Hidden messages in children’s books


” Adults often find surprising subtexts in children’s literature – but are they really there?

Revisiting kids’ books in adulthood can yield all sorts of weird and wonderful subtexts, some more obvious than others. How could Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas be anything other than a parable of consumerism? Why would it not seem blindingly clear that CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia are in fact a fantastical re-imagining of Christian theology?

Similar close readings have rendered the Paddington Bear books fables about immigration and Babar the Elephant an endorsement of French colonialism. Alice’s Wonderland adventures have been seen as everything from a paean to mathematical logic to a satire about the War of the Roses or a trippy caper with drugs as an underlying theme. And what about The Little Engine That Could? You might know it as a story about trains that fosters can-do optimism, but it has also been taken as a you-go-girl feminist tale. (The eponymous little engine is a lady train and when she breaks down, only another female train will stop to help out.) As for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: why, it’s an allegorical representation of the debate surrounding late 19th Century US monetary policy, of course. “

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