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Rhode, M. (1988). Margaret and Michael Rustin: Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children's Fiction. Verso, 1987. Paperback, £7.95.. J. Child Psychother., 14(1):106-109.

(1988). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 14(1):106-109

Margaret and Michael Rustin: Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children's Fiction. Verso, 1987. Paperback, £7.95.

Review by:
Maria Rhode

Margaret and Michael Rustin have written a book about children's fiction in which many different approaches are brought together. Obviously so, since one is by profession a sociologist and the other a child psychotherapist: and in the extensive bibliographical footnotes, they refer to a wide range of works of literary criticism. However, the attempt at integration goes further than this. As one of the authors has said, their thoughts about the importance of children's stories grew out of the experience of being read to as children, and of reading to their own children and their children's friends. This personal involvement permeates the whole of their book, and makes their attempt to explain the importance of children's fiction more persuasive than any purely academic study could be.

The bulk of the book consists of the detailed treatment of works by individual authors, with two more general and theoretical chapters serving as introduction and conclusion. The Rustins see the great increase in the twentieth century of books written specifically for children as a sociological fact requiring explanation in itself: they link it with the trend towards greater democracy implicit in universal education, with the emergence of English as the main subject of instruction in primary schools, and with the establishment of the academic discipline of English Literature and the cultural impact of Scrutiny. In addition, they give many examples of ways in which they feel that the prevalent social climate is reflected in a particular work.

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