart Poetry
  11. Sometimes I like to Write

Shakespeare for Hamsters

You have food?..

A poem for Bella, my Chinese dwarf hamster in honour of National Pet Month, which coincides with the month of Shakespeare’s birthday…

Carpe Diem

O hamster mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your pumpkin seeds coming
That can be placed in your coconut bowl.
Come little Bella, you’ll soon be eating.
Journey’s end in seeds and carrots meeting—
Every wise hamster owner doth know.


Decoding Picturebooks: Positioning and Framing

—The height of a character on the page often marks their social status or their own self-image:
  • High positioning equates to positive status, favour with other characters or high spirits
  • Characters low down in the page are less confident, afraid, glum or looked down upon


  • Framed: limited glimpse ‘into’ a world.
  • Unframed: view from ‘within’
Peter Rabbit
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, 1902


Poor Peter Rabbit.

By setting the viewpoint low to the ground with restricted vision of Peter’s pursuer, Beatrix potter creates tension for the reader.

The close-up position allows us to feel his fear and desperation. We are not quite under the sieve with Peter, but close enough to see the danger he is in.  The movement of the birds shows us the force of the sieve as it is thrust down upon him.

Into the Forest by Anthony Browne, 2005




Little Hansel and Gretel are dwarfed by the menacing looking trees in the imposing forest.

The picture is unframed.  We are in the forest with them, looking down at their vulnerable faces.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963


Max is king.  Although he is physically smaller than the wild thing, his positioning on the grassy mound and their relative postures bring them almost level with each other.

Unlike Hansel and Gretel above, Max is not much smaller than the trees.

INVITATION – Shel Silverstein

English: Signature of Shel Silverstein.




If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!


By Shel Silverstein


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