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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sharing space : an examination of the relationship between child-constructed spaces and spatial empowerment in a selection of children’s picturebooks Anctil, Emily


A common feature of playtime for children is the building and using of spaces. Whether it be a blanket draped over a table with stacks of books and toys underneath, a wardrobe filled with blankets and pillows, or a tree house furnished with various household objects, children enjoy claiming spaces of their own in which to retreat from a predominantly adult-structured world. This thesis project looks closely at the process of childhood space-building through the lens of a selection of two children’s picturebooks: "Soft House", written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin, and "The Fort That Jack Built", written by Boni Ashburn and illustrated by Brett Helquist. I propose that the security and autonomy of children’s real-life constructed spaces are discoverable under the surface of picturebooks that depict this type of play behaviour, particularly when performed within adult-controlled domestic space. Drawing on scholar Jerry Griswold’s theory of “snugness” ("Feeling Like A Kid"), I perform close readings of the selected picturebooks utilizing the work of Lawrence Sipe (“Picturebooks as Aesthetic Objects”) and Denise E. Agosto (“Interdependent Storytelling”). The findings of this thesis suggest that although domestic space is depicted as belonging thoroughly and completely to adults, child-constructed spaces empower children to set spatial boundaries, cultivate feelings of safety and security, rehearse adult responsibilities, and engage in imaginative play. The thesis proposes that snugness and child spatial empowerment are intrinsically linked, and that a negotiation between adults and children must occur if these spaces are to be successfully created and used inside the domestic household.

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