Before you get started:
In anything you write this semester, if you quote, you must use quotation marks and provide the page numbers (unless there are no page numbers. In the analysis of In Our House below, the picture book has no page numbers).
Analysis: Look at Hey Al (available in document sharing of eCollege). Think in terms of Coats's article and our discussions so far and offer an ideological reading of Hey Al, paying particular attention to interpellation and the use of pictures.
700+ words (provide word count)
A sample analysis of Anne Rockwell's In Our House:
Buying into Capitalism
Karen Coats in "Fish Stories: Teaching Children's Literature in a Postmodern World" explains that "in a children's literature course, students can learn more about ideology and how the aesthetic practices of literary representation transform culture than in any other course they may take. The myths of their culture and, more important, the myths of their own past are what they analyze; they take apart the very stories that they used, that cultures use, to put themselves together" (405). In other words, children's literature offers a unique opportunity to examine exactly what kinds of ideals our culture values, and in turn what children are trained to believe in. While it might seem a bit Machiavellian that we train our children to behave and think in certain ways, its a process that has become normalized through books, through literature, through school, through religion, and through families. In many ways, children's literature offers a transparency that isn't always available in other literature. Strangely enough, however, that transparency somehow becomes clouded. We see the pretty pictures and forget some of the underlying themes and topics. That is, pictures and the aesthetics sometimes draw our attention away from the subtext. It is with this in mind that I analyze Anne Rockwell's 1985 picture book, In Our House. On the surface, it is a relatively simple text. It's a description of a three bears who live in a what seems to be a nice home, including what they do and have, told from the perspective of the little boy bear. The author uses repetition to tell the story. For instance, when describing the various rooms, the narrator tells us what room it is, that "it is full of nice things," asks what they do in that room, offering us illustrations of the "nice things" and what they do in that room. However, if we go beyond the simplicity of the text, we can actually see its capitalist nature and how it interpellates young readers into understanding the "normalcy" of materialism and living the famed middle-class life.
The book begins with an introduction of the mother, father, and baby bear and then the introduction of the house in which they live. It's a nicely landscaped two-story home with an attached garage and even includes a white picket fence, pictured on a sunny day, the ultimate depiction of middle-class suburbia. After that, readers are invited, so to speak, into the home beginning with the spacious living room, which "is full of nice things." Indeed, it has a fireplace, television, cello, books, furniture, pictures and more. On the next page, readers are asked "What do we do in our living room?" and are then told and shown a variety of activities: "play checkers," "knit warm sweaters," "pay bills," "dance," and so on. We then move on to the kitchen, the basement, the garage, the bathroom, and end in the boy's "very own room." Each time, we're shown the "nice things" and what they do in each room While the text illustrates a family living, playing, and working together, it is clearly a text based on acquisition-cars, washing machines, nice furniture-as is noted by the emphasis through repetition of how many nice things the family has. The entire text is based on the mythic "American ideal" (including the white picket fence) and a seemingly obsessive need to both acquire material goods and to make sure that others know about those goods.
The attractiveness of materialism is supported by the images presented in that there is an abundance of bright and cheery colors. Indeed, the first blank pages of the text are bright yellow, and that bright yellow is carried into the title page through the color of the table. Yellow is again picked up in the layout wherein readers are introduced to the house, for the sun shines brightly and illuminates the two story middle-class house. White fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky, bright green trees, a sunflower, and a green lawn suggest an idyllic, peaceful setting. There is not a gloomy picture in the bunch. And even the last page of the text, which is set at night and again offers a full shot of the house, suggests this is a family blessed in a material culture and is even patriotic, for the intense blue sky is dotted with stars, the house is white, and the shutters are red, perhaps a nod to the flag.
I suspect Rockwell was attempting to illustrate how families can work and play
together and teach a young reader what families do in each room (the bathroom
is particularly handy); however, it nonetheless emphasizes a capitalist ideology
that depends on the acquisition of "nice things" and the money to
buy those "nice things." It is ultimately a text that buys into capitalism
Coats, Karen. "Fish Stories: Teaching Children's Literature in a Postmodern World." Pedagogy 1 (2001): 405-409.
Rockwell, Anne. In Our House. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1985.