A Country Called Childhood: Children and the Exuberant World

Jay Griffiths. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $28 (432p) ISBN 978-1-61902-429-8
Griffiths (Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time), who has lived in and studied a diverse range of indigenous cultures, here addresses the “loss of childhood” (a term taken from a Cambridge University study) in wealthy, industrial nations. Griffiths believes this has happened because children have lost touch with their “kith,” which is to say the natural world, due to today’s omnipresent consumerism. She proposes a sensitive approach that will endow our children with a love of play and the freedom to explore nature. The combination of a sociological perspective with a lyrical style makes this a seductively readable work, each page peppered with references to cultural icons, authors, philosophers, historians, and other great thinkers. Chapters expounding happily on poet John Clare, Mark Twain’s Huck and Tom, and Kipling’s Mowgli are followed by darker sections about how corporal punishment, obedience, and a loss of metaphysical freedom can damage developing psyches. The independent state of childhood the book depicts as existing in the otherwise disparate indigenous societies of West Papua New Guinea, Australia, and North and South America, where children create their own tribes and exercise self-reliance, seems almost impossibly utopian, but Griffiths convincingly argues that it is real and can be achieved in developed nations. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-61902-584-4
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-61902-403-8
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