cover image The Brightening Glance: Imagination and Childhood

The Brightening Glance: Imagination and Childhood

Ellen Handler Spitz, . . Pantheon, $25 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42058-0

Spitz, who teaches arts-related interdisciplinary seminars at the University of Maryland, is a passionate advocate for the aesthetic imaginations of young children. She wants adults to tune in to their toddlers' ways of seeing, and by responding to what they're experiencing, find ways to extend the experience. If a toddler looks at his mashed potatoes and says, "Tuh-tuh," Spitz says, Mom should observe those potatoes from the child's point of view and respond with "turtle." Mothers might attend special music classes with their little ones; whole families might get together to stage home productions of operas that the toddler's going to be attending. Spitz's own rather imaginative view of contemporary child-rearing may strike some as a throwback, with nuclear families collaborating on homemade birthday parties complete with puppet shows. Her text, which reads like a collected lecture series, is sprinkled with obvious suggestions (parents should visit preschools and meet teachers before enrolling children) and concludes with a set of scenarios imagining different careers for one's "little fellow"—musician, mathematician, scientist—each usefully enriched by an imaginative childhood. Even if parents want "aesthetic rather than anesthetic children," Spitz's program seems rather ethereal. (Feb. 21)