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Cover for Inside Picture Books

Inside Picture Books

Ellen Handler Spitz


List Price: 26.00*
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Mention a name from a beloved childhood picture book—Madeline, Corduroy, Peter Rabbit, Max and his “wild things”—and most adults can recollect a bright image, fragments of a story, the timbre of a certain reading voice, the sensation of being held, and best of all being together with someone and enveloped in fantasy. Why do picture book images shown to us as young children linger in our minds? How do picture books shape our lives early on and even later into adulthood? This book takes up such questions. It explores the profound impact of the experience of reading to children. Ellen Handler Spitz reveals how classic picture books transmit psychological wisdom, convey moral lessons, shape tastes, and implant subtle prejudices.

Each chapter of the book discusses well-known children’s books—Goodnight Moon, Babar, Little Black Sambo, to name a few—that deal with a theme of importance to young children. These include bedtime, separation, loss, and death; curiosity, disobedience, and punishment; and identity and self-acceptance. Focusing on the relationship between a child and an adult reader, Spitz explains the notion of “conversational reading” and emphasizes the mutual benefits of dialogue and intimacy. This book not only gives parents, grandparents, teachers, therapists, and scholars a new understanding of the meaning of picture books, it also empowers adults to interpret and choose future cultural experiences for their children.

Yale University Press, 9780300084764, 256pp.

Publication Date: August 11, 2000

About the Author

Ellen Handler Spitz is a Senior Lecturer in the Humanities Program at Yale University. She writes and lectures widely on the arts, psychology, and culture. She is also the author of Art and Psyche and Museums of the Mind.