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The Action-Adventure Heroine
Rediscovering an American Literary Character, 1697–1895
Sandra Wilson Smith
University of Tennessee Press, 2018
Found in scores of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American narratives, the action-adventure heroine leaves the domestic space to pursue an independent adventure. This bold heroine tramps alone through the forests, demonstrates tremendous physical strength, braves dangers without hesitation, enters the public realm to earn money, and even kills her enemies when necessary. Despite her transgressions of social norms, the narrator portrays this heroine in a positive light and lauds her for her bravery and daring. The Action-Adventure Heroine offers a wide-ranging look at this enigmatic character in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature. 

Unlike the “tomboy” or the American frontierswoman, this more encompassing figure has been understudied until now. The action-adventure heroine has special relevance today, as scholars are forcefully challenging the once-dominant separate-spheres paradigm and offering alternative interpretations of gender conventions in nineteenth-century America. The hard-body action heroine in our contemporary popular culture is often assumed to be largely a product of the twentieth-century television and film industries (and therefore influenced by the women’s movement); however, physically strong, agile, sometimes violent female figures have appeared in American popular culture and literature for a very long time. 

Smith analyzes captivity narratives, war narratives, stories of manifest destiny, dime novels, and tales of seduction to reveal the long literary history of female protagonists who step into traditionally masculine heroic roles to win the day. Smith’s study includes such authors as Herman Mann, Mercy Otis Warren, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, E.D.E.N. Southworth, Edward L. Wheeler, and many more who are due for critical reassessment. In examining the female hero—with her strength, physicality, and violence—in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century American narratives, The Action-Adventure Heroine represents an important contribution to the field of American studies. 
 
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Beasts at Bedtime
Revealing the Environmental Wisdom in Children’s Literature
Liam Heneghan
University of Chicago Press, 2018
Talking lions, philosophical bears, very hungry caterpillars, wise spiders, altruistic trees, companionable moles, urbane elephants: this is the magnificent menagerie that delights our children at bedtime. Within the entertaining pages of many children’s books, however, also lie profound teachings about the natural world that can help children develop an educated and engaged appreciation of the dynamic environment they inhabit.
 
In Beasts at Bedtime, scientist (and father) Liam Heneghan examines the environmental underpinnings of children’s stories. From Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories. Some of the largest environmental challenges in coming years—from climate instability, the extinction crisis, freshwater depletion, and deforestation—are likely to become even more severe as this generation of children grows up. Though today’s young readers will bear the brunt of these environmental calamities, they will also be able to contribute to environmental solutions if prepared properly. And all it takes is an attentive eye: Heneghan shows how the nature curriculum is already embedded in bedtime stories, from the earliest board books like The Rainbow Fish to contemporary young adult classics like The Hunger Games.
 
Beasts at Bedtime is an awakening to the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide—from the misadventures of The Runaway Bunny to more overt tales like The Lorax. Heneghan serves as our guide, drawing richly upon his own adolescent and parental experiences, as well as his travels in landscapes both experienced and imagined. Organized into thematic sections, the work winds its way through literary forests, colorful characters, and global environments.
 
This book enthralls as it engages. Heneghan as a guide is as charming as he is insightful, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Beasts at Bedtime will help parents, teachers, and guardians extend those cozy times curled up together with a good book into a lifetime of caring for our planet. 
 
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Bookwomen
Creating an Empire in Children’s Book Publishing, 1919–1939
Jacalyn Eddy
University of Wisconsin Press, 2006

The most comprehensive account of the women who, as librarians, editors, and founders of the Horn Book, shaped the modern children's book industry between 1919 and 1939. The lives of Anne Carroll Moore, Alice Jordan, Louise Seaman Bechtel, May Massee, Bertha Mahony Miller, and Elinor Whitney Field open up for readers the world of female professionalization. What emerges is a vivid illustration of some of the cultural debates of the time, including concerns about "good reading" for children and about women's negotiations between domesticity and participation in the paid labor force and the costs and payoffs of professional life.

Published in collaboration among the University of Wisconsin Press, the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America (a joint program of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Wisconsin Historical Society), and the University of Wisconsin–Madison General Library System Office of Scholarly Communication.

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Boo-Tickle Tales
Not-So-Scary Stories for Ages 4-9
Lynette Ford & Sherry Norfolk
Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2016

 The attraction of scary stories begins very early in childhood, but the fortitude to be truly scared comes later. So where are the scary stories for young children? Educators and storytellers, Ford and Norfolk deliver a silly and gently spooky collection of jumps, laughs, interactive moments, and mostly happy endings to satisfy the curious-for-creepy Pre-K through Grade 4 set. Their weirdly funny and gently scary collection of adapted folktales, original stories, and verses will delight those who enjoy being surprised more than being scared. 

This book is for: 

Parents, grandparents, and other mentors who work with children developmentally aged 4 to 9 

Educators, librarians and others serving young listeners, who like silly and creepy stories, but may not like very scary material 

Audiences ages 4-9, who like creepy but not-too-scary stories. 

Twelve pen-and-ink drawings based on folktale motifs complement the fanciful tone of the book.

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Children's Literature
A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter
Seth Lerer
University of Chicago Press, 2008

Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children’s literature. Children’s Literature charts the makings of the Western literary imagination from Aesop’s fables to Mother Goose, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to Peter Pan, from Where the Wild Things Are to Harry Potter.

The only single-volume work to capture the rich and diverse history of children’s literature in its full panorama, this extraordinary book reveals why J. R. R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, and many others, despite their divergent styles and subject matter, have all resonated with generations of readers. Children’s Literature is an exhilarating quest across centuries, continents, and genres to discover how, and why, we first fall in love with the written word.

“Lerer has accomplished something magical. Unlike the many handbooks to children’s literature that synopsize, evaluate, or otherwise guide adults in the selection of materials for children, this work presents a true critical history of the genre. . . . Scholarly, erudite, and all but exhaustive, it is also entertaining and accessible. Lerer takes his subject seriously without making it dull.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Lerer’s history reminds us of the wealth of literature written during the past 2,600 years. . . . With his vast and multidimensional knowledge of literature, he underscores the vital role it plays in forming a child’s imagination. We are made, he suggests, by the books we read.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“There are dazzling chapters on John Locke and Empire, and nonsense, and Darwin, but Lerer’s most interesting chapter focuses on girls’ fiction. . . . A brilliant series of readings.”—Diane Purkiss, Times Literary Supplement

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Children’s Literature and Old Norse Medievalism
David Clark
Arc Humanities Press, 2023
This book explores the ways in which contemporary authors respond to and rework key aspects of Old Norse history and viking culture for young twenty-first-century audiences. Why are contemporary authors and audiences so manifestly attracted to the viking past? In what ways do writers respond to Norse sources? How do the narratives they tell reflect our beliefs about and desires for the past, our constructions of childhood and adolescence, our anxieties around gender, sexuality, and ethnicity? How do these texts engage with a future occluded by apocalyptic ecological threat? David Clark explores these questions through readings of a rich body of diverse material which retells, updates, and transforms Norse culture. The volume contextualizes Norse medievalism and explores how thematic foci on gender, sexuality, disability, and ethnicity relate to contemporary concerns around these topics, and the construction of childhood.
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Children's Literature in the Nordic World
Charlotte Appel and NIna Christensen
University of Wisconsin Press, 2021
This volume introduces an international readership to the role books have played in the lives and upbringing of young people in the Nordic countries from the 1750s until today. Charlotte Appel and Nina Christensen look beyond an overview of noteworthy texts and characters to address the region’s distinctive reading cultures and the interactions between literature and changing views of childhood, with a special focus on Denmark.

The emergence of a dedicated market for children’s books in the Global North coincided with national school reforms, when Luther’s Small Catechism started to be supplemented—or replaced—by new books published for and about young readers, learners, and citizens. Children’s use of books and media is closely related to adults’ wishes to influence the present and future of a child through instruction, entertainment, or play. Chapters point to strong continuities as well as remarkable changes in the relationships between child readers and adult authors, artists, publishers, teachers, librarians, and parents through the centuries.

Focusing on children as the central users and producers of texts, this interdisciplinary and transnational history shows how children’s exposure to and use of media impacted the Nordic welfare state, and vice versa. As narratives for young audiences are continuously rewritten, republished, and adapted into new forms, this pithy synthesis brings forward new knowledge about the material and social history of books, literature, and childhood.
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Choosing Books for Children
A COMMONSENSE GUIDE
Betsy Hearne with Deborah Stevenson
University of Illinois Press, 1999

If you have ever stood in the children's section of a bookstore or library wondering how to go about matching a book to the age, abilities, and interests of a particular child, Choosing Children's Books is for you. Renowned children's librarian and children's book review editor Betsy Hearne offers practical guidance on sorting through the bewildering array of picture books, pop-up books, books for beginning readers, young adult titles, classics, poetry, folktales, and factual books. Each chapter includes an annotated list of recommended titles.

A gold mine of commonsense, sound advice, this newly revised and completely updated edition of Betsy Hearne's classic guide is an indispensable tool for choosing books for children of all ages.

Newly available in paperback, this revised and updated third edition of Betsy Hearne's classic guide stands as the lodestar for navigating through the bewildering array of books for young readers. Hearne surveys everything from picture books, pop-up books, classics, and books for beginning readers to young adult titles, poetry, folktales, and factual books, with an annotated list of recommended titles accompanying each chapter. A gold mine of common sense and sound advice, her guide remains an indispensable tool for choosing books for children of all ages.

 
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Coining for Capital
Movies, Marketing, and the Transformation of Childhood
Kapur, Jyotsna
Rutgers University Press, 2005
"This book is a welcome addition to the literature on children and the media, and a most stimulating application of social theory to questions of the child in contemporary film and consumer culture."—Ellen Seiter, author of The Internet Playground: Children's Access, Entertainment and Mis-Education

Since the 1980s, a peculiar paradox has evolved in American film. Hollywood’s children have grown up, and the adults are looking and behaving more and more like children. In popular films such as Harry Potter, Toy Story, Pocahantas, Home Alone, and Jumanji, it is the children who are clever, savvy, and self-sufficient while the adults are often portrayed as bumbling and ineffective.

Is this transformation of children into "little adults" an invention of Hollywood or a product of changing cultural definitions more broadly? In Coining for Capital, Jyostna Kapur explores the evolution of the concept of childhood from its portrayal in the eighteenth century as a pure, innocent, and idyllic state—the opposite of adulthood—to its expression today as a mere variation of adulthood, complete with characteristics of sophistication, temptation, and corruption. Kapur argues that this change in definition is not a media effect, but rather a structural feature of a deeply consumer-driven society.

Providing a new and timely perspective on the current widespread alarm over the loss of childhood, Coining for Capital concludes that our present moment is in fact one of hope and despair. As children are fortunately shedding false definitions of proscribed innocence both in film and in life, they must now also learn to navigate a deeply inequitable, antagonistic, and consumer-driven society of which they are both a part and a target.

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The Consent of the Governed
The Lockean Legacy in Early American Culture
Gillian Brown
Harvard University Press, 2001

What made the United States what it is began long before a shot was fired at a redcoat in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1775. It began quietly in homes and schoolrooms across the colonies in the reading lessons women gave to children. Just as the Protestant revolt originated in a practice of individual reading of the Bible, so the theories of reading developed by John Locke were the means by which a revolutionary attitude toward authority was disseminated throughout the British colonies in North America that would come to form in the United States. Gillian Brown takes us back to the basics to understand why Americans value the right to individual self-determination above all other values. It all begins with children.

Locke crucially linked consent with childhood, and it is his formulation of the child's natural right to consent that eighteenth-century Americans learned as they learned to read through Lockean-style pedagogies and textbooks. Tracing the Lockean legacy through the New England Primer and popular readers, fables, and fairy tales, Brown demonstrates how Locke's emphasis on the liberty--and difficulty--of individual judgment became a received notion in the American colonies.

After the revolution, American consent discourse features a different prototype of individuality; instead of wronged children, images of seduced or misguided women predominate postrevolutionary culture. The plights of these women display the difficulties of consent that Locke from the start realized. Individuals continually confront standards and prejudices at odds with their own experiences and judgments. Thus, the Lockean legacy to the United States is the reminder of the continual work to be done to endow every individual with consent and to make consent matter.

What emerged in America was a new and different attitude toward authority in which authority does not belong to the elders but to the upcoming generations and groups. To effect this dramatic a change in the values of humankind took a grassroots revolution. That's what this book is about.

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Dangerous Children
On Seven Novels and a Story
Kenneth Gross
University of Chicago Press, 2022
Gross explores our complex fascination with uncanny children in works of fiction.
 
Ranging from Victorian to modern works—Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, Henry James’s What Maisie Knew, J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, Franz Kafka’s “The Cares of a Family Man,” Richard Hughes’s A High Wind in Jamaica, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart, and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—Kenneth Gross’s book delves into stories that center around the figure of a strange and dangerous child.
 
Whether written for adults or child readers, or both at once, these stories all show us odd, even frightening visions of innocence. We see these children’s uncanny powers of speech, knowledge, and play, as well as their nonsense and violence. And, in the tales, these child-lives keep changing shape. These are children who are often endangered as much as dangerous, haunted as well as haunting. They speak for lost and unknown childhoods. In looking at these narratives, Gross traces the reader’s thrill of companionship with these unpredictable, often solitary creatures—children curious about the adult world, who while not accommodating its rules, fall into ever more troubling conversations with adult fears and desires. This book asks how such imaginary children, objects of wonder, challenge our ways of seeing the world, our measures of innocence and experience, and our understanding of time and memory.
 
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Disturbing the Universe
Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature
Roberta S. Trites
University of Iowa Press, 2004

 The Young Adult novel is ordinarily characterized as a coming-of-age story, in which the narrative revolves around the individual growth and maturation of a character, but Roberta Trites expands this notion by chronicling the dynamics of power and repression that weave their way through YA books. Characters in these novels must learn to negotiate the levels of power that exist in the myriad social institutions within which they function, including family, church, government, and school.

Trites argues that the development of the genre over the past thirty years is an outgrowth of postmodernism, since YA novels are, by definition, texts that interrogate the social construction of individuals. Drawing on such nineteenth-century precursors as Little Women and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Disturbing the Universe demonstrates how important it is to employ poststructuralist methodologies in analyzing adolescent literature, both in critical studies and in the classroom. Among the twentieth-century authors discussed are Blume, Hamilton, Hinton, Le Guin, L'Engle, and Zindel.

Trites' work has applications for a broad range of readers, including scholars of children's literature and theorists of post-modernity as well as librarians and secondary-school teachers.

Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature by Roberta Seelinger Trites is the winner of the 2002 Children's Literature Association's Book Award. The award is given annually in order to promote and recognize outstanding contributions to children's literature, history, scholarship, and criticisim; it is one of the highest academic honors that can accrue to an author of children's literary criticism.

 
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Dreaming America
Popular Front Ideals and Aesthetics in Children's Plays of the Federal Theatre Project
Leslie Elaine Frost
The Ohio State University Press, 2013
Dreaming America: Popular Front Ideals and Aesthetics in Children’s Plays of the Federal Theatre Project by Leslie Elaine Frost traces how the tumultuous politics of the late 1930s shaped the stories and staging of federally funded plays for children. Indeed, children’s theater was central to the Federal Theatre Project’s vision of building a national theater. Frost argues that representations of the child and childhood in the FTP children’s plays stage the hopes and anxieties of a nation destabilized by both economic collapse and technological advances. A declining economy and the first stagnant birthrate in three centuries yoked the national economy to the individual family. Profound disagreements over appropriate models of education and parenting, as well as over issues of ethnicity and class, constituted fundamental arguments over democratic values and social norms.
 
Frost locates these plays within the immediate context of the production materials in the FTP archives, as well as within the broader culture of the Great Depression, drawing on disparate primary materials—from parenting magazines to strike literature to political journals—and referencing a range of popular events—from the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fights to Hollywood movies.
 
As the focus of Depression-era adult anxieties and hopes and as the embodiment of vigor, dynamism, and growth, children carried symbolic value both as the future of America and as the America of the future. Frost examines representative plays’ connections to other media, culture, and politics to situate their singular trajectories in the social history of the Federal Theatre Project and Popular Front culture.
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The Education of Things
Mechanical Literacy in British Children's Literature, 1762–1860
Elizabeth Massa Hoiem
University of Massachusetts Press, 2023

By the close of the eighteenth century, learning to read and write became closely associated with learning about the material world, and a vast array of games and books from the era taught children how to comprehend the physical world of “things.” Examining a diverse archive of popular science books, primers, grammars, toys, manufacturing books, automata, and literature from Maria Edgeworth, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Anna Letitia Barbauld, The Education of Things attests that material culture has long been central to children’s literature.

Elizabeth Massa Hoiem argues that the combination of reading and writing with manual tinkering and scientific observation promoted in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain produced new forms of “mechanical literacy,” competencies that were essential in an industrial era. As work was repositioned as play, wealthy children were encouraged to do tasks in the classroom that poor children performed for wages, while working-class children honed skills that would be crucial to their social advancement as adults.

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Fairy Tales and After
From Snow White to E. B. White
Roger Sale
Harvard University Press, 1978

Roger Sale invites us to discover anew some of the great works of children's literature, works that have been read and loved but seldom given the benefit of serious literary assessment. It takes a critic of special gifts—receptiveness, discrimination, clarity of perception, independence of judgment—to discuss these books as illuminatingly as Sale does.

This is not a survey but a very personal book: Sale writes about stories and books with which he feels an imaginative sympathy. As it happens, they include a great many of the classic children's texts, works as disparate as “Beauty and the Beast” and Alice, The Wind in the Willows and Babar, “The Snow Queen” and Peter Rabbit, the Jungle Book and the Oz books. He conveys a fresh sense of what is special and memorable about each of them.

While avoiding conventional literary history, he sketches the circumstances of the author's life when they provide insight into the works. Unlike Bettelheim and others, Sale is not concerned with the “uses” of children's literature. He writes for adults, with the conviction that adults can find delight in these books. Many already do, and perhaps with his stimulus, many more will.

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"Fame Is Not Just for the Fellas"
Female Renown and the Childhood of Famous Americans Series
Gregory M. Pfitzer
University of Massachusetts Press, 2022

Finalist of the 2023 SHARP History of the Book Prize

Between 1932 and 1958, thousands of children read volumes in the book series Childhood of Famous Americans. With colorful cover art and compelling—and often highly fictionalized—narrative storylines, these biographies celebrated the national virtues and achievements of famous women like Betsy Ross, Louisa May Alcott, and Amelia Earhart. Employing deep archival research, Gregory M. Pfitzer examines the editorial and production choices of the publisher and considers the influence of the series on readers and American culture more broadly.

In telling the story of how female subjects were chosen and what went into writing these histories for young female readers of the time, Pfitzer illustrates how these books shaped children’s thinking and historical imaginations around girlhood using tales from the past. Utilizing documented conversations and disagreements among authors, editors, readers, reviewers, and sales agents at Bobbs-Merrill, “Fame Is Not Just for the Fellas” places the series in the context of national debates around fame, gender, historical memory, and portrayals of children and childhood for a young reading public—charged debates that continue to this day.

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Frank Merriwell and the Fiction of All-American Boyhood
The Progressive Era Creation of the Schoolboy Sports Story
Ryan K. Anderson
University of Arkansas Press, 2015
Gilbert Patten, writing as Burt L. Standish, made a career of generating serialized twenty-thousand-word stories featuring his fictional creation Frank Merriwell, a student athlete at Yale University who inspired others to emulate his example of manly boyhood. Patten and his publisher, Street and Smith, initially had only a general idea about what would constitute Merriwell’s adventures and who would want to read about them when they introduced the hero in the dime novel Tip Top Weekly in 1896, but over the years what took shape was a story line that capitalized on middle-class fears about the insidious influence of modern life on the nation’s boys.

Merriwell came to symbolize the Progressive Era debate about how sport and school made boys into men. The saga featured the attractive Merriwell distinguishing between “good” and “bad” girls and focused on his squeaky-clean adventures in physical development and mentorship. By the serial’s conclusion, Merriwell had opened a school for “weak and wayward boys” that made him into a figure who taught readers how to approximate his example.

In Frank Merriwell and the Fiction of All-American Boyhood, Anderson treats Tip Top Weekly as a historical artifact, supplementing his reading of its text, illustrations, reader letters, and advertisements with his use of editorial correspondence, memoirs, trade journals, and legal documents. Anderson blends social and cultural history, with the history of business, gender, and sport, along with a general examination of childhood and youth in this fascinating study of how a fictional character was used to promote a homogeneous “normal” American boyhood rooted in an assumed pecking order of class, race, and gender.
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Freud in Oz
At the Intersections of Psychoanalysis and Children’s Literature
Kenneth B. Kidd
University of Minnesota Press, 2011

Children’s literature has spent decades on the psychiatrist’s couch, submitting to psychoanalysis by scores of scholars and popular writers alike. Freud in Oz turns the tables, suggesting that psychoanalysts owe a significant and largely unacknowledged debt to books ostensibly written for children. In fact, Kenneth B. Kidd argues, children’s literature and psychoanalysis have influenced and interacted with each other since Freud published his first case studies.

In Freud in Oz, Kidd shows how psychoanalysis developed in part through its engagement with children’s literature, which it used to articulate and dramatize its themes and methods, turning first to folklore and fairy tales, then to materials from psychoanalysis of children, and thence to children’s literary texts, especially such classic fantasies as Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He traces how children’s literature, and critical response to it, aided the popularization of psychoanalytic theory. With increasing acceptance of psychoanalysis came two new genres of children’s literature—known today as picture books and young adult novels—that were frequently fashioned as psychological in their forms and functions.

Freud in Oz offers a history of reigning theories in the study of children’s literature and psychoanalysis, providing fresh insights on a diversity of topics, including the view that Maurice Sendak and Bruno Bettelheim can be thought of as rivals, that Sendak’s makeover of monstrosity helped lead to the likes of the Muppets, and that “Poohology” is its own kind of literary criticism—serving up Winnie the Pooh as the poster bear for theorists of widely varying stripes.

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From Alice to Algernon
The Evolution of Child Consciousness in the Novel
Holly Blackford
University of Tennessee Press, 2018
During the late Victorian period, Charles Darwin’s theories took the world by storm, and the impact of evolution on research into the developing human mind was impossible to overlook. Thereafter the study of children and childhood became a means to theorize, imagine, and apply the concept of evolution in a broad range of cultural productions. Beginning with the watershed Victorian era, From Alice to Algernon: The Evolution of Child Consciousness in the Novel examines the creative transformation these theories underwent as they filtered through the modern novel, especially those that examined the mind of the child. 

By examining the connection between authors and trends in child psychology, author Holly Blackford explains why many modern novels began to focus on child cognition as a site for intellectual and artistic exploration. In each chapter of this book, select novels of the late-nineteenth or twentieth century are paired with a specific moment or movement from the history of developmental psychology. Novels such as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Henry James’s What Maisie Knew, or Radclyffe Hall’s less-canonical The Well of Loneliness and even Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, showcase major questions about human epistemology through their child characters. From Lewis Carroll’s Alice and her looking-glass to Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas and the murder of Mary Dalton to the chaotic Neverland—symbolizing the unmappable child’s brain—a literary tradition of child consciousness has emerged as an experimental site for the unstable concepts of evolution, civilization, and development. 

By situating literature about children within concurrent psychological discourses, Blackford demonstrates how the modern novel contributed to the world’s understanding of the boundless wonders and discernible limits of child consciousness.
 
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"From Boys to Men"
The Boy Problem and the Childhood of Famous Americans Series
Gregory M. Pfitzer
University of Massachusetts Press, 2024

While adult concern about gender in children’s books has made recent headlines, this discussion is far from new. As Gregory M. Pfitzer reveals, the writers and editors at Bobbs-Merrill, the publisher of the Childhood of Famous Americans book series published between 1932 and 1958, thought carefully about how their books would influence the development of their male readers. These books emphasized inspiring tales over historical accuracy and were written in simple language, with characters, dialogue, and stories that were intended to teach boys how to be successful men.

But this was a specific image of American manhood. Published in an era when sociologists, psychologists, and other experts worried about male delinquency, the men envisioned in these books were steeped in Cold War racial and gender stereotypes, and questions about citizenship and responsibility. Based on deep archival research into the publication history of the series, “From Boys to Men” sheds light on current controversies on children’s books and presentations of gender diversity.

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From Little Houses to Little Women
Revisiting a Literary Childhood
Nancy McCabe
University of Missouri Press, 2018
A typical travel book takes readers along on a trip with the author, but a great travel book does much more than that, inviting readers along on a mental and spiritual journey as well. This distinction is what separates Nancy McCabe’s From Little Houses to Little Women from the typical and allows it to take its place not only as a great travel book but also as a memoir about the children’s books that have shaped all of our imaginations.

McCabe, who grew up in Kansas just a few hours from the Ingalls family’s home in Little House on the Prairie, always felt a deep connection with Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series. McCabe read Little House on the Prairie during her childhood and visited Wilder sites around the Midwest with her aunt when she was thirteen. But then she didn’t read the series again until she decided to revisit in adulthood the books that had so influenced her childhood. It was this decision that ultimately sparked her desire to visit the places that inspired many of her childhood favorites, taking her on a journey that included stops in the Missouri of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Minnesota of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Massachusetts of Louisa May Alcott, and even the Canada of Lucy Maud Montgomery.

From Little Houses to Little Women reveals McCabe’s powerful connection to the characters and authors who inspired many generations of readers. Traveling with McCabe as she rediscovers the books that shaped her and ultimately helped her to forge her own path, readers will enjoy revisiting their own childhood favorites as well.
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Growing Up Graphic
The Comics of Children in Crisis
Alison Halsall
The Ohio State University Press, 2023
In Growing Up Graphic, Alison Halsall considers graphic texts for young readers to interrogate how they help children develop new ideas about social justice and become potential agents of change. With a focus on comics that depict difficult experiences affecting young people, Halsall explores the complexities of queer graphic memoirs, narratives of belonging, depictions of illness and disability, and explorations of Indigenous experiences. She discusses, among others, Child Soldier by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine, War Brothers by Sharon E. McKay, Baddawi by Leila Abdelrazaq, Matt Huynh’s interactive adaptation of Nam Le’s The Boat, and David Alexander Robertson’s 7 Generations. These examples contest images of childhood victimization, passivity, and helplessness, instead presenting young people as social actors who attempt to make sense of the challenges that affect them. In considering comics for children and about children, Growing Up Graphic centers a previously underexplored vein of graphic narratives and argues that these texts offer important insights into the interests and capabilities of children as readers. 
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HandiLand
The Crippest Place on Earth
Elizabeth A. Wheeler
University of Michigan Press, 2019

HandiLand looks at young adult novels, fantasy series, graphic memoirs, and picture books of the last 25 years in which characters with disabilities take center stage for the first time. These books take what others regard as weaknesses—for instance, Harry Potter’s headaches or Hazel Lancaster’s oxygen tank—and redefine them as part of the hero’s journey. HandiLand places this movement from sidekick to hero in the political contexts of disability rights movements in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ghana.
 
Elizabeth A. Wheeler invokes the fantasy of HandiLand, an ideal society ready for young people with disabilities before they get there, as a yardstick to measure how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go toward the goal of total inclusion. The book moves through the public spaces young people with disabilities have entered, including schools, nature, and online communities. As a disabled person and parent of children with disabilities, Wheeler offers an inside look into families who collude with their kids in shaping a better world. Moving, funny, and beautifully written, HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth is the definitive study of disability in contemporary literature for young readers.

 

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Hans Christian Andersen
The Life of a Storyteller
Jackie Wullschlager
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Beloved by generations of children and adults around the world for tales such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Emperor's New Clothes," Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) revolutionized children's literature. Although others before him had collected and retold folk stories and fairy tales, Andersen was the first to create the stories himself, instilling a previously stilted genre with new humor, wisdom, and pathos.

Drawing on letters, diaries, and other original sources (many never before translated from the Danish), Wullschlager shows in this compelling, extensively researched biography how Andersen's writings—darker and more diverse than previously recognized—reflected the complexities of his life, a far cry from the "happily ever after" of a fairy tale. As we follow in his footsteps from Golden Age Copenhagen to the princely courts of Germany and the villas of southern Italy, Andersen becomes a figure every bit as fascinating as a character from one of his stories—a gawky, self-pitying, and desperate man, but also one of the most gifted storytellers the world has ever known.
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Inventing Edward Lear
Sara Lodge
Harvard University Press, 2019

Inventing Edward Lear is an exceptional, valuable, original study, presenting new materials on aspects of Lear’s life and work.”
—Jenny Uglow, author of Mr. Lear and The Lunar Men


Edward Lear wrote some of the best-loved poems in English, including “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but the father of nonsense was far more than a poet. He was a naturalist, a brilliant landscape painter, an experimental travel writer, and an accomplished composer. Sara Lodge presents the fullest account yet of Lear’s passionate engagement in the intellectual, social, and cultural life of his times.

Lear had a difficult start in life. He was epileptic, asthmatic, and depressive, but even as a child a consummate performer who projected himself into others’ affections. He became, by John James Audubon’s estimate, one of the greatest ornithological artists of the age. Queen Victoria—an admirer—chose him to be her painting teacher. He popularized the limerick, set Tennyson’s verse to music, and opened fresh doors for children and adults to share fantasies of magical escape. Lodge draws on diaries, letters, and new archival sources to paint a vivid picture of Lear that explores his musical influences, his religious nonconformity, his relationship with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and the connections between his scientific and artistic work. He invented himself as a character: awkward but funny, absurdly sympathetic. In Lodge’s hands, Lear emerges as a dynamic and irreverent polymath whose conversation continues to draw us in.

Inventing Edward Lear is an original and moving account of one of the most intriguing and creative of all Victorians.

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The Ivory Tower, Harry Potter, and Beyond
More Essays on the Works of J. K. Rowling
Edited with an Introduction by Lana A. Whited
University of Missouri Press, 2024
In her follow-up to The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter, Lana A. Whited has compiled a new collection of essays analyzing the books, films, and other media by J. K. Rowling. This includes pieces on the Harry Potter books and movies, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (films), The Cursed Child (play), as well as her writing outside the wizarding universe, such as The Ickabog, The Casual Vacancy, and the Cormoran Strike series. Many of the chapters explore works that influenced the Harry Potter series, including Classical epic, Shakespearian comedy and tragedy, and Arthurian myth. In addition to literary comparison, the volume delves into topics like political authoritarianism, distrust of the media, racial and social justice, and developments in fandom. It’s fair to say that much has changed in regard to Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling scholarship in the twenty years since the first volume’s publication. While it was once considered a universally beloved book series, the relationship between HP and its fans has grown more complicated in recent years. As its readers have grown older and Rowling’s reputation has wavered in the public eye, Whited and her contributors consider the complicated legacy of Harry Potter and its author and explore how the series will evolve in the next twenty years.
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A Literature of Questions
Nonfiction for the Critical Child
Joe Sutliff Sanders
University of Minnesota Press, 2018

Nonfiction books for children—from biographies and historical accounts of communities and events to works on science and social justice—have traditionally been most highly valued by educators and parents for their factual accuracy. This approach, however, misses an opportunity for young readers to participate in the generation and testing of information. 

In A Literature of Questions, Joe Sutliff Sanders offers an innovative theoretical approach to children’s nonfiction that goes beyond an assessment of a work’s veracity to develop a book’s equivocation as a basis for interpretation. Addressing how such works are either vulnerable or resistant to critical engagement, Sanders pays special attention to the attributes that nonfiction shares with other forms of literature, including voice and character, and those that play a special role in the genre, such as peritexts and photography. 

The first book-length work to theorize children’s nonfiction as nonfiction from a literary perspective, A Literature of Questions carefully explains how the genre speaks in unique ways to its young readers and how it invites them to the project of understanding. At the same time, it clearly lays out a series of techniques for analysis, which it then applies and nuances through extensive close readings and case studies of books published over the past half century, including recent award-winning books such as Tanya Lee Stone’s Almost Astronauts: Thirteen Women Who Dared to Dream and We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson. By looking at a text’s willingness or reluctance to let children interrogate its information and ideological context, Sanders reveals how nonfiction can make young readers part of the project of learning rather than passive recipients of information.

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Little House, Long Shadow
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture
Anita Clair Fellman
University of Missouri Press, 2008

Beyond their status as classic children’s stories, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books play a significant role in American culture that most people cannot begin to appreciate. Millions of children have sampled the books in school; played out the roles of Laura and Mary; or visited Wilder homesites with their parents, who may be fans themselves. Yet, as Anita Clair Fellman shows, there is even more to this magical series with its clear emotional appeal: a covert political message that made many readers comfortable with the resurgence of conservatism in the Reagan years and beyond.

In Little House, Long Shadow, a leading Wilder scholar offers a fresh interpretation of the Little House books that examines how this beloved body of children’s literature found its way into many facets of our culture and consciousness—even influencing the responsiveness of Americans to particular political views. Because both Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, opposed the New Deal programs being implemented during the period in which they wrote, their books reflect their use of family history as an argument against the state’s protection of individuals from economic uncertainty. Their writing emphasized the isolation of the Ingalls family and the family’s resilience in the face of crises and consistently equated self-sufficiency with family acceptance, security, and warmth.

Fellman argues that the popularity of these books—abetted by Lane’s overtly libertarian views—helped lay the groundwork for a negative response to big government and a positive view of political individualism, contributing to the acceptance of contemporary conservatism while perpetuating a mythic West. Beyond tracing the emergence of this influence in the relationship between Wilder and her daughter, Fellman explores the continuing presence of the books—and their message—in modern cultural institutions from classrooms to tourism, newspaper editorials to Internet message boards.

Little House, Long Shadow shows how ostensibly apolitical artifacts of popular culture can help explain shifts in political assumptions. It is a pioneering look at the dissemination of books in our culture that expands the discussion of recent political transformations—and suggests that sources other than political rhetoric have contributed to Americans’ renewed appreciation of individualist ideals.

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Looking Glasses and Neverlands
Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children's Literatue
Karen Coats
University of Iowa Press, 2004
A “Choice” Outstanding Academic Title
This groundbreaking study introduces and explores Lacan’s complex theories of subjectivity and desire through close readings of canonical children’s books such as Charlotte’s Web, Stellaluna, Holes, Tangerine, and The Chocolate War, providing an introduction to an increasingly influential body of difficult work while making the claim that children’s textual encounters are as significant as their existential ones in constituting their subjectivities and giving shape to their desires.
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Love in a Global Village
A Celebration of Intercultural Families in the Midwest
Jessie Carroll Grearson
University of Iowa Press, 2000

In praise of diversity, Jessie Grearson and Lauren Smith offer Love in a Global Village: A Celebration of Intercultural Families in the Midwest, an account of the triumphs of fifteen intercultural families and the perseverance of their relationships in midwestern America. The couples recount their courtships, their adventures and difficulties, and their individual choices to create families and build lives together despite differences of race, language, religion, and culture.

Welcomed into homes in towns like Kalona, Iowa, and Springfield, Missouri, Grearson and Smith introduce readers to unexpected fusions of culture in middle America. By focusing on small communities where intercultural relationships are exceptions rather than the norm, Smith and Grearson offer affirmation that multicultural households can endure and flourish almost anywhere.

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Magical Tales
Myth, Legend, and Enchantment in Children's Books
Edited by Carolyne Larrington and Diane Purkiss
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2013
A faun carrying an umbrella. A hobbit who makes his home in a hole in the ground. An ill-treated schoolboy with a secret and a scar. Fantasy is among the most beloved genres in children’s literature— and its offerings are often just as eagerly anticipated by adults. But how is it that writers like J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are able to create such remarkable images?

Magical Tales
traces the origin of the genre back through Norse mythology, Arthurian legend, and medieval literature. Drawing on manuscripts and rare books in the renowned collection of the Bodleian Library, the essays turn the spotlight on spell books; grimoires, or magical textbooks; and books of legend and myth whose themes writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis incorporated into their work, inspiring generations of writers that extend to the present day. In serving as a source of inspiration for later literary works, the contributors show, myths and legends have themselves been altered in interesting ways.

Richly illustrated, Magical Tales offers an enchanting take on the development of this wildly popular genre.
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Making Americans
Children's Literature from 1930 to 1960
Gary D. Schmidt
University of Iowa Press, 2013
American children need books that draw on their own history and circumstances, not just the classic European fairy tales. They need books that enlist them in the great democratic experiment that is the United States. These were the beliefs of many of the authors, illustrators, editors, librarians, and teachers who expanded and transformed children’s book publishing between the 1930s and the 1960s.
            Although some later critics have argued that the books published in this era offered a vision of a safe, secure, simple world without injustice or unhappy endings, Gary D. Schmidt shows that the progressive political agenda shared by many Americans who wrote, illustrated, published, and taught children’s books had a powerful effect. Authors like James Daugherty, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, Virginia Lee Burton, Robert McCloskey, and many others addressed directly and indirectly the major social issues of a turbulent time: racism, immigration and assimilation, sexism, poverty, the Great Depression, World War II, the atomic bomb, and the threat of a global cold war.
The central concern that many children’s book authors and illustrators wrestled with was the meaning of America and democracy itself, especially the tension between individual freedoms and community ties. That process produced a flood of books focused on the American experience and intent on defining it in terms of progress toward inclusivity and social justice. Again and again, children’s books addressed racial discrimination and segregation, gender roles, class differences, the fate of Native Americans, immigration and assimilation, war, and the role of the United States in the world. Fiction and nonfiction for children urged them to see these issues as theirs to understand, and in some ways, theirs to resolve. Making Americans is a study of a time when the authors and illustrators of children’s books consciously set their eyes on national and international sights, with the hope of bringing the next generation into a sense of full citizenship.

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The Making of Lewis Carroll’s Alice and the Invention of Wonderland
Peter Hunt
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2020

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are two of the most famous, translated, and quoted books in the world. What began as a simple tale told by eccentric Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) to Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, become a worldwide phenomenon. Fostering film adaptations and retellings, and influencing countless other works, the Alice books have a deeply cherished place in popular culture. Known for their oddities and absurdities, the books have been endlessly interpreted and analyzed for symbolism and hidden messages.

Peter Hunt cuts away the psychological speculation that has grown up around the Alice books, and instead traces the historical sources of their multilayered in-jokes and political, literary, and philosophical satire. He situates the books in the history of children’s literature and explores the local and personal references that the real Alice would have understood. Equally fascinating are the rich fragments about everything from the “sensation” novel to Darwinian theory—not to mention Dodgson’s personal feelings—that he wove into the books as they developed.

Illustrated with manuscripts, portraits, Sir John Tenniel’s original line drawings for the first editions, and contemporary photographs, this is an innovative look at two remarkable stories. The Making of Lewis Carroll’s Alice and the Invention of Wonderland takes us on a guided tour from the treacle wells of Victorian Oxford through an astonishing world of politics, philosophy, humor, and nightmare.

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The Making of The Wind in the Willows
Peter Hunt
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2018
The adventures of Mole, Ratty, Mr. Toad, and Mr. Badger—and their tangles with the Weasels—have been adored by children for more than a century. Yet, with its oddly bureaucratic town dramas and the esoteric hobbies of its protagonists, The Wind in the Willows was originally intended almost entirely for adults. Though first inspired by bedtime stories Kenneth Grahame told to his son Alastair, as he wrote them down, the tales of these woodland creatures developed into something much more sophisticated.
            Peter Hunt explores the unusual trajectory of The Wind in the Willows through previously unpublished archival materials, original drawings, and fan letters (including one from Theodore Roosevelt). He identifies the colleagues and friends on whom Grahame is thought to have based the characters of Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad, and explores the literary genres of boating, caravanning, and motoring on which the author drew. He also recounts the extraordinary correspondence surrounding the book’s first publication and the influence of two determined women—publisher’s agent Constance Smedley and the author’s wife, Elspeth Grahame—who helped turn the book into the classic for children we know and love today. Generously illustrated throughout, this book celebrates one of the most beloved works of children’s literature ever published.
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Monstrous Youth
Transgressing the Boundaries of Childhood in the United States
Sara Austin
The Ohio State University Press, 2022
The monstrous has a long, complicated history within children’s popular media. In Monstrous Youth: Transgressing the Boundaries of Childhood in the United States, Sara Austin traces the evolution of monstrosity as it relates to youth culture from the 1950s to the present day to spotlight the symbiotic relationship between monstrosity and the bodies and identities of children and adolescents. Examining comics, films, picture books, novels, television, toys and other material culture—including Monsters, Inc. and works by Mercer Mayer, Maurice Sendak, R. L. Stine, and Stephanie Meyer—Austin tracks how the metaphor of monstrosity excludes, engulfs, and narrates difference within children’s culture.

Analyzing how cultural shifts have drastically changed our perceptions of both what it means to be a monster and what it means to be a child, Austin charts how the portrayal and consumption of monsters corresponds to changes in identity categories such as race, sexuality, gender, disability, and class. In demonstrating how monstrosity is leveraged in service of political and cultural movements, such as integration, abstinence-only education, and queer rights, Austin offers insight into how monster texts continue to reflect, interpret, and shape the social discourses of identity within children’s culture.

 
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Moral Enterprise
Literature and Education in Antebellum America
Derek Pacheco
The Ohio State University Press, 2013
Moral Enterprise: Literature and Education in Antebellum America, by Derek Pacheco,investigates an important moment in the history of professional authorship. Pacheco uses New England “literary reformers” Horace Mann, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Elizabeth Peabody, and Margaret Fuller to argue that writers came to see in educational reform, and the publication venues emerging in connection with it, a means to encourage popular authorship while validating literary work as a profession. Although today’s schools are staffed by systematically trained and institutionally sanctioned teachers, in the unregulated, decentralized world of antebellum America, literary men and women sought the financial stability of teaching while claiming it as moral grounds for the pursuit of greater literary fame.
Examining the ethically redemptive and potentially lucrative definition of antebellum author as educator, this book traces the way these literary reformers aimed not merely at social reform through literature but also at the reform of literature itself by employing a wide array of practices—authoring, editing, publishing, and distributing printed texts—brought together under the aegis of modern, democratic education. Moral Enterprise identifies such endeavors by their dual valence as bold, reformist undertakings and economic ventures, exploring literary texts as educational commodities that might act as entry points into, and ways to tame, what Mann characterized as the “Alexandrian library” of American print culture.
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Nancy Drew and Company
Culture, Gender, and Girls’ Series
Edited by Sherrie A. Inness
University of Wisconsin Press, 1997
This intriguing anthology brings together a broad range of critical essays on girls’ series fiction from established scholars such as Chamberlain, Johnson, and Romalov, along with emerging scholars Katrine Poe, Maureen Reed, and Deborah Siegel. Topics include: Anne of Green Gables, the Isabel Carleton series, early twentieth-century girls’ automobile series, girls’ scouting novels, 1910–1935, Cherry Ames in World War II, Nancy Drew, and Judy Bolton.
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Over the Rainbow
Queer Children's and Young Adult Literature
Edited by Michelle Ann Abate and Kenneth Kidd
University of Michigan Press, 2011

"Over the Rainbow is lively, engaging, and thoughtful. More to the point, the field of children's literature needs such a collection."
---Katherine Capshaw Smith, University of Connecticut

In spite of the growing critical interest concerning gender and sexual nonnormativity in and around narratives written for young readers, no book-length volume on the subject has yet appeared. Over the Rainbow: Queer Children's and Young Adult Literature is the first collection of essays dedicated to LGBTQ issues in children's literature. Bringing together significant essays and introducing new work, Over the Rainbow is intended to serve both as a scholarly reference and as a textbook for students of children's studies; gender/queer studies; and related disciplines such as English, history, sociology, and education. Editors Michelle Ann Abate and Kenneth Kidd showcase important essays on the subject of LGBTQ children's and young adult literature ---including Harriet the Spy, Rainbow Boys, Little Women, the Harry Potter series, and A Separate Peace---while providing a provisional history of both the literature and the scholarship and examining the field's origins, current status, and possible future orientations.

Over the Rainbow collects essays by Jes Battis, Robin Bernstein, Thomas Crisp, June Cummins, Elizabeth A. Ford, Sherrie A. Inness, Christine A. Jenkins, Vanessa Wayne Lee, Biddy Martin, Robert McRuer, Claudia Nelson, Jody Norton, Tison Pugh, Catherine Tosenberger, Eric L. Tribunella, Roberta Seelinger Trites, and Andrea Wood. These pieces will be of interest to scholars and students in the fields of children's literature, American Studies, LGBTQ and queer studies, cultural studies, and literary criticism.

Cover art: Original title page of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank L. Baum, illustrated by W. W. Denslow. New York: George M. Hill, 1900.

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The Pooh Perplex
Frederick Crews
University of Chicago Press, 2003
In this devastatingly funny classic, Frederick Crews skewers the ego-inflated pretensions of the schools and practitioners of literary criticism popular in the 1960s, including Freudians, Aristotelians, and New Critics. Modeled on the "casebooks" often used in freshman English classes at the time, The Pooh Perplex contains twelve essays written in different critical voices, complete with ridiculous footnotes, tongue-in-cheek "questions and study projects," and hilarious biographical notes on the contributors. This edition contains a new preface by the author that compares literary theory then and now and identifies some of the real-life critics who were spoofed in certain chapters.
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Raising Secular Jews
Yiddish Schools and Their Periodicals for American Children, 1917–1950
Naomi Prawer Kadar
Brandeis University Press, 2016
This unique literary study of Yiddish children’s periodicals casts new light on secular Yiddish schools in America in the first half of the twentieth century. Rejecting the traditional religious education of the Talmud Torahs and congregational schools, these Yiddish schools chose Yiddish itself as the primary conduit of Jewish identity and culture. Four Yiddish school networks emerged, which despite their political and ideological differences were all committed to propagating the Yiddish language, supporting social justice, and preparing their students for participation in both Jewish and American culture. Focusing on the Yiddish children’s periodicals produced by the Labor Zionist Farband, the secular Sholem Aleichem schools, the socialist Workmen’s Circle, and the Ordn schools of the Communist-aligned International Workers Order, Naomi Kadar shows how secular immigrant Jews sought to pass on their identity and values as they prepared their youth to become full-fledged Americans.
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Rediscovering Nancy Drew
Carolyn Stewart Dyer
University of Iowa Press, 1995
"Rediscovering Nancy Drew is a rich collection of literary memories and insightful cultural comments."--Journal of Children's Literature "Nancy, especially the Nancy of the original story, is our bright heroine, chasing down the shadows, conquering our worst fears, giving us a glimpse of our brave and better selves, proving to everybody exactly how admirable and wonderful a thing it is to be a girl. Thank you, Nancy Drew."--Nancy Pickard "Nancy Drew belongs to a moment in feminist history; it is a moment, I suggest, that we celebrate, allowing ourselves the satisfaction of praising her for what she dared and forgiving her for what she failed to undertake or understand."--Carolyn G. Heilbrun "Rediscovering Nancy Drew lights up the territory. It informs, delights, and acknowledges through love and scholarship a debt long overdue."--Dale H. Ross In 1991, women staff and faculty at the University of Iowa discovered that the pseudonymous author of the original Nancy Drew books, Carolyn Keene, was none other than Mildred Wirt Benson, the first person to earn a master's degree in journalism at Iowa. The excitement caused by their discovery led to the 1993 Nancy Drew Conference, which explored the remarkable passion for Nancy Drew that spans a wide spectrum of American society. The result: a lively collaboration of essays by and interviews with mystery writers, collectors, publishers, librarians, scholars, journalists, and fans which presents a spirited, informative, totally enjoyable tribute to the driver of that blue roadster so many readers have coveted.
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Re-Enchanted
The Rise of Children's Fantasy Literature in the Twentieth Century
Maria Sachiko Cecire
University of Minnesota Press, 2019
From The Hobbit to Harry Potter, how fantasy harnesses the cultural power of magic, medievalism, and childhood to re-enchant the modern world
 

Why are so many people drawn to fantasy set in medieval, British-looking lands? This question has immediate significance for millions around the world: from fans of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones to those who avoid fantasy because of the racist, sexist, and escapist tendencies they have found there. Drawing on the history and power of children’s fantasy literature, Re-Enchanted argues that magic, medievalism, and childhood hold the paradoxical ability to re-enchant modern life.

Focusing on works by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, Philip Pullman, J. K. Rowling, and Nnedi Okorafor, Re-Enchanted uncovers a new genealogy for medievalist fantasy—one that reveals the genre to be as important to the history of English studies and literary modernism as it is to shaping beliefs across geographies and generations. Maria Sachiko Cecire follows children’s fantasy as it transforms over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—including the rise of diverse counternarratives and fantasy’s move into “high-brow” literary fiction. Grounded in a combination of archival scholarship and literary and cultural analysis, Re-Enchanted argues that medievalist fantasy has become a psychologized landscape for contemporary explorations of what it means to grow up, live well, and belong. The influential “Oxford School” of children’s fantasy connects to key issues throughout this book, from the legacies of empire and racial exclusion in children’s literature to what Christmas magic tells us about the roles of childhood and enchantment in Anglo-American culture.

Re-Enchanted engages with critical debates around what constitutes high and low culture during moments of crisis in the humanities, political and affective uses of childhood and the mythological past, the anxieties of modernity, and the social impact of racially charged origin stories.

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Slavery in American Children's Literature, 1790-2010
Paula T. Connolly
University of Iowa Press, 2013
Long seen by writers as a vital political force of the nation, children’s literature has been an important means not only of mythologizing a certain racialized past but also, because of its intended audience, of promoting a specific racialized future. Stories about slavery for children have served as primers for racial socialization. This first comprehensive study of slavery in children’s literature, Slavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790–2010, also historicizes the ways generations of authors have drawn upon antebellum literature in their own re-creations of slavery. It examines well-known, canonical works alongside others that have ostensibly disappeared from contemporary cultural knowledge but have nonetheless both affected and reflected the American social consciousness in the creation of racialized images.

Beginning with abolitionist and proslavery views in antebellum children’s literature, Connolly examines how successive generations reshaped the genres of the slave narrative, abolitionist texts, and plantation novels to reflect the changing contexts of racial politics in America. From Reconstruction and the end of the nineteenth century, to the early decades of the twentieth century, to the civil rights era, and into the twenty-first century, these antebellum genres have continued to find new life in children’s literature—in, among other forms, neoplantation novels, biographies, pseudoabolitionist adventures, and neo-slave narratives.

As a literary history of how antebellum racial images have been re-created or revised for new generations, Slavery in American Children’s Literature ultimately offers a record of the racial mythmaking of the United States from the nation’s beginning to the present day. 
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Spellbound
The Fairy Tale and the Victorians
Molly Clark Hillard
The Ohio State University Press, 2014
In examining the relationship between fairy tales and Victorian culture, Molly Clark Hillard concludes that the Victorians were “spellbound”: novelists, poets, and playwrights were self-avowedly enchanted by these tales. At the same time, Spellbound: The Fairy Tale and the Victorians shows that literary genres were bound to the fairy tale and dependent on its forms and figures to make meaning. But these “spellbound” literary artists also feared that fairy tales exuded an originative power that pervaded and precluded authored work. In part to dispel the fairy tale’s potency, Victorians resolved this tension by treating the form as a nostalgic refuge from an industrial age, a quaint remnant of the pre-literacy of childhood and peasantry, and a form fit not for modern gentlemen but rather for old wives.
 
Through close readings of the novels of Dickens, Eliot, and Charlotte Brontë; the poetry of Tennyson and Christina Rossetti; the visual artistry of Burne-Jones and Punch; and the popular theatricals of dramatists like Planche and Buckingham, Spellbound opens fresh territory into well-traversed titles of the Victorian canon. Hillard demonstrates that these literary forms were all cross-pollenated by the fairy tale and that their authors were—however reluctantly—purveyors of disruptive fairy tale matter over which they had but imperfect control.
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Time for Childhoods
Young Poets and Questions of Agency
Rachel Conrad
University of Massachusetts Press, 2020
Poems written by children are not typically part of the literary canon. Because of cultural biases that frame young people as intellectually and artistically immature, these works are often excluded or dismissed as juvenilia. Rachel Conrad contends that youth-composed poems should be read as literary works in their own right—works that are deserving of greater respect in literary culture.

Time for Childhoods presents a selection of striking twentieth-and twenty-first-century American poetry written by young people, and highlights how young poets imagined and shaped time for their own poetic purposes. Through close engagement with archival materials, as well as select interviews and correspondence with adult mentors, Conrad discerns how young writers figured social realities and political and racial injustices, and discusses what important advocates such as Gwendolyn Brooks and June Jordan can teach us about supporting the agency of young poets. This essential study demonstrates that young poets have much to contribute to ongoing conversations about time and power.
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Time of Beauty, Time of Fear
The Romantic Legacy in the Literature of Childhood
James Holt McGavran, Jr.
University of Iowa Press, 2012
It is now two and a half centuries since Jean-Jacques Rousseau first wrote so evocatively of natural man in Social Contract and of experiential education in Emile. His emphasis on the early years as a crucial part of life drove the Romantic reconceptualization of childhood—the idea that children have a special knowledge of nature, politics, and spirituality to teach their elders as well as the other way around. William Wordsworth’s assertion in the “Intimations Ode” that children’s souls come “trailing clouds of glory” from God has continued to haunt Western literature and culture in spite of attacks from writers and critics from then until now, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Robert Thomas Malthus, T. S. Eliot, Judy Blume, Jerome McGann, and Jacqueline Rose.
 
Displaying careful scholarship, sophisticated use of contemporary literary theory, and close readings of texts while recovering and analyzing materials from more than two centuries of British and other Anglophone cultural history, this collection of new essays traces the evolution of the Romantic child. The contributors play off one another, both within the three traditional historical periods—Romantic, Victorian, and modern/postmodern—and across intellectual and disciplinary categories.
 
Time of Beauty, Time of Fear offers a stunning array of essays. In some, the authors focus on canonical texts by such writers as Wordsworth, Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Smith, and Mrs. Molesworth. Other authors consider the Victorian concerns with missionary literature for children and with the boyish pastime of collecting bird’s nests, folk voices of the 1960s, homeschooling, the Teletubbies television program, and Alan Moore’s Promethea series of graphic novels. Measured in terms of both range and quality, this volume is destined to become essential reading for scholars from numerous disciplines.
 
Contributors
Jennifer Smith Daniel
Elizabeth A. Dolan
Richard Flynn
Elizabeth Gargano
Mary Ellis Gibson
Dorothy H. McGavran
Roderick McGillis
Claudia Mills
Jochen Petzold
Malini Roy
Andrew J. Smyth
Jan Susina

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Twain, Alcott, and the Birth of the Adolescent Reform Novel
Roberta S. Trites
University of Iowa Press, 2007

Scholars traditionally distinguish Mark Twain from Louisa May Alcott based on gender differences, but Roberta Seelinger Trites argues that there are enough similarities between the two authors’ intellectual lives that their novels share interconnected social agendas. Trites does not imply that Twain and Alcott influenced each other—indeed, they had little effect on each other—but, paradoxically, they wrote on similar topics because they were so deeply affected by the Civil War, by cataclysmic emotional and ?nancial losses in their families, by their cultural immersion in the tenets of Protestant philosophy, and by sexual tensions that may have stimulated their interest in writing for adolescents. 

Trites demonstrates how the authors participated in a cultural dynamic that marked the changing nature of adolescence in America, provoking a literary sentiment that continues to inform young adult literature. Both intuited that the transitory nature of adolescence makes it ripe for expressions about human potential for change and reform. Twain, Alcott, and the Birth of the Adolescent Reform Novel explores the effects these authors’ extraordinary popularity had in solidifying what could be called the adolescent reform novel. The factors that led Twain and Alcott to write for youth, and the effects of their decisions about how and what to write for that audience, involve the literary and intellectual history of two people—and the nation in which they lived.

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front cover of Waking Sleeping Beauty
Waking Sleeping Beauty
Feminist Voices in Children's Novels
Roberta S. Trites
University of Iowa Press, 1997

The Sleeping Beauty in Roberta Seelinger Trites' intriguing text is no silent snoozer passively waiting for Prince Charming to energize her life. Instead she wakes up all by herself and sets out to redefine the meaning of “happily ever after.” Trites investigates the many ways that Sleeping Beauty's newfound voice has joined other strong female voices in feminist children's novels to generate equal potentials for all children.

Waking Sleeping Beauty explores issues of voice in a wide range of children's novels, including books by Virginia Hamilton, Patricia MacLachlan, and Cynthia Voight as well as many multicultural and international books. Far from being a limiting genre that praises females at the expense of males, the feminist children's novel seeks to communicate an inclusive vision of politics, gender, age, race, and class. By revising former stereotypes of children's literature and replacing them with more complete images of females in children's books, Trites encourages those involved with children's literature—teachers, students, writers, publishers, critics, librarian, booksellers, and parents—to be aware of the myriad possibilities of feminist expression.

Roberta Trites focuses on the positive aspects of feminism: on the ways females interact through family and community relationships, on the ways females have revised patriarchal images, and on the ways female writers use fictional constructs to transmit their ideologies to readers. She thus provides a framework that allows everyone who enters a classroom with a children's book in hand to recognize and communicate—with an optimistic, reality-based sense of “happily ever after”—the politics and the potential of that book.

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front cover of The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was
The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was
Martin Gardner
Michigan State University Press, 1994

When Russel B. Nye and Martin Gardner teamed up to bring out a new edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, theirs was the first critical analysis of L. Frank Baum American classic. The book opens with an essay by Nye, entitled "An Appreciation," which is an overview of Baum's creative and imaginative genius. Nye explores the reasons why earlier critics virtually ignored the Oz stories. Gardner, in his essay, "The Royal Historian of Oz," presents a brief biographical sketch, revealing little-known facts about this prolific writer. The volume also contains the complete, original text of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, along with many original illustrations by artist W. W. Denslow. 
 

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front cover of Writing Themselves into the Movement
Writing Themselves into the Movement
Child Authors of the Black Arts Era
Amy Fish
University of Massachusetts Press, 2024

Between 1967 and 1972, a previously obscure group of authors entered the US cultural spotlight. During this five-year period, at least thirty anthologies of poetry and prose by African American, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American children came out of adult-led workshops, classrooms, and sites of juvenile incarceration. Mass-market publishers, independent imprinters, and local mimeograph machines produced volumes with titles such as I Am Somebody! and The Me Nobody Knows: Children’s Voices from the Ghetto. These young writers actively participated in the Black Arts Movement, and some collaborated with well-known adult authors, most prominently June Jordan. Their anthologies gained national media coverage, occasionally became bestsellers, were quoted by James Baldwin, and even inspired a hit Broadway musical. While writings by children had long attracted adult attention, this flurry of youth writing and publishing was distinguished by the widespread belief that children of color from poor and working-class neighborhoods were uniquely able to speak truth about American racism and inequality.

Focusing on Black and Latinx youth authorship within New York City, and using deep archival research and elegant close readings, Amy Fish examines child-authored texts of this era within the context of their literary production and reception. These young writers were often supervised and edited by white adults, raising concerns about the authenticity and agency of their voices. Fish contends that young authors themselves shared these concerns and that they employed savvy rhetorical strategies of address, temporality, and trope to self-consciously interrogate the perils and possibilities of their adult-influenced work. Young writers thus contributed to the era’s important debates about the nature of authorship and readership within a racist society, while also using their writing as an intimate occasion of self-discovery.

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front cover of X Marks the Spot
X Marks the Spot
Women Writers Map the Empire for British Children, 1790–1895
Megan A. Norcia
Ohio University Press, 2010

During the nineteenth century, geography primers shaped the worldviews of Britain’s ruling classes and laid the foundation for an increasingly globalized world. Written by middle-class women who mapped the world that they had neither funds nor freedom to traverse, the primers employed rhetorical tropes such as the Family of Man or discussions of food and customs in order to plot other cultures along an imperial hierarchy.

Cross-disciplinary in nature, X Marks the Spot is an analysis of previously unknown material that examines the interplay between gender, imperial duty, and pedagogy.

Megan A. Norcia offers an alternative map for traversing the landscape of nineteenth-century female history by reintroducing the primers into the dominant historical record. This is the first full-length study of the genre as a distinct tradition of writing produced on the fringes of professional geographic discourse before the high imperial period.

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