Children’s Literature: A Woozy Zoo

You are a Literature Professor, still nervous, teaching the first month of a course of your own design.  The famous American author, Flannery O’Connor has agreed to visit, as a guest lecturer.  She begins:

O'Connor's best known work is "A Good Man is Hard to Find", consistent with her life as a spinster.I understand that this is a course called “How the Writer Writes”, and that each week you are exposed to a different writer who holds forth on the subject. The only parallel I can think of to this is having the zoo come to you, one animal at a time; and I expect that what you hear one week from the giraffe is contradicted next week by the baboon. — Flannery O’Connor

Now, you knew some students in your class liked the ‘higher’ ideas the ‘Giraffe’ put forth. Others had preferred the earthly perspective of the ‘Baboon’.

O’Connor’s introduction is a bit of an embarrassment!  Is she suggesting your course advocates a woozy, “anything goes” approach, or is it the useful survey of ideas you intended?

Then you wonder if you, their sage and mentor, are unsure, how are students to choose?  Does she really think definite writing principles are possible?  Is O’Connor the wise ‘Owl’, arguing for objective and enduring methods of writing?  Will she change the Baboon lovers’ minds, or will they clamor that Miss Owl is taking the fun out of writing?

A little humor would win over the ‘Baboons’. But the ‘Giraffes’ would find such humor beneath them.  A lofty, academic approach would sway the Giraffes, but have you ever seen a Baboon sway?  An off duty longshoreman comes to mind.

Suddenly you feel threatened.  This Owl has all but neutralized the Baboons and Giraffes …as well as the point of your course!  You’ve no choice.

After she leaves, you must assert your most academically confident posture.  You remind your class that writing is largely a matter of personal talent, with no clear standards.

Woozy has won.

Better Children's books have a better purpose than silliness.Children’s Literature is like a big Woozy Zoo with many wings and outbuildings.  It has a wings for the literary-academics,  the award givers, the children’s book publishers, the celebrity-writers, the librarians, and the illustrator-writers.  It’s an idea parade just like the Professor’s woozy course.

For radical wooze, there is even the Activist Labyrinth!

Good Children's Books do not present words as wholly arbitrary.This Labyrinth has many dead ends.  Each harbors the desk of a mind driven by issues of race, religion, by Gaia and things ‘green’, by multiculturalism, ‘social justice’, female chauvinism, revisions of history, animal ‘rights’, and even the origin of words (-why not call a pen a “frindle”?).

The Labyrinth’s tunnels provide many a ‘politically correct’ book with a route to the least discriminating wing of the Zoo, whereby it can emerge to an undeserved light-of-day —for publication to unsuspecting, seven year old, children!

Children’s literature needs more Owls.  Recommend some books of owlish quality in the comments below (please consider our standards, explained on the Literary Elements page)