n Mousaion - 'Naked in the open air ... the waves ... invited her' : ecocriticism and the picture book

Volume 32, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



It is an inconvenient truth that the state of the planet is likely to figure powerfully in both the real and the imagined lives of children, in whatever nation state children and young people are situated. Physical space as a literary trope, representing both outer and inner landscapes, has a long tradition in the telling of stories where the child listener/reader/viewer is often positioned to see nature in terms of binary oppositions. From the survival story - where the island is represented as personally malevolent - to the country garden - where nature is represented as a benign healer; from the wild forest of the folktale - where the wolf-man/rapist roams - to the benevolent beach where children play innocently, children 'read' contradictory ideas about the natural world in the word. This article unlocks some of these binary oppositions in children's literature through an examination of a range of South African and New Zealand picture books, seeking to reveal how various ideologies are inscribed in the visual and verbal space of the picture book. The article asserts that, in the context of globalisation, teachers must be awakened to the opportunity of including eco-criticism in a critical literacy curriculum, developing thus an emancipatory politic.

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