Year of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

MFA: Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating

Directing Professor

Mary Jane Begin


Once upon childhoods past, children’s early years were filled with exploration of and delight in the world around them. They learned through independent play and chasing curiosity without the micromanagement of intervening adults. Inter-generational relationships grew character and knowledge via shared stories and skills and encouraged collaborative experiences and tasks. Today’s culture is losing this inquisitive, play-filled heart of childhood. Children are increasingly pulled through their earliest years and pushed into adolescence prematurely by impatient communities, unrealistic academic expectations, and distracted parenting. The loss of slightly-wild, unstructured adventures and rooted parent-child relationships in pre-teen years should be of interest to the children’s literature community. This thesis explores the impact of accelerated childhoods and disappearing free play through a scholarly lens focused on the children’s literature field. I explore such questions as: What effect does a shortened childhood have on young readers? How does it shape children to spend fewer focused, invested moments interacting with the tangible world? Is boredom quite so bad? How does the influence of adults accelerating young people forward faster than is developmentally appropriate impact those children’s mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health? How can children’s authors and illustrators create literature that invites young audiences and their grown-ups to pause from the busyness of life and revel in the curious adventures of childhood and invested relationships across generations? I also offer three creative examples of celebrating the joy in the mundane yet extraordinary escapades of a childhood left to grow a little wild in my picture books Marble Run, BLOCKED!, and Back Seat Dreamer.

Contact Information

Purpose Statement

The purpose of preserving this thesis document is to provide a definitive record of student progress upon completion of the degree. This text will not reflect any revisions to the manuscript made after degree completion. For the most current version of the work, please contact its author.