Growing and Knowing
A Selection Guide for Children's Literature
by Mary Trim (Author)
Trim’s book is like a great stockpot full of solid basic ingredients: well-stewed theories on child development, soupçons of advice on a multiplicity of genres and form in children’s literature, and simmering undertones of opinion and suggestions, all compressed into 253 pages. Each time the metaphorical lid is taken off, or the covers are opened, these spring out, ready for the reader to gorge on, but also leaving one looking around for a packet of Rennies. There is much to praise here, in particular the ambitious sweep of the work, but there is also quite a lot to criticise, especially the poor standard of editing. Not only are there typographical errors here, there are instances of incorrect English and far too many sentences that are overlong and confusing.
The thinking behind the book is to provide guidance for students and others engaged in selecting books for young readers. At the outset there is a brief – very brief – history of children’s books and an equally brief outline of some literary theories. It is divided into sections according to the age and developmental stages of children. Information about texts is preceded by a guide to the work of experts in child development such as Vygotsky, Piaget, Kohlberg, the idea being that those charged with selecting books for young people will gain an insight into what developmental and educational principles might underlie the choices that are to be made.
Books are considered under headings such as ‘Traditional Fiction’, ‘The Picture Book’, ‘Historical Fiction’. While the uninformed reader may be nudged in the direction of many excellent books (and it is important to remember that these choices are always subjective), eyebrows will be raised at statements like ‘Cuchulain was the great Irish hero of stories in old manuscripts, and other Irish legends and legendary characters are today depicted in Lady Gregory’s Irish Legends for Children.’ No more recent collections of Irish legends or myths are suggested.
There is also a section on activities for school and children’s libraries and a section on electronic books each by a guest contributor. The volume concludes with a chapter on selecting books for different faith communities. There is an extensive bibliography at the end of each chapter, but less would have been more and fewer titles with a little information about each might have provided a better guide for anyone wanting to read further.
Had the book been more tightly edited and its parameters more controlled, it would have been a stronger text. As it is, there is a sense of Trim encouraging her readers to dive into deep lakes, swim a few strokes, clamber back onto the bank and march along another pathway to repeat the process in another lake. It will provide a useful overview for those engaged in the process of building a collection and should be available in departments of library studies, but other texts will be needed to augment it.