The Rhetoric of Children’s Literature

First, please read the two articles that are linked on this week’s Module (the Coats and Anderson pieces).

Then, read this selection of poems from Shel Silverstein
. (Some of the poems come from his collection A Light in the Attic, and some come from Where the Sidewalk Ends)

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As you do, annotate (you can print and annotate that way, you can make notes on the PDF, or you can take notes on a separate sheet of paper), paying particular attention to the Rhetorical Situation:

What age group is the audience, do you think? (Keep in mind, a book written for 3-5 year olds will be very different from a book written for 8-10 year olds)
What messages do you see in each piece? Are there any unifying messages or themes across all of the pieces? For what purpose did the rhetor tell these specific stories, using these specific Unnatural Creatures?
As you’ll see, these are good models for totally made-up “unnatural creatures”–none will be exactly familiar to you, though you might see familiar tropes. Pay attention to what’s familiar and what’s totally new, too, and how that might add to the rhetorical purpose of the piece.
How do the visual elements on the page contribute to the message and/or affect the reader? (Does it add something new and specific to the piece? Does it contradict, underscore, amplify, etc.?) What specific choices did Silverstein make for the visual elements? Think about colors, style, placement/framing, perspective, etc.–it’s much more than what is depicted; the how matters, too!
What about the poetry part of this? If a Bestiary is a collection of portraits of (sometimes strange) creatures accompanied by short, moral tales, do these poems accomplish that goal? And how do the elements of poetry (line breaks, imagery, rhyme scheme, etc.) work with the rhetor’s purpose?
It’s okay not to know everything about poetry–at this stage, it’s really just about noticing what you notice and investigating all the parts of a rhetorical text to see how it’s put together. This would look very different if it were a prose-based book (it might have a unifying narrative, for one thing), so the poetry part is just as worth investigating as anything else.
What about social, historical, and/or political context–how is the rhetor responding to, thinking about, or in conversation with those elements throughout these pieces? (You do not need to Google when these were published–there should be enough context evident in the poems for you to make some good guesses about that.)

The Submission

When you are finished with all of that, you will write a post of 300+ words that makes a clear, specific argument (or arguments) about one or more of these elements of the rhetorical situation for at least one of the pieces, making sure to define the specific tools or conventions of the genre(s) that he uses to purposeful effect, explain the message that you think he’s working to communicate, and explain how he’s working to communicate with and appeal to children. In the process, you should quote and cite at least one of the critical texts you’ve read for this week (that includes the AGWR, fwiw).

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