Jane Suzanne Carroll

Jane Suzanne Carroll

I am an Ussher Assistant Professor in Children's Literature at Trinity College Dublin and the co-director of the MPhil in Children's Literature.

Location Dublin, Ireland


  • I found this article very helpful as I've been told I may have to have a c-section. Can you explain why "a future normal vaginal birth is preferable" please? I was under the impression that VBAC was often complicated. Are there specific reasons why I should try to avoid a c-section even if I have indications for it?

  • Hi, I'm Jane from Dublin and I'm currently 27 weeks pregnant with my first baby. I'm taking this course because all the usual antenatal and birthing classes have been cancelled due to COVID so I'm keen to learn as much as I can about labour and birth before the big day comes...

  • This is a very good summary of The History of Little Goody Two Shoes - why do you think it was important for this book to be "easy to carry"?

  • It's a wonderful book and I wish it were more widely known. Do you think that some of the jokes in it (especially about the famous men) were there for adults who were reading along with children? Are there really two audiences for this book?

  • Absolutely! It was a real innovation for the time.

  • Thanks for alerting me to the issue with the link for the 1890 version. I'll see if I can find the problem and resolve it!

  • You make a good point here, Joy, about whether these images spoke to contemporary readers in different ways. In much the same way that we might now look at images from the early 20th century and see them as old-fashioned but know that they were modern for their day, some of these images on early modern frontispieces would have seemed fresh and exciting to...

  • It's really interesting to see the frontispiece as an advertisement for the artist as well as an advertisement for the book! Thanks for your comment!

  • This is a really interesting point, thank you! If the aim of this frontispiece is subversive, do you think readers would return to it after having read the poems to see it with fresh eyes? That the thin line curling around the tree could be a vine or a snake certainly opens the possibilities for multiple (and even conflicting) interpretations!

  • I don't think it's a lack of creativity! You can see from some of the other weeks the enormous range of images and illustrations - and techniques - used in the early modern period. There skills and imagination to create new images were definitely available which is why I'm always intrigued by the decision to re-use these illustrations over such a long period...

  • I suppose it depends on the child's prior experience. So often the images we choose to illustrate the alphabet assume a prior knowledge of certain things. So, if you were confident that the child already knows what a cat is or a tiger is, then those animals can represent C or T. But if they have no experience of iguanas, say, it's not very helpful to put a...

  • @EricJohnson Interestingly, the also used to make gingerbread biscuits/cookies shaped like hornbooks so that when the children had learned their lessons, they were allowed to eat the gingerbread - they internalised the ideas and then digested them!

  • Sounds like you have a whole early-years education system worked out! I like the combination of tactile/movable elements with the books too.

  • @VirginiaHunt You might be interested in this article about all the different ways "X" was shown in alphabet books before the invention of X-rays! https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/x-is-for X is for Xerxes and Xanthippe among other things! I wonder if the author here is referring to putting "xxx" at the end of a letter or note to indicate kisses...

  • Thank you for this link - the Y and Z in that alphabet book are wonderfully bizarre!

  • We do still see quite simple stories for very young readers today though - think about something like Roger Hargreaves's "Mr Men" books. Poor little Goody Two Shoes definitely comes up short if we compare it to a teen romance! But we have to remember that they were surely written for very different audiences and with different aims!

  • In my local library, they allow readers to mark the back endpapers with their initials in pencil to help them remember if they'd read a particular book before. It seems especially useful for fans of westerns or murder mysteries or romances that have very similar covers! As it's only the back endpapers it never interfered with anyone else's enjoyment of the book.

  • I grew up with this idea too! Always wash your hands before handling a book. Always use a book-mark and never, ever fold the pages down! I know many people who would be horrified by the idea of writing all over books and yet, when we do find that someone has broken the rules, it gives us unique insights into the past and into the ways books were used and read....

  • This is a good question, Janet! It might be a later, or different, Joseph Grubb who owned these books. Sometimes if a book is passed on like this it will have a dedication or a little note about the time of year it was given. To me it this is most likely the same Joseph who has returned to read and mark his book again but without other examples of the Joseph's...

  • @AnnHall Do you think it might be something that could be read twice - once by the parent or governess to the child and a second time by the child themselves when they are older? Or that it could be read in two different ways by children of different ages?

  • These are interesting questions - our ideas about what should appeal to children (and what we teach children that they should find appealing) have changed enormously over the centuries. As regards Newbery's Pocket Book - Tommy stands in for all boys just as Polly stands in for all girls. There don't seem to be any surviving balls or pincushions from the...

  • @YvonneWilliams Lots of socks in the period - https://kddandco.com/2014/05/05/a-brief-history-of-british-socks/ and if you're really interested, you can even follow this reproduction 18th century knitting pattern to make your own stockings: http://www.marariley.net/knitting/stocking-chart.htm

  • I find it really interesting that the expression has survived when knowledge of the story has not! It's quite hard to get hold of in print now but I think you'll find it a very quick read when you do get round to it.

  • It's a delightful book, isn't it? It's strange to think that it has fallen out of print now, considering some of the things that are still widely available from that period.

  • Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Patricia. I'm delighted that you found the illustrations so charming. I am also really taken with the illustrations of the seasons.

  • This is a good question. Are there other reasons why an author might want to conceal their identity? Do you think legal reasons or artistic reasons might be behind it? What motivates famous people (even today!) to write under false names?

  • It's interesting to see the title page as an advertisement to potential writers as potential readers! Thanks for sharing this!

  • @HughRobertson It's interesting to see how piracy - and fears of piracy - impact on authors and publishers. In the 19th century, Louisa May Alcott published two different versions of "Little Women" - one in America and one in Britain. The two texts differ a good deal. For one, the British edition separates out "Good Wives" from the first book. And some of the...

  • The term "flexible document" is really interesting! It's a useful way to describe these paratexts.

  • @IsabelvonSassen Lively trained as an historian and though she's probably more famous now as a writer of fiction (for adults and children), I think that her interests in history, and particularly landscape history, impact all of her work. If you're keen on landscape history, I can also recommend Jacquetta Hawkes's A Land and W.G. Hoskins's The Making of the...

  • He certainly knew about older printing techniques! When he was about 15 he was apprenticed to the painter and printer Michael Wolgemut who made books (and many woodcuts) at his workshop.

  • This is a lovely detail to pick out - thank you for sharing this!

  • @JanetP Indeed! There's a story that Blake learned how to print like this after the ghost of his brother appeared to him in a dream and showed him how to do this. It's a strange story but it certainly resulted in some exquisite and complex images!

  • These are good observations, Sharon. I'm interested too in the fact that both images show mothers (or at least female figures) reading to children. It's curious that we assume they are mothers rather than - for example - governesses. Given that both of these books were written by men, why do women play such an important role as readers here?

  • The pieces can be collected and reused but they never give quite the same smooth finish as the bigger sheets. Little pieces can be good for touch-ups though! It's a very tricky material to use.

  • Thanks for sharing this link with everyone, Andy. It's really interesting to compare the two frontispieces!

  • This is a very good close analysis of the frontispiece. Thank you for sharing this!

  • @PatriciaDraper It's amazing to realise how much our colour printing has developed even since the 20th century! Do you think the colour could have been added by a reader or is it more likely to be added by the printer?

  • Thanks for alerting us to this, Celia!

  • @MaryMac - you're right! The "Orbis Sensualium Pictus" is often thought of as the first picture book or the first illustrated book. Caxton's version of Aesop's Fable (1484) does have some illustrations too but it's not as heavily or richly illustrated as the Orbis Pictus...

  • @JeanneEames Good question! Often box wood or pear wood was used and engravers mostly used the "end grain" of the wood (the wood seen when you cut across the tree's growth rings at a 90 degree angle). This is a very durable cut and it's often used in butchers' blocks and chopping boards.

  • Thank you for sharing this! It's fascinating to see how different printing traditions developed and how different materials are used.