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The People in the Playground [Hardcover]

Iona Opie

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Book Description

April 29, 1993 0198112653 978-0198112655 y First edition
For nearly forty years Iona Opie worked with her husband, Peter, on a notable series of books on the traditional lore of childhood, among them Children's Games in Street and Playground, The Singing Game, and The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. As part of her fieldwork, she visited a local school playground every week, where she would write down events exactly as they happened, and conversations exactly as they were spoken. The result of these many years of observation, The People in the Playground is a startlingly honest portrait of children at play, at once charming and hilarious, alarming and poignant, and full of infectious vitality.
Here we meet the children of the Junior School playground in Liss--their favorite games, their silliest jokes, their engaging personalities. Opie provides much insight into children's play and human behavior: why crazes begin and stop so suddenly; the reasons for popularity and unpopularity; the ways in which new lore arrives on the playground; the unconcerned killing in the perennial game of "War"; or the tender commiseration for a friend who has stubbed his toe. She follows individual children week by week: the bully and his victim; the intellectual who would rather read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland than join in the games himself; the girl whose tragic home life can be forgotten as she plays a ring game; or the boy who is obsessed with gorillas. A group of boys offer Opie their version of tag ("There's someone got hayfever, right? He catches another one and they get hayfever. And they get tagged by someone who's free and they're all right.") A young girl asks why Opie is writing everything down, and then presents her own rendition of "Popeye the Sailors Man" for the record. And on a rainy day unsuitable for their regular games, a vivacious child offers her very best jokes:"I'm the one who tells you jokes--ta ra! Here's another one. What's the most unfortunate letter in the alphabet? Will you write it down, please. I like you writing them down," she says to Opie and continues, "The letter U--because whenever there's trouble you always find U in the middle of it."
No one has previously attempted to describe and record life in a playground while it is actually happening. In these pages are rich and startling portraits of children at play: their art of storytelling, the friendships and enmities, the excited interest in sex, the diversity of characters, and above all, the hilarity which pervades the playground, creating entertainment out of trivialities.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Opie eavesdropped on the morning playtime of British schoolchildren, jotting down their playground conversations, punchy rhymes, games, fights and sexual and scatological stories and jokes. Covering the period from 1978 to 1980, this record of her fieldwork attests to the longevity of children's lore, showing how it is transmitted from child to child. Coauthor or editor with her late husband Peter of such books as The Singing Game and The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book , she draws on her playground observations to support her conviction that "innate" and "ineradicable" differences exist between the sexes. Boys, she asserts, are more egotistical, competitive, aggressive and daring than girls, whereas girls are more helpful and patient and take far more interest in people than do boys. This interesting log reveals play to be an avenue of escape from childhood's pervasive fears and anxieties.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Folklorist Opie has already analyzed the life of children at play in three previous books, Children's Games in Street and Playground ( LJ 1/15/70), The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (Oxford Univ. Pr., 1987), and The Singing Game ( LJ 5/1/85). For this latest, she took pen and notebook to a playground to record all the chatter, jokes, games, and goings-on during re cess. The result is a ribald, honest collection of anecdotes and stories by and about children (who call themselves "people") at play. American readers will be struck by the differences in language and usage and also in the games and ways kids pass the time. Interest in food is second only to sexual jokes and innuendos, which fill every chapter. Opie spent several years at the playground to make observations and enjoy the mystery of "people" at play. Recommended for collections serving social historians and folklorists.
- Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; y First edition edition (April 29, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198112653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198112655
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,478,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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