LINGUIST List 14.172

Fri Jan 17 2003

Review: Discourse Analysis: Sell (2002)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <>

What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Simin Karimi at


  1. Laura Buechel, Sell (ed) (2002) Children's Literature as Communication

Message 1: Sell (ed) (2002) Children's Literature as Communication

Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 13:53:20 +0000
From: Laura Buechel <>
Subject: Sell (ed) (2002) Children's Literature as Communication

Sell, Roger D., ed. (2002) Children's Literature as Communication: The
ChiLPA Project. Benjamins, xi+352pp, hardback ISBN 1-58811-258-6,
$81.00, Studies in Narrative 2.

Book Announcement on Linguist:

Laura Loder Buechel, Paedagogische Hochschule Zuerich, Switzerland

Children's Literature as Communication offers many in-depth studies
and much insight into varying aspects of children's literature. Within
the sixteen chapters, topics such as the development from (and
sometimes return to) orality to literariness, issues in
intertextuality, the role of images, children's literature in the
handling of issues such as the Holocaust and growing up, and uses of
children's literature in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) are
examined. This book is introduced by Dr. Roger Sell and the
subsequent chapters have been written by various experts in the field
of literature. The ChilPA (Children's Literature: Pure and Applied)
project is a doctoral program aimed at deepening the understanding of
children's literature. For more information concerning this project,

Part 1: Initiating: Resources at hand

Chapter 1: Orality and literacy: The wise artistry of The Pancatantra
Niklas Bengtsson presents Purnabhadra's version of The Pancantantra as
not only the first book written down for children, but the first
didactic book for children. Its five books are thematic, and were and
perhaps still are, used to share wisdom with the reader. This version
(of many versions, some probably not to be considered as children's
literature in today's world view) was, perhaps, used as empowerment of
the ''common'' people who could relate to the struggle against

Chapter 2: Orality and literacy, continued: Playful magic in Pushkin's
Tale of Tsar Saltan
A few centuries later than The Pancantantra, Puskin wrote The Tale of
Tsar Saltan based on stories he heard as a child. Janina Orlov
provides examples of how this tale reflects Pushkin's goal of becoming
more child-like through ''writing himself back to childhood 8p. 52''
although it seemed to him that ''the power of words is always limited
(p. 40)''. She addresses a major theme throughout children's
literature - that of audience, here being adult.

Chapter 3: Intertextualities: Subtexts in Jukka Parkkinen's Suvi Kinos
In her discussion of two of Jukka Parkkinen's Suvi Kinos books, Kaisu
Rattya addresses explicit and implicit associations to other texts,
such as the Bible and Pippi Longstocking, through images, numbers,
embedded text and direct reference. What makes books as these so
fascinating is the differing levels of awareness between adult and
children to these associations.

Chapter 4: Intertextualities, continued: The connotations of proper
names in Tove Jansson
As Rattya discussed intertextuality of whole texts, Yvonne Bertills
addresses intertextuality through parts of texts, namely in the
translation of character names. Again, different audiences, adults or
children, native Finnish speakers or non-native ones, will or will not
understand character names which may have a certain specific meaning,
allude to a specific meaning, or sound simply good with the rest of
the text. The author also addresses mistranslation, sometimes for the
sake of keeping close to the original, sometimes simply due to

Chapter 5: The verbal and the visual: The picturebook as a medium
Maria Nikolajeva discusses the multifaceted role of pictures which
can, among other things, present the same information as the text,
give more information than the text, or perhaps contradict the
text. The interpretation of visuals, as well as of text, can be
different for the child and the adult viewer.

Part II: Negotiating: Issues examined

Chapter 6: Growing up: The dilemma of children's literature
In her second insightful chapter, Maria Nikolajeva searches for other
clues as to what defines children's literature. Perhaps, then, when
the ''rite of passage is still unaccomplished (p. 130)'', we have
children's literature. She finds that different types of literature,
Utopian, Carnivalesque, Postlapsarian, for example, deal with times in
children's lives - from innocence to the negotiation of identity in

Chapter 7: Childhood: A narrative chronotope
Children's literature, by nature of being written mostly by adults,
often attempts to prepare children for adulthood. The relationships
between time and space (chronotope) play an important role in defining
children's literature. In this chapter, Rosemary Ross addresses this
issue and puts for the idea that ''the forward thrust...implies
possibilities and options (p. 147).''

Chapter 8: Child-power? Adventures into the animal kingdom - The
Animorphs series
Using K.A. Applegate's popular Animorphs series as an example, Maria
Lassen-Seger finds that, here, the sometimes-taken-view of children's
literature as a means of projecting adult wishes onto children,
correct. She finds that this series does not encourage children to
accept themselves or discover their own identities, but that it rather
encourages them morph into something else in order to be great.

Chapter 9: Gender and beyond: Ulf Stark's conservative rebellion
Through Starks' book Nutcases and Norms, Mia Osterlund addresses both
the issue involved, that of negotiating gender, as well as the
interpretations readers could have about the conclusion of this book.
When Simone, after having dressed like a boy and being called Simon,
finally puts on a frilly dress, Osterlund proposes that this is not
giving in, but a rebellion continued.

Chapter 10: Politics: Gubarev's Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors
The Soviet Union in the 1950s was a difficult time for authors to
freely express their views. This book, discussed by Jenniliisa
Salminen, uses allegory and irony to, on a superficial level (which
children will understand)to expose the readers to an ideal society,
officially to show the benefits of socialism, and in more depth (which
addresses adults) to criticize the oppression of the people due to the
system as it was at the time and then show their eventual triumph.

Chapter 11: The unspeakable: Children's fiction and the Holocaust
Lydia Kokkola addresses the questions of in how much detail such a
horror can be described and how it should be described to sensitively
trigger children to think about the Holocaust and other like issues,
critically. Kokkola evaluates examples of children's literature
according to how the information is presented - or where it is
suppressed and later presented (or not).

Part III: Responding: Pragmatic variables

Chapter 12: Early immersion reading: The narrative mode and meaning-making
Lydia Kokkola introduces this chapter by explaining a bit about the
Finnish school system as well clarifing some terms and theories
(namely Bruner and Egan) about reading. Through her analysis of two
readers' miscues throughout two genre of text (narrative and
non-narrative), Kokkola supports that while students need to learn to
read a variety of types of texts, that early EFL students would
perhaps benefit most by starting with the narrative form.

Chapter 13: Reader-learners: Children's novels and participatory pedagogy
Supporting the concept of a participatory pedagogy, Roger D. Sell
evaluates opinions on what culture is, purposes and types of FLE
(Foreign Language Teaching), language and culture study versus
acquisition, as well as issues in motivation or non-motivation through
his critique of Bryam's studies. He attests that using children's
literature with EFL students, if they are encouraged to read like a
native reader, is one important part of this sort of pedagogy as it
gives students a chance to guide their own learning - the teacher can
observe and supplement individual interests - and allows children to
try cultures on for size.

Chapter 14: Primary-level EFL: Planning a multicultural fiction project
Charlotta Sell proposes a field study in using multicultural
children's literature in the classroom not only to develop English
literacy skills, but also to make boundaries to other cultures
smaller. She defines components such as the choice of books, general
and specific curriculum aims, collaborative and individual activities,
vocabulary development and activities to support the writing and
understanding of texts, which would play a role in this education.

Chapter 15: Secondary-level EFL: Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi
Lilian Ronnqvista chooses this book, which tells the story of a girl
growing up in an Italian-Australian milieu of an Australian mainstream
society, because EFL students who live in Finland but have Swedish as
their native language, will easily be able to relate. She analyzes
varies cultural matches and mismatches addressed in the book such as
school and education, food, friendship and dating, food and names. She
emphasizes the role of the teachers as being that of the facilitator
of the class as well as cultural guide.

Chapter 16: Bilingualism, stories, new technology: The Fabula Project
Viv Edwards starts by addressing the advantages of electronic books
over the written form. She then defines the distinction between
translating and parallel authoring, the latter being better suited for
EFL readers. Through an example on the Fabula Project (A Lovely Bunch
of Coconuts by Dennis Reader, 1989), which aims at creating
multilingual books, she demonstrates the enthusiasm of the children in
creating their own texts and the development of community through this
exchange of languages and cultures.


This book can be read on several levels. For a beginner to the field,
chapters were written clearly, assumed unfamiliar terms clarified, and
practical examples given. For those a bit more knowledgeable in the
field, there was content and depth of it for more ideas to be found
and for the reader to appreciate and learn from the details. One of
the most impressive features of this book was its cohesiveness. The
chapters are well linked together, and not just a collection of
somewhat related publications. The many obvious and underlying threads
are well interwoven from chapter to chapter. And although most
chapters were thought provoking and well written, the excellent
introduction really sparks curiosity about the following chapters. As
children are not often the critics of the books written towards them,
adults have taken on this role, and have done a good job in this

It might be helpful to have an index of children's books cited
throughout and where they are located in the publication at the
end. As a user of children's literature in my own teaching, it would
let me see if any of the books I am using have been reviewed. For some
of the chapters, it would also occasionally help to know Finnish to
understand some of the puns, even though they are mostly all
explained, and occasionally a translation of a book title was
omitted. It would also be interesting to see if some of the mentioned
ideas are turned into concrete studies in the future.


Laura Loder Buechel is teacher trainer in the field of Content and
Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in regards to the introduction of
English into Swiss primary schools. She also works at Wall Street
Institute in Winterthur, Switzerland where she is, among other things,
responsible for curriculum design and academic progress of
students. She completed her M.Ed. in Bilingual Education from Northern
Arizona University in 2000. Her research interests include the
advantages of simultaneous first and second language acquisition,
early second language acquisition and Computer Assisted Language
Learning to facilitate bilingualism.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue