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Bibliography: Essential Texts for Children's Folklore Studies

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FROM OXFORD BIBLIOGRAPHIES (Folklore) by Simon J. Bronner

Folkloristic studies of aging usually concern childhood and adolescence, but since the 1990s more studies have appeared examining folklore as an adaptive device across the life course, including pregnancy and birth, adulthood, and old age. A great example is the relatively new customs of the "mid-life crisis,” which Stanley Brandes (1987) convincingly shows to be associated with American numerological beliefs and religious traditions. The best of the older adult studies refer to the period of old age as producing its own traditions instead of remembering past ages: Bronner 1996; Hunt, Zeitlin, and Hufford 1978; Myerhoff 1980; Mullen 1992. Excellent guides to the vast literature and subjects of children’s folklore, often with more social psychological perspectives than studies of ethnicity, occupation, and region, are Sutton-Smith, Mechling, Johnson, and McMahon 1995 and Tucker 2008. Among the most cited studies of children’s folklore, especially oral and social genres, are Bronner 1988, Factor 1988, Knapp and Knapp 1976, Opie and Opie 2000, Sutton-Smith 1981, and Widdowson 1977. One can also consult the studies of children’s play in the category of games and play. The indexed journal Children’s Folklore Review published since 1988 by the American Folklore Society is an invaluable source for the development of folkloristic studies of childhood. Pregnancy and Birth as a life stage receives worthy attention in Dundes 2003 here and Davis-Floyd in the category of customs.

Bronner, Simon J. American Children’s Folklore. Annotated Edition. Little Rock: August House, 1988.
Shows that folklore among children is vibrant and is fueled by modernization rather than being displaced by it. Introduction identifies themes of the lore within the contexts of changing conditions of children being more on their own than in the past.

*Children’s Folklore Review []*.
Published since 1990 by the Children’s Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society, this journal is the main outlet for essays on children’s folklore.

Dundes, Lauren, ed. The Manner Born: Birth Rites in Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2003.
Shows the variety of traditions surrounding birth through infancy. Includes essays on placenta rituals, beliefs about children born with a caul (amniotic membrane), midwifery, and maternal birthing positions.

Factor, June. Captain Cook Chased A Chook: Children’s Folklore in Australia. New York: Viking Penguin, 1988.
Shows children to be both conservative in their adherence to tradition and innovative in their adaptation and invention of folklore in play. Discusses valuable functions of folklore in children’s development and distinctive contexts of Australian culture.

Grider, Sylvia Ann, ed. "Children’s Folklore.” Western Folklore. Special Issue. 39, no. 3 (July 1980).
Contains often-cited essays on "Newell’s Paradox” (simultaneous conservatism and innovation of tradition by children) by Gary Alan Fine, cooties belief complex by Sue Samuelson, and dramatization of children’s narratives by Elizabeth Tucker.

Knapp, Mary, and Herbert Knapp. One Potato Two Potato…: The Secret Education of American Children. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976.
Describes folklore as a "secret education” because it provides lessons about cultural exprectations to children outside the formal confines of home and school. Posits functions beyond entertainment for this lore as forms of social legislation among children.

Opie, Iona, and Peter Opie. The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. New York: New York Review of Books Classics, 2000.
Originally published in 1959, this British study showed the vibrancy of children’s folklore despite predictions of its doom at the hands of mass media and formal schooling.

Sutton-Smith, Brian. The Folkstories of Children. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981.
Important for its psychological assessment of the development of narrative competence in children. Shows that story-telling capacity occurs as early as two years old and develops with cognitive structures influenced by cultural traditions.

Sutton-Smith, Brian, Jay Mechling, Thomas W. Johnson,and Felicia McMahon, eds. Children’s Folklore: A Source Book. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999.
Originally published in 1995, this volume covers the genres and settings of children’s folklore and methodology and theory applied to their study. Also includes historiography of the field and an extensive bibliography.

Tucker, Elizabeth. Children’s Folklore: A Handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Assesses scholarship in children’s folklore and provides examples of its various genres. Includes extensive resources of books and websites.

Widdowson, John. If You Don’t Be Good: Verbal Social Control in Newfoundland. St. Johns: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1977.
Focuses on stories of bogeyman and other creatures used to exert social control of and by children. Includes a type index to the bogeyman theme.


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