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This book allows philosophers, literary theorists, and education specialists to come together to offer a series of readings on works of children's literature. Each of their readings is focused on pairing a particular, popular picture book or a chapter book with philosophical texts or themes.
The book has three sections—the first, on picturebooks; the second, on chapter books; and the third, on two sets of paired readings of two very popular picturebooks. By means of its three sections, the book sets forth as its goal to show how philosophy can be helpful in reappraising books aimed at children from early childhood on. Particularly in the third section, the book emphasizes how philosophy can help to multiply the type of interpretative stances that are possible when readers listen again to what they thought they knew so well.
The kinds of questions this book raises are the following: How are children's books already anticipating or articulating philosophical problems and discussions? How does children's literature work by means of philosophical puzzles or language games? What do children's books reveal about the existential situation the child reader faces?
In posing and answering these kinds of questions, the readings within the book thus intersect with recent, developing scholarship in children's literature studies as well as in the psychology and philosophy of childhood.
Peter R. Costello —
Peter Costello is associate professor of philosophy at Providence College. His research is centered in phenomenology, particularly focused on Husserl, Edith Stein, and Merleau-Ponty. He has written articles on phenomenology and both modernist literature and contemporary American drama. His book Layers in Husserl's Phenomenology: On Meaning and Intersubjectivity is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press.
Philosophy in children's literature, ed. by Peter R. Costello. Lexington Books, 2012. 325p index afp; ISBN 9780739168233; ISBN 9780739168240 e-book, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in 2012oct CHOICE.
Editor Costello (Providence College) brings together an excellent sequence of examinations of the philosophical ideas in various children's literature. The text is split into unequal thirds that discuss picture books (nine chapters), chapter books (five chapters), and multiple readings/interpretations of the same text (four chapters, two per text). The contributors are primarily philosophers, but Costello's introduction situates the book both within the context of the philosophy and children movement and within scholarly interest in children's literature. In many ways, this volume owes less to the tradition of Matthew Lipman and Gareth Matthews than to the field of literary criticism. Thus, readers gain insight into reading and using these texts, but the texts remain objects to be examined by scholars--not readings to be shared with children. The chapters on Shel Silverstein's Missing Piece books and The Giving Tree are among the most engaging. The chapter on Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, written by his daughter, Sarah O'Brien Conly, follows closely behind. This is a valuable resource for those who do philosophy with children, scholars of children's literature, and educators looking for innovative readings of standard children's literature.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. -- R. E. Kraft, York College of Pennsylvania