I was always taught that art should be a cohesive unit. If you take a piece out, it is an incomplete picture of a beautiful whole, and if you add to it, you destroy the intent. With this mentality, the concept of a series made no sense to me, because once you have completed your piece, you keep adding to it. I didn’t like that. Once a piece is a perfect, complete whole, the artist needs to accept the finality of the project, and move on to creating new discrete pieces of art. For a long time, I struggled with my anti-popularism bias and the constraints of my definitions before I realized that there was a huge flaw in my conceptualization of art. In the introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde puts forward a list of ideas about art, ending in this: “All art is quite useless.”
This final sentence of the introduction struck me as interesting. If all art is useless, than surely there must be literature that is useful, that doesn’t fall under the definition of art. It was this loophole that allowed me to consolidate series into my schema of literature. I started to consider the uses of literature, and how books could start and facilitate conversation between adults and children.
To do this, I referred to a book that started many conversations in my Children’s Hospital practicum: D.W. the Picky Eater by Marc Brown, part of the Arthur series. In this book D.W., Arthur’s little sister, is showcased as she overcomes her struggle with selective eating, realizing that some food she had prejudged is actually not that bad. D.W. is not a major character in most other Arthur books, and expanding the series to include this story provides a unique experience that children can relate to and learn from. The book uses the format of the series to reference previously conceived ideas and concepts that it can then build on and utilize to better explain their story. It also creates characters who children can relate to, facilitating empathy and generalization of the main ideas of the story.
A series is a unique form of communication that has its own advantages and constraints, and Arthur uses on these advantages to effectively communicate a message about trying new things.