Wrapping Up

At the beginning of my blog I asked a few questions and would like to conclude by answering a few of them.

  1. Are these types of stories helpful or harmful for children?

I believe that allowing children to read stories such as the ones we have discussed throughout the course of this blog are beneficial for children.  They allow young kids to explore their imaginations and enjoy the possibilities of all that imagination has to offer.

2. Does allowing children to read stories where characters are placed in changing situations assist them in their lives or hinder their own experiences?

Personally I feel that enabling children to experience the possibilities of a changing world in a completely risk free environment is not possible in the real world.  In order to give children some experience, even if it is not idealistic, with changing situations a book will influence them but it will not hinder their abilities to interact in the real world.  If anything it might act as a guide that could offer some comfort, a positive message that reassures children that “Yes, change does occur in life but you always have a choice as to how you want to react to that change.”

3. Is dependency on fantasy created or is imagination encouraged through these stories?

I would say that imagination is encouraged more than anything.  Allowing children to get their hands on books early enables them to expand their imagination and push past the limits that reality restricts them with.  It is okay to allow children to play and where better to get some good ideas than from Wondertales that tell of grand adventures in far off lands? Besides I would say almost everyone in today’s society is dependent on some sort of fantasy escape whether it is through TV, movies, or music everyone at any age has some way of taking their minds off the stress that daily life produces.  So in regards to where children are concerned why not let them read?

Thank you ever so much for following me on my blog and participating in the discussions that I have been able to cover with you.  I have enjoyed this experience and appreciate all your support.

Till Next Time;

Kaitlyn

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Transformation

In this post I will be considering the personal growth and transformation that takes place in the male characters within The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle.  In both these books all the main characters go through a major transformation but because I have so heavily focused on the young girls in my other posts I will only be discussing the young boys with consideration to these two texts.       

The first book I would like to address is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this book the two characters I will be focussing on are Peter and Edmund.  I will be considering what type of transformation or growth takes place through their adventures within the fantasy world of Narnia. When readers are first introduced to this story they learn right away that Peter is the oldest.  Readers are given the sense that Peter knows he has to take care of his younger siblings Susan, Edmund, and Lucy;  however because the children are sent to the house of an old professor in the country side of England (1) his ownership of  this responsibility is lacking.  It is not until all of the siblings have entered into the land of Narnia together that Peter begins to act on his position as the eldest of the family.  In the beginning of their journey, readers are given the impression that Peter is not ready for this responsibility and that he feels uncomfortable being in a place of leadership.  On one occasion Peter even deflects responsibility to Susan but she specifically calls Peter into his role by saying, “No, you’re the eldest” (2).  Peter realizes the weight of his sister’s words and begins to accept the responsibility of being the eldest without a full understanding for what it truly means.   At this point in the story readers begin to see a change in Peter’s character.  Peter becomes more understanding of the effect his actions and words  have on others;  when he meets Aslan for the first time Peter confesses his part in Edmund’s betrayal saying,

[Edmund leaving ] was partly my fault Aslan. I was angry with him and I think that helped him to go wrong  (3).

Meeting Aslan acts as a catalyst for the rest of Peter’s maturing process for it is not long after the two characters meet that Peter is required to step into two significant moments that help him to mature.

The first moment that begins the transformation of Peter’s character is the slaying of the wolf.   After hearing Suzan’s horn Peter goes rushing to save his sisters where he sees a huge grey wolf snapping at them.  Though Peter did not arrive to save Susan and Lucy alone he is the one called upon to kill the wolf.  Peter acted swiftly and “plunged his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute’s forelegs into his heart” (4).

This scene demonstrates how quickly Peter was required to come into his maturity.   Peter needed to act regardless of his own safety in order to keep his siblings safe.  The narrator tells us that “Peter did not feel brave” (6) but placed the needs of his family above his own.  For his actions Peter is knighted by Aslan and at that moment assumes all responsibility that his position as head of the family and future High King of Narnia requires of him.  He accepts it all knowing that he has to rise above his fears, personal needs, and desires in order to fulfill the role of protector, provider, and leader for his family and all those in Narnia.

The second moment where readers notice a change in Peter occurs at the Coronation of the Kings and Queens of Narnia.  In this moment Aslan and all the other creatures of the land are celebrating crowning the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve.  It is at this time that Peter’s character has completely transformed from being a playful young boy that lacked the desire to act responsibly into the High King of Narnia.  Here all the trials, fears, and challenges that Peter had to face in order to be crowned are recognized and appreciated.

Although Peter’s transformation is successful, the change that occurs in Edmund is far more drastic than the change Peter goes through.   In the beginning of the story Edmund is portrayed as selfish, bratty, and undisciplined because of his jealousy towards Peter for his position of eldest and the authority that gives him. But Edmund cannot act out against Peter and so he frequently lashes out on Lucy.  The narrator says “Edmund could often be spiteful, He sneered and jeered at Lucy” (7).

Due to his misbehaviour Edmund is constantly being told to how to act properly by Susan who says, “Stop grumbling (9)” on a number of occasions.  Peter is also particularly harsh when Edmund misbehaves; he calls him names such as “a poisonous little beast” (10).  However, Edmund does change.  He learns what it truly means to be a leader along with all the weight and responsibility of that position requires.  He demonstrates this understanding on two occasions.  The first moment readers recognize a significant change in Edmund’s behaviour is once he realizes the cruelty of the Witch of Narnia and though he remained her captive Edmund’s attitude toward her changed.  Before he was willing to defend her and fight for her cause, he even tried to convince Peter to consider the Witch as a good person when he says

Which is the right side? How do we know the Fauns are in the right and the Queen is in the wrong?  We don’t really know anything about either (11).

But as the story progresses and he spends more time with the Witch he no longer wished to help her but to escape and conquer the land back with his siblings for those who inhabited that land of Narnia.

The second occasion that readers see Edmund mature is a far more dramatic scene. Readers are able to see Edmund truly change when he is willing to give his life for everyone by risking his own well-being to destroy the Witch’s staff.

In the process of battling with the Witch, Edmund breaks her staff but he also receives a fatal wound when he is stabbed.   Edmund comes close to dying because of his actions but he chose to willingly risk his own life in order to protect both his family and those who live in Narnia from the Witches influence.  This is the pivotal moment for Edmund; he is no longer thinking of himself, no longer selfishly coveting what is not his but rather considering others before himself and understanding what the consequences of his actions.  Later in the story Edmund is also crowned King of Narnia and known for his wise and reliable judgement, he was renamed “King Edmund the Just” (13).

When considering the maturing process depicted in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe it is arguably very traditional.  Both the characters Peter and Edmund are challenged and pushed to mature like many young people at their age are in today’s society.  Peter and Edmund both were required to act responsibility and learn what it meant to be a leader but also how to accept the consequences of their actions.  However when considering Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle a different kind of maturing is demonstrated by using the main character, Will, and all the trials and challenges he has to overcome while struggling to find his place in the world and what that means for him in his every-day life.

Unlike in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in Lee Maracle’s work, Will’s Garden, Will is already a young adult and has successfully breached the gap between childhood and adolescences.  Throughout the course of Maracle`s book, Will`s journey is focussed on a deeper more personalized type of maturing.  In the story readers learn that Will is about to participate in a “becoming a man” ceremony within his Sto:loh community.  During the time leading up to and after this ceremony, Will encounters several significant situations that enable him to link cultural understanding with spiritual understanding. Many of the encounters that shape Will occur within his interactions at his high school.   For instance, the most critical moment in Will’s time at high school is when he disrupts the normative behaviour of his peers by addressing the entire cafeteria. He says,

I want your attention one more time.  I have been mistreated by almost everyone in this room … Today is the last day I put up with any abuse.  I just want to get along, enjoy my friends, and get through three more years.  Don’t give me a hard time (14).

In every altercation, argument, or aggressive conversation Will is able to navigate and resolve the situation effectively because he has learned interconnectedness of world he lives in.  Will knows the world is dependent on all sorts of people working together.  He realizes that sooner or later he has to establish a neutral ground in order to successfully communicate.  It’s almost as if Will is saying, “I live on this planet too, and I’m not going away so deal with it, I’ll respect you if you respect me.” The only difference is that Will makes his claim in an irrefutable way that not only captures people’s attention but demands their respect.  This directly ties into the native philosophy of living.  Respect is more than just getting along, its learning from one another and accepting responsibility for each other as well as recognizing the impact of ones words and actions (15).

Another influential moment for Will is when he recognizes the value of past, present, future family.  Throughout the book, Will often daydreams or meditates on stories that he has been told about his grandparents.  These stories allow Will to learn how to cope with difficult situations that he is experiencing in his own life and act as a guide for Will to follow.  Will does not question or ignore their significance but rather appreciates the lessons that he is able to gain from his past family.   Will also acknowledges the influence of his present family and lists each person during his speech at his becoming a man ceremony and thanks them for their help.  Will continues to demonstrate his value of family when he mentions the possibility of his future with Lei-Lani, Will says,

I cannot see myself not caring.  I have had so much caring in my life.  I have had buckets full of consideration, devotion and tenderness all I have to do is pass that on (16).

It is through Will`s readiness to listen to his all the members of his family, whether it be past, present or future, that readers gain the assurance Will understands the value of being devoted to his family. The last defining moment that helps shape Will`s character is when he discovers his talents and decides how he will use them in order to fulfill his role in society. Will understands that it is possible to create a balance between both his native origins and Western culture; he decides that he will make it his goal in life to combine both in order to better the health of the planet. He says:

I want to learn our science first, to ground myself in the science of our holy knowledge then tailor their science to fit mine. I am going to struggle in an activist way to detoxify this earth, to make this world more responsive to her, and to treat her like the beautiful, flexible,  fragile and deserving woman that she is (17).

Through the course of this book Will transforms drastically.  He begins as a young adult who consistently questions all aspects of his life and ends as a young man that understands who he is and what goals he wants to achieve.  Will decides that he will interact with people in a respectful way, he chooses to be loyal and faithful to his family and friends, he continues to exercise and demand the right of choice in all aspects of his life and because of this, Will determines the type of man he wants to be at the age of sixteen and leaves no doubt in his mind or the mind of the readers that he will not waver in his decisions.

In both books, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Will’s Garden by Lee Maracle the male characters mature. However they mature in different ways, is one form of maturing more effective than another? Does society favour one type of maturing process over another? Or is it simply a difference in culture and if so, could Western Culture benefit from placing importance on the maturing of an adolescent into a man within our society?

 

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Work Cited

  1. Lewis, S.C.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Harper Collins Publishers Inc.  New York, 1995. (1).
  2. Lewis, 128.
  3. Lewis, 128.
  4. Lewis, 131.
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI0xw_RT_Y0
  6. Lewis, 131.
  7. Lewis, 26.
  8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu7sHD0gdEc
  9. Lewis, 4
  10. Lewis, 56.
  11. Lewis, 62.
  12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XacLk1XUZCo
  13. Lewis, 183.
  14. Maracle, Lee.  Wills Garden.  Theytus Books. Penticton BC, 2008. (133)
  15. Humphreys, Sara.  Lecture notes.  Trent University.  July 10th/2012.
  16. Maracle, 124.
  17. Maracle, 121.

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…

In this post I would like to discuss the concept of thresholds in children’s literature.  As I have previously mentioned a threshold is a metaphorical or literal boundary or doorway.  In children’s literature this threshold marks a point in time where a character is faced with a circumstance (within the liminal state) and needs to make a decision forcing them to cross a new threshold or regress to a place of familiarity.  In the article, Theory and Textual Interpretation: Children’s Literature and Literary Criticism, written by Jill May, the concept of a threshold in children’s literature is explained very well saying,

The common motif found in children’s literature – including gates, doors, roads, tones of light and dark signify thresholds of experience and imply social change for the real and literary child (1).

While this quote explains the different modes of crossing thresholds, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. the novels The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum and When Night Eats the Moon by Joanne Findon clearly demonstrate how characters can move within time and space through various methods.  For instance the representation of crossing thresholds in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Baum is a literal crossing.  Dorothy is literally moved from one place to the next by noticeable means.  In the book the journey from Kansas to the Land of Oz is explained by saying,

The house whirled around two or three times and rose slowly in the air…..until it was at the very top of the cyclone…..The little girl gave a cry of amazement and looked about her… the cyclone had set the house down, very gently – for a cyclone – in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty (2).

Dorothy’s house is moved by a cyclone from the Prairies of Kansas to a beautiful but unknown destination.  Once the spinning of the cyclone ends she opens the door of her home crossing the threshold into a new land, the World of Oz.

Many adventures take place after Dorothy and Toto meet  Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin man.  Through these adventures and trials the five characters cross over less dramatic but significant thresholds such as passing through the lands of the Munchkins , the Winkies, the Gillikins, and the Quadlings, entering the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West (3), and crossing the threshold of the gate at the Emerald City (4).  These adventures quickly come to a close when the five friends visit Oz for the second time and demand their rewards for killing the Witch and as for Dorothy and Toto, a way home.  The transportation to and from the Land of Oz are very similar in the sense that they are both literal and noticeable movements.  Dorothy exits the world of Oz much like she enters, one minute she is in one place the next she’s gone!  In order to return home Dorothy,

Having said one last good –bye she clapped the heels of her shoes together three times saying, ‘Take me home to Aunt Em!’ (5).

Crossing thresholds in Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can be argued as literal crossings because of the transportation between both the Kansas Parries and the World of Oz.  The manner in which Dorothy moves from land to land is specific and perceivable.  The concept of time also aids this interpretation of crossing a threshold.  In Baum’s book, Dorothy’s transportation to another land is not hidden by varying or freezing time zones, her absence in the “real world” on the farm is noted by Aunt Em when Dorothy returns and she says, “My darling child…Where in the world have you come from?” (6). Dorothy’s time in the Land of Oz did not greatly impact her character as a whole.  Rather Dorothy remains much the same and views the whole experience as an adventure and is happy to be home again.

However crossing thresholds in When Night Easts the Moon by Findon is portrayed very differently than in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  In Findon’s book, moving through thresholds can be interpreted as a mystical crossing. The first significant crossing of a threshold takes place when Holly, against her mother’s wishes, enters a room inside her aunt and uncles’ old barn to practice her flute.  While in this room Holly is surrounded by enchanted music that emanates from ancient pots.  One of the pots is broken and the music acts as a “vehicle” by which Holly is transported into England’s past.  Holly then finds herself in Celtic England 700 BCE among the Iron Age people of Stonehenge (8).   This is where Holly meets Evaken, Borekakerk, and Avartha who insist that she is the Maregi, the saviour of their people (9).  Instantly Holly is tangled up in the turmoil of being engaged in a war between two types of people from England’s past.  During these times Holly tries her best to help her new friends but unfortunately at the most pivotal of moments Holly is swept away by the same ancient music that brought her into the past.  When Holly is asked why she leaves she answers,

I didn’t mean to go.  I just started to disappear and I couldn’t do anything (10).

Due to Holly’s inability to control her movement through time, her transportations can be viewed as mystical or even preordained by an exterior power.  This pattern of coming and going through the use of mystical music reoccurs throughout the story.  Holly is able to weave in and out of the past and the present without upsetting the balance of time.  In present day England the rest of Holly’s family do not notice the amount of time that passes when Holly “disappears.”  The consistent movement through time only ceases once Holly accepts her calling as the Margei of the Iron Age people and negotiates peace terms using all her abilities bestowed on her through the ancient powers of Stonehenge.  This experience impacts Holly greatly; during the time that she spent with the Iron Age people Holly was able to mature and grow taking on responsibilities, making sound decisions and learning how to recognize the individual worth of people.  Her personal growth positively impacts her relationship with her family once she returns to present time.

While both of these representations of threshold crossings are completely different, both authors are successful in taking the reader on a journey with the character to new lands and experiencing thrilling adventures.  Despite the differences in the movements these characters experience while traveling through different lands and times, the two stories do have some similarities.  For instance, both the main characters, Holly and Dorothy, accept the tasks presented to them and because of their presence both the “fantasy” lands experience change and growth.

In this post I began to speak of the personal growth of the characters that developed because of their journey in crossing a new threshold and entering into new experiences.  In my next post I will be taking a more indepth look at this topic.  I will be considering the personal growth that takes place in the  male characters within the literary works of C.S. Lewis in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as well as Lee Maracle’s book, Will’s Garden.

Work Cited:

1.  May P. Jill.  Theory and Textual Interpretation: Children’s Literature and Literary Criticism. The Journal of the  Midwest Modern Language Association, Vol. 30, No. 1/2, Borders (1997), pp. 81-96.

2. Baum Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. George M Hill      Company.  Chicago, 1990, pp.4-5.

3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4eQmTizTSo

4.  Baum, 81.

5.  Baum, 59, 99.

6.  Baum, 183.

7.  Baum, 140.

8.  Findon Joanne.  When Night Eats the Moon.  Red Deer Press.  Red Deer Alberta, 2000. (Paratext – back cover).

9.  Findon, 31

10.  Findon, 57

Wandering in Wonderland

In the previous post I began to speak on the representation of liminal space in one of literature’s favoured children stories, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In this post I would like to take a more detailed look at this idea.

I had mentioned that characters who find themselves in a liminal space lack position, social status, and understanding of their new location.  I also stated that this new environment is an in-between space, neither here nor there; in other words not within the realms or reality but not quite fantasy either.  The creation of a liminal space is critical for an initiation or passage rite. It is an alternative to reality created by removing the character from his or her usual surroundings and placing them in a unique and unknown environment that abides by a different set of social norms and rules.  This experience is meant to alienate or “other” the character within this new space in order to initiate his or her consciousness or independent behaviour.  When considering Carroll’s literary work Alice in Wonderland this concept does not change.  As Sara Gilead explains in her paper, Liminality, Anti-Liminality, and the Victorian Novel,

     The character is detached from a prior condition of membership in the social structure and undergoes a transitional ordeal in which structural attributes are neutralized or made ambiguous, and then re- emerges into social structure, usually with enhanced functions, status, or class. The liminal passenger thus “loses” his identifying characteristics [such as] name, roles, affiliations, even sex (1).

One example of extreme social misunderstanding and alteration of norms is found within the interaction that Alice has with the Queen.  Upon being invited by the Queen to play a game of croquet Alice quickly realizes that non-of the conventional rules of how to play are adhered to.  Alice has “chief difficulty managing her flamingo” (which is used as a mallet), the wickets are playing cards that “were always getting up and walking off”, the balls are hedgehogs that roll and run at will, and the game seems to be chaotic with everyone yelling and running in different directions at the same time all to ensure that the Queen wins the match. Unable to make sense of the game, “Alice soon came to the conclusion that it was a very difficult game to play” and wants to leave which angers the Queen (2).

Yet another example of Alice attempting to understand the new social norms is when she interacts with several different creatures in Wonderland.  The characters that live in Wonderland do not uphold the same values that Alice has been brought up to understand and so despite her efforts Alice quickly becomes “othered” by them.  For instance when Alice engages in a conversation with the Caterpillar he bombards her with very direct questions and statements such as “Who are you?” “What do you mean by that? Explain yourself!” and “Keep your temper!” (3). The encounter is a frustrating experience for Alice and she calls the Caterpillar “unpleasant, confusing, and easily offended” (4).  Despite Alice’s best attempts to satisfy these characters her “Victorian middle class upbringing, looking for rules and murmuring her lessons” leave Alice alienated (5).

Due to the fact that Alice cannot come to accept or conform to the social norms and rules of Wonderland she decides to return home after causing several more disturbances along her path.  Alice regresses back into the realms of her reality leaving the confused, upside-down type of life in Wonderland behind her.  So the question then becomes does this regression suggest that the liminal world of Wonderland “thereby expresses universal moral values or, in terms of those values [offer]  a critique of  social structure-bound behaviors and norms?” (6).

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  1. Gilead, Sara. Liminality, Anti-Liminality, and the Victorian Novel.  Johns Hopkins University Press.  Vol. 53, No. 1 (Spring 1986).  p, 183. 
    1. Carroll, Lewis (67).
    2. Carroll, Lewis (34).
    3. Carroll, Lewis (34- 36).
    4. Auerback, Nina.  Alice and Wonderland: A Curious Child.  The Victorian Child. Victorian Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Sep. 1973).  p 31.
    5. Gilead, Sara (183).

What are we talking about?

One of the reasons why I chose this as my topic was because everyone in everyday life participates in entering liminal spaces and crossing thresholds on a regular basis. It’s something that society cannot avoid – it is an inevitable part of human life. For example, graduations, looking for a career, moving, changing schools, these are just a few examples of how everyday people experience liminal space. Themes of liminality also surface in a wide range of society’s favoured literature, films, and television programs that the majority of society enjoys watching. So with this in mind, what is liminality and what does it mean to enter a liminal space?

The word liminal was taken from the Latin word “limen” which literally translates into “door way” signifying a static place where an individual is neither in nor out of a specific location, time or space (1). In literature the main function of a liminal space is to mark “The transitional period or phase of a rite of passage, during which the participant lacks social status or position” (2). This time usually consists of pivotal moments that include excitement, fear, intense encounters with other characters and the responsibility of choice or agency that characters are confronted with or possibly given. These moments occur when characters are within a liminal space and are faced with a decision as to whether or not they will cross a new threshold or regress back to a place of familiarity. The purpose of a liminal space is to provide a guided approach to help readers navigate major transitions brought on by significant change in the lives of characters.

What does it mean to cross a threshold?

In children’s literature a threshold can be a metaphorical or literal boundary or doorway. When a character finds themself caught within a liminal space he or she MUST make a choice as to what threshold they want to cross (3). This might mean stepping through a secret door into a new world, one example of such representation in children’s literature would be Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice willingly follows the talking rabbit down into the hole in order to fulfill her curiosity. In doing so Alice, whether intentionally or not, crosses a threshold into an unknown fantasy land (4). In some stories characters weave in and out of several liminal spaces and venture across multiple significant check points before crossing the one threshold that will cause the character to act or interact in a way that creates an extraordinary change. An example of this type of movement through both liminal spaces and check points can be seen in Findon`s book When Night Eats the Moon. Holly, the main character, finds herself having to navigate between present day England and the Celtic clan wars of England`s past through use of magical pottery (5).  In some cases characters refuse to enter into new territory and so they regress back to a place of comfort, familiarity, and safety.

In the different texts I will be looking at liminal space and thresholds and how they are represented differently. Personally I believe that within children`s literature there is a need for liminal space and thresholds. Stories that contain these aspects allow children to become immersed in imaginative worlds which they can understand and readily accept making literature an enjoyable and easy tool to assist children in navigating their own crossing of thresholds and moments of the unknown circumstances.

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1. Professor S. Humphreys. Trent University. Class Lecture, May24,2012

2. http://dictionary.reference.com/

3. Professor S. Humphreys. Trent University. Class Lecture, June21,2012

4. Carroll, Lewis. The Adventures of Wonderland and Through the looking
Glass. Bantam Dell Random House In. New York, 2006.

5. Findon, Joanne. When Night Eats the Moon. Red Deer Press. Alberta,
2000.

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog “Caught Between Spaces.”  In the texts I will be referencing every story contains vital moments of tension, extreme reactions, and great opportunity that characters are confronted with.  These moments occur when characters are caught in a liminal space and are faced with a decision as to whether or not they will cross a new threshold or regress back to a place of familiarity.

Through the course of my blog I will be discussing how characters navigate through liminal spaces and how the crossing thresholds affect the characters in children’s literature.  I will also be commenting on what type of life lessons are developed during these experiences as well as the transformation that takes place through this journey. Lastly I will be taking a look at what meaning the lessons presented in the texts hold for readers.  Are these types of stories helpful or harmful for children?  Does allowing children to read stories where characters are placed in changing situations assist them in their lives or hinder their own experiences? Is dependency on fantasy created or is imagination encouraged?

Please feel free to add your ideas.  I welcome your thoughts, comments, and critiques to my blog.  I would love to hear about your opinions and share in this experience together.