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Suspended Animation

Through a combination of nostalgia and new printing technologies, picture book publishing in America became a popular enterprise between the wars. "Suspended Animation" analyzes the phenomenon of American picture books and what their imaginative form and content reveal about the modern nation.
In this insightful and nuanced work, Nathalie op de Beeck argues that pictorial literature intended for young readers presents a paradox. Children's picture books are at once fairy tales that uphold middle-class traditions and modern commodities that teach children about their changing world. With engaging color and black-and-white illustrations from influential texts, op de Beeck shows how these word-and-picture sequences provide deceptively simple stories within the specific historical and cultural contexts of the period between the 1910s and 1940s.
"Suspended Animation" contends that children's picture books reflect adult ideals and provide visual and written information in contemporary, colorful packages. Although they are outwardly earnest and easy to read, picture books express questionable attitudes on ethnic and racial difference, nature and technology, and history and the here and now. By examining the production of picture books, their modes of storytelling, and their nods to both the avant-garde and mass culture, "Suspended Animation" traces the development of the American picture book in the history of modernity.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Contents Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Here and Now Fairy Tales 2. Picture Book Ethnography: Representing the Other in Picture Books and Illustrated Texts 3. Sentient Machines: Lonesome Locomotives and the Mechanized Modern Body 4. Murals in Miniature: Regionalism, Labor, and Obsolescence Postscript: The Picture Book After 1942 Notes Index

About the Author

Nathalie op de Beeck is associate professor of English at Pacific Lutheran University. Her scholarly projects include Little Machinery: A Critical Facsimile Edition.


"Lavishly illustrated, this panorama of picture books from the 1920s and `30s opens an expanse of brilliantly executed visual narratives that set the context for some of the most cherished landmarks of American childhood, from Millions of Cats to Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. Much of the material we encounter in this book springs from a modernist New York between the wars, where experiments in drama, design, or dada had an impact on the design of picture books. Nathalie op de Beeck's extended readings make us eager to explore the energetic, droll, technologically innovative texts for ourselves." -Margaret R. Higonnet, University of Connecticut "'Deeply researched and richly illustrated, Suspended Animation foregrounds the crucial and contentious role of the children's picture book in a conflicted twentieth century. It highlights the tug of nostalgic innocence against the complexities of industrialism, war, gender, and battles for ideological domination-with the stakes nothing less than actions and beliefs of the generation(s) of the future." -Cecelia Tichi, Vanderbilt University

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