English 301:  Children’s Literature
Short Paper Assignment   

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Associate Professor of English
Ferrum College, thanlon@ferrum.edu

Children's Literature Course Home Page Angel Log-in

Minimal Requirement:

Sample Thesis Statements: (Choose your own focus—these are just examples—but be sure your thesis is specific.)

On plot:  Although The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter is traditionally viewed as a cautionary tale demonstrating the painful consequences of the child’s disobedience, the central action of the story draws attention to the naughty child’s exciting adventure.

On character:  In "Molly Whuppie" [or "Mutsmag"], Molly [Mutsmag] confronts a series of challenges which show that despite her diminutive size, she is a clever and independent heroine who can outwit a giant.

On point of view:  In Emily Dickinson’s “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass,” the adult speaker’s recollection of the child’s reaction to a snake conveys the lasting impact of childhood experience.

On theme:  The tale of “Snow White” suggests that periods of separation, escape, isolation, and even paralysis are experienced before the young girl is ready to enter adult life.

On language and images:  In some poems for children about animals [could focus on C. Rossetti’s “If a Pig Wore a Wig,” Roethke’s “The Yak,” D. Lee’s “Alligator Pie” or Prelutsky’s “Toucan’s Two”], the sounds and rhymes associated with the animals’ names are more important than any physical characteristics of the animals themselves.

On imagery/symbolism:  The stairway images in “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes represent the mother’s view of life’s hardships and challenges.

On illustrations:  The colors and details of the illustrations in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss help dramatize the disastrous effects of exploiting the environment for profit.

On language and structure:  The unusual language and structure of “in Just—” by e e cummings create an atmosphere of playful spontaneity at the arrival of spring.
OR:  In “Johnny Crow’s Garden” by L. Leslie Brooke, the repetitions and variations of words and phrases make the poetic descriptions of the animals amusing and memorable.

Comparison of satire and original tale:  Roald Dahl’s “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf” uses satiric effects to deflate and reverse the outworn motifs of the traditional tale of girl and wolf.

On setting:  In Robert Browning’s “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” descriptions of an old-fashioned town and its people become the backdrop for a story of magic and betrayal.

Sample Papers. In The Little, Brown Handbook chapter on Writing about Literature, there are several samples of student essays. You can read them at this link in the web site for the 10th edition. The one on Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," with no secondary sources, is probably most similar to what you will do for this assignment, except that it is not a paper about children's literature and your paper should not be quite that short.

Documentation:  Use of secondary sources is optional in this paper, which should contain mainly your own analysis of the primary work(s). Attach at the end a list of Works Cited—or Work Cited, since you may have only one primary work to cite. Use MLA format or APA format for citations, and for giving parenthetical page references to quotations or citations within your paper. If you are discussing a work that occupies one page or less, give the page number only once within your paper. If it is a long poem, give the line number(s) for each quotation. If it's a picture book with no pagination, you can't give page numbers for quotations; put N. pag. at the end of the citation in your Work(s) Cited list.

Handbooks such as The Little, Brown Handbook contain guidelines for writing about literature, documentation, and other aspects of composing and editing college essays. Dr. Hanlon has various texts with more specialized guidelines for writing different types of literary analysis and sample papers about literature. Consult these texts or tutors in the Composition Center if you feel the need for further assistance before the essay is due.

Revisions and Additional Short Papers:  If you and the professor are satisfied with your performance on this paper, it will count as 10% of your course grade. If not, we will discuss options for revising and/or writing a second short paper (Revisions due by Nov. 3, second short paper due no later than Nov. 17). A revision grade will be averaged as 1/3 of the short paper grade. A second paper will be averaged as 1/2 or more of the short paper grade. Anyone may choose to write a revision or second paper, but those with unsatisfactory grades (D or F) will be required to do so. If you need a B or A in this course and get a C or lower on the first paper, use these options to improve your grade.

Grading Standards:  See Grading Criteria for English 207 essays. Even though that page is for a 200-level literature course, its list of criteria for papers is relevant to the short paper assignment in this course, and it would make a good checklist to use before turning in your papers. And it contains a reminder of the requirements mandated by the college's writing intensive program.

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