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The Innocence Project

2. Childhood Innocence in Mid-Twetieth-Century Children's Books

The Little House

Cover Illustration for THe Little House (1942)

Award-winning picture books offer a fairly good index of what adult experts consider most suitable for child readers. Virgina Lee Burton's The Little House was awarded the Caldecott Medal as the year's best picturebook in 1943, and the view of the world it presents to its young readers is revealing. It tells the story of a home lovingly built by a pioneer who announces ‘“This Little House shall never be sold for gold or silver and she will live to see our great-great-grandchildren’s great-great-grandchildren living in her”’ (1). Resistant to the changing world around it, and existing outside the avaricious real-estate market, the house represents the immutability of the values of a more innocent time, a time picture book authors and publishers were keen to present to children. Even as the world modernizes and urbanizes around it, the little house (with which the child reader is invited to identify, as the descriptor "little" suggests) retains the innocence of its original state.

2. Childhood Innocence in Mid-Twetieth-Century Children's Books