Dimensions of Amazement
A biography of the beloved novelist, pioneering critic, and champion of children's literature
Eleanor Cameron (1912-1996) was an innovative and genre-defying author of children's fiction and children's literature criticism. From her beginnings as a librarian, Cameron went on to become a prominent and respected voice in children's literature, writing one of the most beloved children's science fiction novels of all time, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, and later winning the National Book Award for her time fantasy The Court of the Stone Children.
In addition, Eleanor Cameron played an often vocal role in critical debates about children's literature. She was one of the first authors to take up literary criticism of children's novels and published two influential books of criticism, including The Green and Burning Tree. One of Cameron's most notable acts of criticism came in 1973, when she wrote a scathing critique of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl responded in kind, and the result was a fiery imbroglio within the pages of the Horn Book Magazine. Yet despite her many accomplishments, most of Cameron's books went out of print by the end of her life, and her star faded.
This biography aims to reinsert Cameron into the conversation by taking an in-depth look at her tumultuous early life in Ohio and California, her unforgettably forceful personality and criticism, and her graceful, heartfelt novels. The biography includes detailed analysis of the creative process behind each of her published works and how Cameron's feminism, environmentalism, and strong sense of ethics are reflected in and represented by her writings. Drawn from over twenty interviews, thousands of letters, and several unpublished manuscripts in her personal papers, Eleanor Cameron is a tour of the most exciting and creative periods of American children's literature through the experience of one of its valiant purveyors and champions.
"With his intimate knowledge of the sources and keen sense of empathy, Allen has succeeded in painting a vivid portrait of an unjustly somewhat forgotten figure so significant for the development and emancipation of North American children’s literature. Overall, this biography offers a seminal study of the life and work of an author whose classic Mushroom Planet science fiction books remain popular to this day. "- Jutta Reusch, International Youth Library, Bookbird: A Journal of International Children's Literature, Volume 58, Number 1, 2020
"Overall, this biography offers a seminal study of the life and work of an author whose classic Mushroom Planet science fiction books remain popular to this day. "- Jutta Reusch, International Youth Library, Bookbird
"Lucid, insightful, comprehensive, and gracefully written, Paul V. Allen's Eleanor Cameron: Dimensions of Amazement provides occasion for celebration as it invites a reexamination of the life and work of Eleanor Cameron, whose books have given pleasure to generations of young readers. "- Michael Cart, Booklist magazine columnist and critic
"This engrossing biography benefits from Paul V. Allen's clear style and structure, extensive but unobtrusive research, and vivid realization of Eleanor Cameron's complex presence during a dynamic period of development in children's literature. His critiques of her creative and critical work are both balanced and well contextualized. Such generous insights, combined with the compelling narrative arc, will send readers on a quest to find or revisit Cameron's oeuvre of twenty books and many more essays. "- Betsy Hearne, professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign