Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter

Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter

by Seth Lerer
Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter

Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter

by Seth Lerer


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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226473024
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 04/01/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 396
File size: 33 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Seth Lerer is dean of arts and humanities at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of many books, including Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, and the editor of several collections, including The Yale Companion to Chaucer.


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction            Toward a New History of Children’s Literature
Chapter One          Speak, Child: Children’s Literature in Classical Antiquity
Chapter Two          Ingenuity and Authority: Aesop’s Fables and Their Afterlives 
Chapter Three        Court, Commerce, and Cloister: The Literatures of Medieval Childhood
Chapter Four          From Alphabet to Elegy: The Puritan Impact on Children’s Literature
Chapter Five          Playthings of the Mind: John Locke and Children’s Literature 
Chapter Six            Canoes and Cannibals: Robinson Crusoe and Its Legacies                         
Chapter Seven        From Islands to Empires: Storytelling for a Boy’s World
Chapter Eight         On beyond Darwin: From Kingsley to Seuss
Chapter Nine          Ill-Tempered and Queer: Sense and Nonsense, from Victorian to Modern
Chapter Ten           Straw into Gold: Fairy-Tale Philology
Chapter Eleven       Theaters of Girlhood: Domesticity, Desire, and Performance in Female Fiction
Chapter Twelve      Pan in the Garden: The Edwardian Turn in Children’s Literature
Chapter Thirteen     Good Feeling: Prizes, Libraries, and the Institutions of American Children’s Literature
Chapter Fourteen   Keeping Things Straight: Style and the Child
Chapter Fifteen       Tap Your Pencil on the Paper: Children’s Literature in an Ironic Age
Epilogue                 Children’s Literature and the History of the Book
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