While we owe much to twentieth and twenty-first century researchers’ careful studies of children’s linguistic and dramatic play, authors of literature, especially children’s literature, have matched and even anticipated these researchers in revealing play’s power—authors well aware of the way children use play to experiment with their position in the world. This volume explores the work of authors of literature as well as film, both those who write for children and those who use children as their central characters, who explore the empowering and subversive potentials of children at play. Play gives children imaginative agency over limited lives and allows for experimentation with established social roles; play’s disruptive potential also may prove dangerous not only for children but for the society that restricts them.

chapter |23 pages


Caution—Children at Play: Investigations of Children’s Play in Theory and Literature
ByJoyce E. Kelley

chapter 1|21 pages

“Fits of Vulgar Joy”

Spontaneous Play in Book 1 of Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1805)
ByAlison W. Powell

chapter 2|19 pages

Playing at Work and Working at Play in Mark Twain’s Writings

ByAlan Gribben, Sarah Fredericks

chapter 3|21 pages

“Mammy, can’t you tell us sump’n’ to play?”

Children’s Play as the Locus for Imaginative Imitation and Cultural Exchange in the Plantation Novels of Louise Clarke Pyrnelle
ByJoyce E. Kelley

chapter 4|20 pages

Words with Kids at Play

Sculpting Truth and Forging Childhood Friendship in Henry James’s What Maisie Knew and Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris
ByJericho Williams

chapter 5|19 pages

Idylls of Play

L. M. Montgomery’s Child-Worlds
ByCaroline E. Jones

chapter 6|19 pages

Katherine Mansfield’s Children at Play

ByJanka Kascakova

chapter 7|21 pages

The Buttons of the World are Round

Gertrude Stein’s Toys
ByMichael Opest

chapter 8|19 pages

Playing Pioneer

Childhood, Artistry, and Play in the Little House Series
ByAnna Lockhart

chapter 9|19 pages

“I’m ready to play now, you guys!”

J. D. Salinger, Steven Spielberg, and the Healing Power of Children’s Play
ByAndy Clinton

chapter 10|20 pages

Free Play and the Prescriptive Endgames of Orson Scott Card

ByTim Bryant

chapter 11|19 pages

Children’s Play and Mental Illness in Children’s Literature and Film

ByIan Wojcik-Andrews

chapter 12|20 pages

“The trampoline of letters and words”

Juvenile Linguistic Play in the Memoirs of Binyavanga Wainaina and Shailja Patel
ByDorothy Wolfe Giannakouros