This book is the first full-length critical study to explore the rapidly growing cadre of amateur-authored, independently-published, and niche-market picture books that have been released during the opening decades of the twenty-first century. Emerging from a powerful combination of the ease and affordability of desktop publishing software; the promotional, marketing, and distribution possibilities allowed by the Internet; and the tremendous national divisiveness over contentious socio-political issues, these texts embody a shift in how narratives for young people are being creatively conceived, materially constructed, and socially consumed in the United States. Abate explores how titles such as My Parents Open Carry (about gun laws), It’s Just a Plant (about marijuana policy), and My Beautiful Mommy (about the plastic surgery industry) occupy important battle stations in ongoing partisan conflicts, while they are simultaneously changing the landscape of American children’s literature. The book demonstrates how texts like Little Zizi and Me Tarzan, You Jane mark the advent of not simply a new commercial strategy in texts for young readers; they embody a paradigm shift in the way that narratives are being conceived, constructed, and consumed. Niche market picture books can be seen as a telling barometer about public perceptions concerning children and the social construction of childhood, as well as the function of narratives for young readers in the twenty-first century. At the same time, these texts reveal compelling new insights about the complex interaction among American print culture, children’s reading practices, and consumer capitalism. Amateur-authored, self-published, and specialty-subject titles reveal the way in which children, childhood, and children’s literature are both highly political and heavily politicized in the United States. The book will be of interest to scholars and students in the fields of American Stud
Table of Contents
Introduction. It’s A Small World After All: Specialty Subjects, Micro Markets, and Customized Culture 1. The Straight Dope: It’s Just a Plant, Marijuana Use, and the Question of Prohibition Politics 2. Nip/Tuck Truth: My Beautiful Mommy, the Medicalization of Motherhood, and the Harmful Condition of Childhood Innocence 3. Good Things Come in Small Packages: Little Zizi, Schoolyard Bullying, and the Sexualization of Boys 4. Will Power: Maggie Goes on a Diet, the Fully Autonomous Child, and the Hazards of Unsupervised Adults 5. Boys Gone Wild: Me Tarzan, You Jane, the Crusade to "Cure" Prehomosexual Children, and the New Face of the Ex-Gay Movement in the United States Epilogue. Change and Continuity: Niche-Market Picture Books and the Negotiation of Artistic Freedom, Iconoclastic Ideology, and Consumer Capitalism
Michelle Ann Abate is Associate Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults at The Ohio State University, USA.
Selected for the Outstanding Academic Title (OAT) Award 2017 by CHOICE magazine.
"Author Abate (Ohio State Univ.) makes a strong argument for the "ongoing atomization of American cultural, social, and political life" that has brought readers to the rather nuanced children's literature market of today. The current sociocultural landscape is a vast departure from the one-size-fits-all mentality of the Industrial Revolution, later reinforced during the mass industrialization of the early 20th century. Abate explains the technological advances that make it possible for anyone to author and publish books for children—books that reflect whatever personal interest or political issue the authors wish to advance. In a series of essays, she dissects the range of contemporary children's literature niches reflecting concerns as diverse as marijuana legalization, elective plastic surgery, LGBTQ rights, and schoolyard bullying. Providing objective analysis of these materials, Abate successfully demonstrates the positives as well as downsides of such fiction, which is fascinating in its ingenuity, exciting in its possibilities, and at times even troubling in its partisanship. The future of children's literature may perchance be foretold in such specialized work.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries/levels." - K. N. Reed, Middle Tennessee State University, CHOICE
"Some of the highlights of The Big Smallness include eye-opening expeditions into cultural histories behind the issues Abate discusses. ... Those looking for theoretical reflection on the formation of heteronormative gender and sexual identities will especially enjoy chapters 3 and 5; a reader interested in the ongoing medicalisation of motherhood and the developing adolescent body will likely turn to chapters 2 and 4." - Marek Oziewicz, University of Minnesota, USA