House as Setting, Symbol, and Structural Motif in Children’s Literature

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This study examines the function and significance of houses in children’s literature, concentrating on a close reading of a large number of representative texts. The houses that children live in, move to or visit in these novels are especially striking and unforgettable. Throughout the fiction the house is a dominant setting, occupying a prominent place and producing a powerful imaginative impact upon the reader. This book addresses the need for a comprehensive examination of the symbolic and structural patterns of domestic settings in children’s literature. It was written especially for those who would like to see children’s literature placed in the same context and judged by the same criteria as its adult counterpart.


“Pauline Dewan shows that the house in Children’s Literature is a magnet for thoughts rich and complicating. This book is encyclopedic and brilliant: encyclopedic because Dewan has read everything, and brilliant because she has then ventured further. No bricoleur, brick by brick with quotations she has built a work that, like its subject, is monumental.” – Jerry Griswold, San Diego State University

“Pauline Dewan has written a thoroughly researched, fascinating study of houses (in the broadest sense: Huck’s raft, Skellig’s garage, Captain Nemo’s Nautilus) in children’s literature in all of their complexities and importance and their impacts psychologically, socially, and physically on the protagonists. Dewan focuses on a wide variety of homes, revealing the interconnectedness of remarkably disparate settings and situations: the primary home representing security, love and its “civilizing” influences; the impact of the old on the present (Green Knowe and Drear House; Sachar’s Holes); the inadequate or threatening home that forces children to leave (The Great Gilly Hopkins; Julie of the Wolves); the homes affected by their settings (Robinson Crusoe, Abel’s Island); and homelessness with the search for parents and self (Voigt’s Homecoming, Almond Kit’s Wilderness). Drawing upon an extensive bibliography of examples (almost 100 authors listed) and even more secondary sources, ....Dewan has successfully and decisively shown that setting is interesting and complex in children’s literature.” - Marilyn Apelsoff, Kent State University

"In [this study], Dewan succeeds in her goal of elevating children's literature so that it is analyzed and evaluated on the same basis as adult literature. Her bibliography of primary sources lists over 200 titles; while the list represents only a portion of the children's novels in print, it includes a large number of the books on which most scholars and critics focus their attentions." -

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Inside and Outside Houses
3. The Search for an Ideal Home
4. Houses and the Past
5. Land, Sea, and Island Homes
6. Home Away from Home
7. The Search for a Home and Parents

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