Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 260–272

The Reality of Fiction and the Ethics of Storytelling in Eleanor Estes's The Witch Family

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10583-010-9108-x

Cite this article as:
Heinecken, D. Child Lit Educ (2010) 41: 260. doi:10.1007/s10583-010-9108-x


This essay examines Eleanor Estes's critically neglected 1960 novel The Witch Family, arguing that the novel anticipates some of the major preoccupations of later children’s literature in its early concern with issues of textuality. While Estes is largely known as a writer of simple family stories, The Witch Family is an innovative work of metafiction, which explicitly engages with a number of philosophical and literary-critical issues central to postmodern and poststructuralist discussion. Posing central and overt questions regarding the relationship between reality and fiction, the novel illustrates the contextual, communal, and relational aspects of language and finally suggests that the ability to tell stories ethically is tied to the recognition of one’s own contingent position within language.


Metafiction Subjectivity Ethics Storytelling 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Women’s and Gender StudiesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA