Childhood in a multicultural society? Globalization, childhood and cultural diversity in Norwegian children's literature


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Bookbird: A Journal of International Children's Literature;49 (1)


Johns Hopkins University Press

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An alligator named Johannes Jensen works as an executive officer at the Oslo tax office. He feels different, but doesn't know why. Maybe it is because he wears a bow tie while his colleagues wear ties? Johannes Jensen tries to go to work dressed with a tie, but he still feels different. In the verbal text he wonders about why he feels different. It is the Oscar-winning illustrator Torill Kove's humorous pictures which suggest an answer to the reader. The pictures show that the bow tie is not the main reason that makes Johannes Jensen stand out, but the fact that he is an alligator, while all the others are human beings. In this way the different modalities of the text are interdependent on one another for the creation of meaning. The interplay between picture and verbal text in the picture book, or what Hallberg (1982) calls the "ikonotekst," creates a tension between Johannes Jensen's experience of reality and reality seen through the eyes of the reader. Johannes Jensen føler seg annerledes [Johannes Jensen feels different] (2003) is a complementary picture book, where words and pictures fill in each other's gaps (Nikolajeva and Scott 2001, 12). An example that demonstrates this is seen when Johannes Jensen is having his breakfast. Even when Johannes Jensen sits alone, eating his breakfast, he feels different, the verbal [End Page 31] text tells us. Not strange, really, as we can see pictures of humans both on the cereal box and in the newspaper. Johannes Jensen føler seg annerledes focuses on the theme of being and feeling different and representing a minority, in this case an alligator in a society dominated by human beings. The problem at hand, Johannes Jensen's existential search for identity and interdependence, is common to all mankind. Both children and adults can easily identify with Johannes Jensen. The book is written just as much for adult readers as for child readers, marketed as all-ages-literature1, and published in two different formats: a big edition for children and a mini edition for adults


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