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Compare and contrast how Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

1. Children’s Literature Tackling Difficult Issues

In her article, “How dark is too dark in children’s books?” Rebecca Westcott (2014) argues that:

Children live in families; they are surrounded by adults with all their adult problems. They wake up every morning in homes where there are everyday crises and challenges. They hear their friends talking and they watch the news on TV. Life happens and they are a part of that. Their books need to reflect what they hear, what they see. They need to recognise their situations in a book.

But like adults, children don’t just want to read about themselves. Books that address challenging issues can offer opportunities to explore, to ask of yourself: “what would I do?” …books provide children with the chance to empathise. They can play out a role in a safe environment. They can learn about how other people think.

Using specific examples from the text, compare and contrast how Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson use specific literary techniques to deal with difficult subject matters, such as death, racism, and divorce. You may use the article as part of your research, as well as things we’ve included in the class.

Tips: (This is a simple summary of what is expected, only about 10% of the comparison and similarity content is highlighted here)
  • The text plot should include literary techniques such as the use of foreshadows, and flashbacks to ensure there is a balance of anxiety through reassurance.
  • Westcott (2014), “children’s books should offer the reader an opportunity to empathize with the characters through situations that relate to their life and the surrounding environment”.
  • Jacqueline Woodson and E.B White use foreshadowing to relieve the reader’s anxiety by dropping clues about the outcome of the events, without destroying the necessary suspense required for a literary work.
  • “For a moment Charlotte said nothing. Then she spoke in a voice so low Wilbur could hardly hear the words. ‘I will not be going back to the barn,’ She said. Wilbur leapt to his feet. ‘Not going back?’ he cried. ‘Charlotte what are you talking about?’ ‘I’m done for,’ she replied” (White, 1980, Pg. 165).
  • Jacqueline Woodson in her book “Brown Girl Dreaming”, writes on how her grandfather was constantly coughing and out of breath.
  • She foreshadows,
  • “I can hear daddy coughing in his bed, a cough like he’ll never catch his breath. The sound catches in my chest as I’m pulling my dress over my head. Hold my own breath until the coughing stops” (Woodson, 2014).
  • “Rain upset Wilbur’s plans. Wilbur had planned to go out, this day, and dig a new hole in his yard. He had other plans, too” White (1980).
  • “The story / wakes up and walks all over the room.  Sits in a chair, / crosses one leg over the other, says / Let me introduce myself. Then just starts going on and on” (Woodson 2014, 217).

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