Children’s Literature

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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children’s literature has a direct relationship with sweets: the text is not just sweet but is itself a sweet. “A is an apple pie,” reads one alphabet verse—a seventeenth-century ditty that continues to be re-illustrated up to the present, the drama of which is founded on the consumption of “A Apple Pie.” In Giles Gingerbread (1820), the whole alphabet is a confection: Giles learns to read with letters made of cake, studying his “gingerbread book” until “he gets it by heart, And then he eats it up, As we eat up a tart.” In some seventeenth-century Jewish teaching methods, new students are invited to lick honey from the alphabet. In these and other tales of edible alphabets, children’s literature and learning are presented as mouthwateringly enticing: sweet letters draw children in and children, in turn, draw those letters into themselves, where literature and literacy become part of their very formation, bodily and intellectually.