Feeling Like a Kid

Feeling Like a KidFeeling Like a Kid: Childhood and Children’s Literature has captured my heart.

The eye-catching cover and overall design of Feeling Like a Kid deserves special attention. Scanning through the shelves of an academic library, I chose this book purely on the basis of its art. With thick pages, a pleasing format, and beautiful illustrations from classic children’s books, Feeling Like a Kid has captured the wonder of old-fashioned paper and ink.

The actual content is pretty great and credible, too. The author, Jerry Griswold, is a professor at San Diego State University specializing in English and comparative literature. He also is the director of the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. He knows the field and understands children’s lit.

In simple but eloquent language, Griswold explores the common themes found in children’s literature and sums them up in the following 5 categories:

  • snugness
  • scariness
  • smallness
  • lightness
  • aliveness.

Feeling Like a Kid explains that for children’s literature, these ideas are fundamental. Griswold also explains that some of these themes, like aliveness and lightness, are out of place in adult literature. He doesn’t focus on only picture books but captures a wide range of reading levels in children’s lit. Griswold articulates aspects of the young’s worldview through their literature.

This book includes examples from timeless classics like A Wind in the Willows, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Mary Poppins, Little House on the Prairie, and Goodnight Moon. 

Nostalgia hit me as I read his excerpts from classic children’s books I read as a kid, and I wanted to go back and read them all, both the ones I read as a child and the ones I have not read.

I highly recommend this artful book for everyone that desires to revisit the literary part of their childhood.

Also, I recommend this book to aspiring writers of children’s literature. I’m certain that incorporating these foundation themes to a children’s book would make it more appealing.

I thought of my favorite children’s books when reading Feeling Like a Kid. Together, they feature snugness, scariness, smallness, lightness, and aliveness. Some of my favorites are:


Corduroy by Don Freeman     

  • Snugness: Corduroy with the the little girl in the end
  • Scariness: The light from the security guard scares Corduroy.
  • Smallness: Corduroy is a small teddy-bear, the missing button is a small detail, and the little girl cannot buy him without her mother because she is young and “small” in the world’s eyes.
  • Aliveness: Corduroy, a stuffed teddy-bear, is alive.

Duchess Bakes a Cake

The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl     

  • Snugness: The family is happy together after their mother is safe with them again.
  • Scariness: The queen might be stuck up there forever!
  • Lightness: The cake has a sense of lightness as it continues to blow up and raise the queen high, high up in the air.

Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt      

  • Snugness: The crayons eventually work together to create a picture of happiness. Although not obviously snug, the idea of them working together and presenting a colored picture is a part of snugness.
  • Smallness: Crayons are small objects.
  • Aliveness: The crayons are alive and have written letters to the child.

Some Fun Stuff about Feeling Like a Kid:

FIRST LINE: “Kids get a special pleasure from playing underneath tables, and setting up housekeeping in tents made of blankets and chairs, and creating forts in large cardboard boxes, and passing time behind the furniture.”

NUMBER OF PAGES: 148 pages

FEATURES: Introduction, 5 Chapters, Bibliography, Index

MEMORABLE QUOTE: “Children’s Literature provides an especially good place for the study of childhood and the ways in which young can see the world. Then we can glimpse and come to comprehend (or recall) what it feels like to be a kid: playing snugly under tables, shivering at scary stories, towering over small worlds, streaking lightly through earthbound life, and believing in talking animals and living toys.”

Questions for Readers:

What are your favorite children’s books and do they have features of snugness, scariness, smallness, lightness, or aliveness?

What are books that you find helpful for writing children’s literature?


2 thoughts on “Feeling Like a Kid”

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