Children's Literature

views updated May 18 2018


This entry is arranged according to the following outline:

children's literature in hebrew
    Early Period
        biblical period (until 200 b.c.e.)
        mishnaic-talmudic period
        medieval period
    Modern Period
        ereẒ israel and the state of israel
        in the united states
children's literature in yiddish
    In Europe
    In the United States
children's literature in ladino
    In the 20th Century
holocaust literature
children's literature in english and other languages
        great britain
        united states of america
        later trends
    Other Languages
        italian and dutch
        czech and serbo-croatian
        in latin america


The term children's literature in this article is applied to different types of literary works. Up to the end of the 18th century it refers to literature whose style and treatment of content is also suitable for a young readership (age group 4–14 approx.); in the modern period it denotes works written specifically for children and compositions by children whose subject matter and theme do not necessarily fall into the adolescent category, for example, some of the Holocaust literature by children.

children's literature in hebrew

While until modern times very little literature was written for children, there is no doubt that some of the biblical and post-biblical Hebrew literature was widely read by the young and was part of the curriculum in Jewish education. It was only with the rise of interest in children's education – the development of pedagogical methodology and child psychology – that a real children's literature began to be composed.

Early Period

biblical period (until 200 b.c.e.)


In early times, the first literary writings composed for children might have been proverbs and the young probably learned by heart short maxims designed to teach them moral norms and proper behavior. Many of the proverbs were later written down and incorporated into early Hebrew literature: "Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the teaching of thy mother" (Prov. 1:8). Undoubtedly, the Hebrew child was also an avid listener to the recitations of itinerant poets and storytellers, or to the legends and parables narrated by the elders and prophets sitting at the town gates. Biblical tales had a profound influence on the development of children's literature in general and Hebrew literature for children in particular.

mishnaic-talmudic period

During the mishnaic-talmudic period the scope of education was enlarged and schools were established. Children learned to read the tales of the Bible: "How does a man learn Torah? First by reading the scroll and then the book" (Deut. R. 8:3). Isaac Baer *Levinsohn, in his Te'udah be-Yisrael, infers from this passage that in those days the teachers had small scrolls containing stories and parables which they used in the education of the children. Legends and folktales, which had also gained popularity, were taught and the sages praised the "masters of the legend, who draw man's heart like water" (Ḥag. 14a). The many legends and parables scattered throughout the Talmud and the Midrash, with their charm and simplicity, attracted children in every generation. The numerous collections and versions in which these have appeared bear witness to this phenomenon.

medieval period

From the beginning of the Diaspora to the Haskalah, Jewish education was almost exclusively religious. The standard books at home or at school were the Bible, the Talmud, the Midrashim, and prayer books. From time to time, however, writers and scholars composed popular literary works which captivated young readers. Among these were Isaac ibn *Sahula's Mashal ha-Kadmoni, a 13th-century work written in rhymed prose (*maqama), comprising parables, stories, and tales (Soncino, 1480); *Berechiah b. Natronai ha-Nakdan's Mishlei Shu'alim, written in France in the 13th century and containing revised and translated versions of animal fables (Mantua, 1557); and Jacob ibn Ḥabib's Ein Ya'akov, a collection of legends from the Talmud (Salonika, 1516), of which special versions for the particular needs of children were published.

Despite conservative teaching methods, many textbooks were published from the beginning of the 16th century, including books on grammar, on the Hebrew language, on letter-writing, and on ethical conduct. They were not specifically for children and rarely contained material that had literary value. Petaḥ Sefat Ever li-Yladim, by Abraham *Cohen (Vienna, 1745), was an exception; it includes parables and short legends. Side by side with this written literature, there existed an oral children's tradition: stories told by inspired teachers, mothers, and grandmothers, and the lullabies they sang. Some of these were eventually printed.

[Uriel Ofek]

Modern Period

The history of European Jewish-Hebrew and Hebrew literature, which dates back to 1779, as well as the history of Ereẓ-Israeli and Israeli Hebrew children's literature, is the history of an ideologically oriented attempt to build a new literary system and simultaneously generate the field of its consumers and producers. It is a history characterized by strong ideological inclinations as well as delayed developments, until Israeli children's literature was structured similarly to the European systems which it sought to emulate from its outset.

The peculiar circumstances of its development in the course of its more than 200-year history involve the special status of the Hebrew language as the language of high culture rather than the native language of its readership, as well as the multiterritorial existence of Hebrew culture, a situation which ended only when the center of Hebrew culture was categorically transferred to Ereẓ Israel in the mid-1920s.


Books for Jewish children or passages addressing children in texts or manuscripts for adults were written in Europe for as long as Jewish communities were in existence. In fact, one of the first acts of a Jewish community in the process of establishing its communal life was the creation of an educational system for children.

Every community facing the challenge of children's education responded to it, inter alia, by the production of texts for children. These texts endeavored to offer practical roads to the kind of socialization and identity the community wished to construct. Every community and every social group offered different solutions to these two issues: the issue of identity and the issue of socialization.

References to Jewish children as consumers of various Hebrew texts are to be found from the Middle Ages onward in various Jewish texts. From the 12th century, certain texts, taken mostly from the broader domain of Jewish literature – the Bible, the Talmud, commentaries on the Talmud, and prayer books – were used for educating the young. Several scholars believe that some passages were included in the Haggadah explicitly for the use of children. In the 16th and 17th centuries, there were increasing efforts to write texts specifically for children, mostly in the form of catechisms. However, these became a socially recognized phenomenon only towards the end of the 18th century, with the emergence and crystallization of the modern concept of childhood; as in the case with European children's literatures such a concept was a precondition for the development of Jewish-Hebrew children's literature. Nevertheless, Jewish-Hebrew children's literature required in addition a substantial modification of the basic views of Jewish society, in particular those concerning children's education and attitudes towards the non-Jewish world, in order to make possible the development of a distinct and autonomous system of children's books. Only when such a change occurred at the end of the 18th century within the framework of the *Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) movement in Germany was there culturally room for books for Jewish children in the modern sense.

The Haskalah movement believed that in order to shape a new mode of Jewish life and to change the Jewish world view into a modern and enlightened one, a total reform in the Jewish educational system must take place, basing the curriculum on a rational and non-religious foundation. The curriculum of its new network of schools proposed such a change and ultimately created a demand for new and different books. This was marked in 1779 by the publication of David Friedlaender's Lesebuch fuer juedische Kinder (Berlin 1779, edited with the help of Moses Mendelssohn), for the use of the Juedische Freischule zu Berlin's students. Its publication signified a turning point in the history of books for Jewish children, primarily because it was the first to declare itself as a Lesebuch (reader) in the modern sense of the notion, and secondly, because it gave expression to the social and cultural maskilic project in which books for children played an important role in distributing maskilic tenets and ideologies. The Lesebuch represented a unique attempt to translate the ideology of the Haskalah movement into practical terms, and reflected a unique effort to create a symbiosis between the German and the Jewish cultures, where the similarities between the two cultures were emphasized and points of appropriation were searched for. These two principles were beyond the need to publish maskilic books for children which would be distinctly different from the books published in the framework of the traditional former system, naturally unequipped to meet Haskalah demands. As a result, dozens of non-religious books were published during the Haskalah in the German-speaking world.

At first the books were written in Hebrew and German or in a bilingual format. Hebrew was used mainly in grammars and Lesebuecher, and to a lesser extent in literary translations and the few original works. Some of the books were bilingual – a side-by-side presentation of Hebrew and German. Towards the beginning of the 19th century writing in German became more and more predominant with the exception of grammar books, which continued to be published in Hebrew.

The maskilic texts could not be based on the traditional models of the Hebrew book and the new system had to find models upon which its repertoire could be constructed. In light of the close relations between the Haskalah and the German Enlightenment, books of the German Enlightenment were an ideal, if not the most desirable, model for imitation. As a result, dozens of books were written and published, all modeled on the German repertoire of books for children. The new system of books for Jewish children endeavored to follow German children's literature both in its stages of development and in the nature of its repertoire. However, in agreement with its internal ideological needs, it adapted itself to an earlier stage of development of German children's literature and not to that current at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.

The concrete ways in which Haskalah used the German system was determined by its interpretation of the evolution of the children's literature of the German Enlightenment and of its repertoire. This process involved the translation of concepts and ideas which was not necessarily in accordance with the ways German children's literature viewed itself. Furthermore, once Jewish-Hebrew children's literature had created a certain image of German children's literature, this image was sustained for a long time without really taking heed of the changes and developments taking place within German literature itself. Jewish-Hebrew children's literature was characterized by the monolithic nature of its texts, and even in later stages of its development Jewish writers adhered to a limited number of textual models and seldom deviated from this fixed repertoire. It was almost as though at a given point in time certain models, texts, and processes of development in the evolution of German children's literature were joined to form a circle, which later became the sole frame of reference for the system of books for Jewish children for almost an entire century. This frame of reference consisted mainly of the translation of German Enlightenment texts, or the production of a small number of original Hebrew texts based on the German. Translated texts were in fact privileged to the extent that, to the best of our knowledge, all books for children published by the Haskalah in Germany were either official translations, pseudo-translations, or original texts based on existing German models.

The eligibility of texts for translation was determined by the extent to which they reflected the ideological inclinations of the Haskalah. Consequently, German texts were translated if they were written by German Enlightenment writers, and or if they explicitly conveyed Haskalah values.

These principles of selection resulted in an abundance of moralistic poems, fables, instructive texts, and geography books, and the total exclusion of fictional narratives, such as short stories and novels, until the mid-19th century. Most popular were biblical stories in accordance with the preference for Jewish themes Avtalion Biblische Historien, German and Hebrew fables (by Berachiah ha-Nakdan, Magnus Gottfried Lichtwer, Christian Gellert, Albrecht von Haller, and Friedrich von Hagedorn, or of ancient writers like Aesop), para-scientific texts which were characterized by an attempt to introduce new scientific ideas (Baruch Linda's Reshit Limudim, parts 1 and 2, Berlin, Dessau, 1788, which was based on the German Naturgeschichte fuer Kinder, by Georg Christian Raff), or Isaac Satanow's Mishlei Asaf in three parts (Berlin, 1789, 1792, 1793), and Meggilat Ḥasidim (Berlin, 1802), as well as instructive texts (predominantly translations of Campe: Robinson der Juengere (Breslau, 1824; Warsaw, 1849; Przemysl, 1872 [5672]; Die Entdeckung von Amerika, (Altona, 1807 [5567]; 1810 cannot be traced; Vilna, 1823 [5583]; Breslau, 1824 [5584]; Lemberg, 1846; Merkwürdige Reisebeschreibungen (Lemberg, 1818 [5578]; Yafo, 1912 [5672]; Theophron (Odessa, 1863); and Sittenbuecher fuer Kinder aus gesitteten Staenden (Breslau, 1819; Prague, 1831; Odessa, 1866; Warsaw, 1882)).

These texts continued to be present on the Jewish scene long after the cultural center had been transferred to Eastern Europe. Thus, the books for children transcended geographical boundaries and the boundaries between the centers of Hebrew-Jewish culture in Europe. Books for children also transcended the boundaries of the addressee, and texts written for children addressed adults almost until the end of the 19th century. More often than not, the same texts were published for adults as well as for children. Literary material which was first published by various Jewish periodicals was later recycled in the form of readers for children. These readers frequently served as reading material for adult Jews, especially of who had no formal education, paving their way into a modern world. Para-scientific books were read by adults, indeed, sometimes primarily by adults. In fact, it may be assumed that the label "a book for children" was occasionally used more as a cover than as an indication of a "real" addressee. It could function as a cover because the children's system, owing to its peripheral position in culture, stood less chance of being closely scrutinized and was therefore often a convenient vehicle for the introduction of new and hitherto prohibited texts and models.

With the transfer of the center of Hebrew culture to Eastern Europe (mostly to Poland and Russia) and especially in the framework of the Ḥibbat Zion and Ha-Teḥiyyah movements, the Hebrew language regained its dominance in texts for children. It is in those years that the basis of Hebrew children's literature was established and for the first time it formed a system distinct from other systems of Hebrew culture. It was shaped as a system different from other systems of books for Jewish children which continued to exist in Europe until World War ii (in Yiddish or in the local languages: German, Russian, and Polish).

At the end of the 19th century, Hebrew children's literature in Europe underwent a change, which stemmed primarily from the establishment of an educational system in Hebrew intended to promote the national revival. Societies and organizations were founded in Europe with the aim of disseminating the Zionist idea, national education, and the Hebrew language through educational institutions. The aim of the Safah Berurah (Clear Language) and Ḥovevei Sefat Ever (Lovers of Hebrew) societies was to transform Hebrew from a literary language into a spoken language by founding Hebrew schools in which Hebrew was spoken and by the publication of children's books. One of its outcomes was the establishment of the *Moriah publishing house. Founded in Odessa in January 1902 by Yehoshua Ḥana *Rawnitzki, Shin *Ben-Zion (Simḥah Alter Gutmann), and Ḥayyim Naḥman *Bialik, Moriah was active primarily in publishing basic books, textbooks, and readers for schools. Its first project was the publication of five volumes of Bible stories (1902 and thereafter), which was very successful. In the first year of publication, the first volume was printed in five editions. Its second large project was a compilation of Hebrew legends (aggadot) adapted for youth, in six volumes, because Bialik believed that legend was at the time the only original literature for children in Hebrew. From 1910, Moriah also began publishing literature for young readers in a series called "the Moriah library for youth," which included original books written mainly by writers for adults, among them *Shalom Aleichem, Mendele Mokher Seforim (Sholem Yankev *Abramovitsh), Sholem *Asch, Aaron A. *Kabak, Shin Ben-Zion, M. *Berdyczewski, Eliyahu Miednik, and Meir Siko (Meir *Smilansky). In parallel, Rawnitzki and Bialik published translated literature printed by the Turgeman publishing house, which was founded in 1911 in the framework of Achinoar books and issued translations of classic children's books such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Hebrew title Me'ora'ot Tom), Pictures from the Life of Youth in America (1910, translated by Israel Ḥayyim Tawiow), Don Quixote (1911, translated by Bialik), Spartacus (1911, translated by Jabotinsky), A Thousand and One Nights (1912, translated by David Yellin),Grimm's Fairy Tales (1919, translated by David Frischmann), and others. After the revolution in Russia, the publishing house discontinued its operations.

The most active publishing house for children in Eastern Europe was Tushiyah, headed by Ben-Avigdor. In the course of three years, from 1895, Tushiyah issued about 300 booklets in its Library for Youth in the form of two series: "for children" and "for young adults." Most of these were adaptations of classics by Grimm, Hugo, Gustafsson, Pushkin, Tolstoy, D'Amicis, and Thomas Mayne Reid. A small number were original works, such as Ba-Ir u-va-Ya'ar by Judah Steinberg, Kol Aggadot Yisrael by Israel Benjamin Levner, and Le-Ma'an Aḥai ha-Ketanim by Aharon Liboshitski

On the whole, translated literature continued to play an important role in the development of Jewish-Hebrew children's literature in Eastern Europe. Since contacts with the surrounding and neighboring cultures were strongly endorsed by the men of letters, Jewish-Hebrew children's literature tended to translate extensively as well as to use translated texts as models for original writing of Hebrew texts. For instance, Judah Steinberg, the author of the fables in Ba-Ir u-va-Ya'ar (1896, Odessa), which enjoyed much popularity and a wide readership, was called "the Hebrew Andersen," comparing him to a respected foreign example.

At the outset, the publication of Hebrew books for Jewish children in Europe in the 19th century gained great momentum. It was the first time in the history of modern Jewish-Hebrew children's literature that books for children were methodically published, out of a desire to build a complete system with a rich repertoire. Nearly all the big Hebrew publishing houses in Europe were involved in publishing Hebrew children's literature as well as newspapers and periodicals for children in Hebrew. Their motivation was both ideological and economic. A relatively large group of authors began writing for children. Some of them wrote primarily for children or only for children. A few were particularly prolific: Judah *Steinberg, Aaron *Liboshitzki, Solomon Berman, Judah Leib *Levin, Israel Ḥayyim *Tawiow, Noah Pines, Itzhak Berkman (*Katznelson), and Israel Benjamin *Levner, the last writing more than 25 books, some of which became bestsellers.

The flourishing publishing activity early in the century ended in a crisis. The number of publishing houses engaged in publishing children's books was greater than the demand of the market, and some of the publishers had to slow down or totally discontinue their activity. Some attempts were made in Warsaw to found publishing houses for children's books, such as Barkai and Ophir, but they did not succeed.

In 1911, Ben-Avigdor attempted to cope with the crisis by establishing a federation of publishing houses called Central, which also included Shrebrek, Progress, and Ha-Shaḥar. Central later merged with the Sifrut publishing house. After World War i, the publishing house recovered and remained in operation as a publisher of readers and books for children and young adults almost until World War ii.

The establishment of the *Tarbut educational system in 1922, which operated in the interwar period in Poland, Romania, the Baltic states, and Russia in 200 elementary schools and kindergartens, secondary schools, and teachers' seminaries, created the need for the continuation of the existence of Hebrew children's literature in Europe, even after the center of Hebrew literature in Europe had declined. For a short period, Tarbut was successful because of the awakening of national consciousness. Hebrew became a spoken language in hundreds of schools, and an attempt was made to maintain the publication of Hebrew books at any cost, as well as to establish new publishing houses to replace those that had closed down or curtailed their activity during the war. Most of these publishing houses, like Senunit (1919); the Temarim illustrated library (1920); Bibliotheka Universalit (1919–20), and Sifriyat ha-Ḥinukh he-Ḥadash (1928) were supported by various educational institutions but received their major support from Tarbut. As long as a Hebrew school system existed in Europe, there was a justification for maintaining literature in Hebrew for Jewish children, and books in Hebrew continued to come out almost until the outbreak of World War ii.

Nevertheless, despite the comprehensive educational project of Tarbut, Hebrew children's literature was still written in most cases for children whose mother tongue was not Hebrew. Even the overwhelming success of Abvraham *Mapu's Ahavat Zion 1853, Vilna) which continued to be a best seller among young and old until the end of the 19th century, could not change the fact that it never became a "native literature." This resulted in a gap between the insufficient demand, on the one hand, and the superfluous supply, on the other, which made the system unstable and fragile and caused recurrent economic crises.

Writers for children in Eastern Europe continued to regard Hebrew children's literature as an educational tool and consequently wrote texts with a didactic orientation. At this stage, Hebrew children's literature still tolerated only one criterion for the rejection or acceptance of texts for children: the extent of their conformity to didactic and/or ideological tenets. As a result of the circumstances of its existence, Hebrew children's literature in Europe maintained its superficial existence and was unable to release itself from the ideological frameworks which determined its character. The ideological hegemony resulted in the system's remaining incomplete for a considerable period, lacking some of the sub-systems existing in other European children's literatures at the time. In fact, Hebrew children's literature managed to liberate itself from the exclusive hegemony of ideology only much later in Ereẓ Israel and mainly after the foundation of the state of Israel, where Hebrew children's literature as a "native literature" developed into a heterogeneous and diversified system.

ereẒ israel and the state of israel

The case of Hebrew children's literature in Ereẓ Israel was completely different. Already in the late 1880s, several decades before the establishment of a system of adult literature, children's literature began to develop in Ereẓ Israel. This means that the first literary system that developed in Ereẓ Israel was that of books for children, though it was stabilized only after the literary center had definitely been transferred to Ereẓ Israel, i.e., in the mid-1920s.

The first texts for children were educational texts – readers and textbooks, such as Eliezer *Ben-Yehuda's geography book 1813 le-Ḥurban Mikdashenu, 5643 (1883), David *Yellin and Ben-Yehuda's first reader for children, Mikra le-Yaldei benei Yisrael, 5647 (1887), which included about 20 revised talmudic legends and parables of the sages in simple Hebrew; Yehudah Grasovski, Ḥayyim Ẓifrin, and David Yudelevitch's Bet ha-Sefer li-Venei Yisrael, 5651 (1891); Ben-Yehuda's Kiẓẓur Divrei ha-Yamim li-Venei Yisrael, 5652 (1892), and Mordekhai Lubman's Siḥot bi-Yediot ha-Teva, 5652 (1892). Later they were followed by some literary texts for leisure which included stories, poems, fables, legends, and moral tales, such as Grazovski and Arye Horovitz's series Seḥiyat ha-Ḥemdah le-Yaldei Benei Yisrael (eight translated booklets), 5652 (1892), and Grazovski, Ẓifrin and Yudelevitch's Sha'ashuim Yom Yom, 5652 (1892).

But when the system of Hebrew education adopted the method of teaching "Hebrew in Hebrew" the scraps could not satisfy the appetite of a lion. Once this method was adopted, the Hebrew language was much more powerfully disseminated, as the schools became the major agents of its distribution. In the process of the creation of Hebrew as the language of the culture of the Yishuv, children were viewed as a vehicle for distributing the new Hebrew culture and their teachers as the main soldiers in an army participating in this war. Ben-Yehuda, as well as major political figures such as Menahem *Ussishkin and Ze'ev *Jabotinsky spoke explicitly about the decisive role of the children and their educators in this national project of creating a new secular Hebrew culture.

Teaching in Hebrew in a Hebrew environment created for the first time in the history of Hebrew children's literature a genuine readership. This readership generated an urgent and immediate need for adequate texts for children in all the fields of child culture. Fulfilling the demand was not an easy task. The relation between demand and supply was just the opposite of the one prevalent in Europe. Memoirs of teachers relate time and again how difficult it was to find in Ereẓ Israel adequate books for children. In fact, until the 1920s, the publishing center of Hebrew children's literature was still in Europe and the needs of the system in Palestine were largely filled through books published in Europe. Furthermore, books by writers who had already settled in Ereẓ Israel at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were published mainly in Warsaw, Odessa, and to some extent Cracow, even if they were first published in Jerusalem. For example, Ze'ev Jawitz's book Tal Yaldut intended for the children of Palestine, was published in Vilna in 1897 and was also distributed for the use of Hebrew schools in Eastern Europe. Kiẓẓur Divrei ha-Yamim li-Venei Yisrael be-Shivtam al Admatam (Jerusalem, 1892) by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, was also published in Vilna in 1906. Yehuda Grazovski's reader, Bet Sefer Ivri (Jerusalem, 1895–97), was published in Warsaw in 1912. Ze'ev Jawitz's Divrei ha-Yamim (Jerusalem, 1890) was published in an expanded edition in Warsaw in 1893. Yehudah Grazovski's Ḥanukkah was published in Odessa (1892) and then in Warsaw (1920) as well as his Mi-Sippurei Anderson (Odessa, 1893); Hemdah *Ben-Yehudah's Me-Hayyei ha-Yeladim be-Ereẓ Yisrael was published in Warsaw (1899), as well as her Bimei ha-Baẓẓir (Cracow, 1906). Kadish Leib (Yehudah) *Silman's Ha-Ḥashmonayim ha-Ketanim was published in Warsaw (1911).

However, already in the early 1920s books written and published in Europe were rejected as being inadequate for children growing up in Ereẓ Israel. European Hebrew children's literature, whose circumstances of development were drastically different from those of Ereẓ Israel, could not serve anymore as a reservoir of models and texts. Unlike the case of Hebrew literature for adults, where the transfer to Ereẓ Israel implied continuity in terms of the repertoire of the system, Hebrew children's literature, facing new needs, had to orient its development to new and different grounds.

During the first three decades of the 20th century, the creation of a children's culture in Ereẓ Israel demanded the construction from scratch of all its components, ranging from children's songs to fairy tales, stories, novels, and non-fiction prose, from schoolbooks to Hanukkah, Tu Bi-Shevat, and Passover poems as well as to the ceremonies in schools and kindergartens. The scarcity of schoolbooks overshadowed any other deficiencies of the child culture and consequently the needs and demands of the educational system enjoyed first priority.

The Kohelet publishing house, established by the Teachers Union in Ereẓ Israel in 5665 (1905), played a major role in this undertaking. Kohelet concentrated at first on supplementing the most urgent needs of the educational system and thus published very few literary texts for leisure. It published schoolbooks, a geographical lexicon, and a zoology book and after World War i began issuing literary texts in the series Oẓar ha-Talmid. Given however, the necessity to create a child culture from scratch, schoolbooks also included original poems and stories and served as reading material for leisure.

During World War i hardly any books for children were published, except for few that were issued in the framework of the project of the *Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization. The Palestine Office created a committee at the beginning of the war to produce a comprehensive program for the translation of masterpieces of world literature, among which several children's books were included. Two other minor projects were responsible for the publication of several booklets: Ha-Mashtelah, which was established in Jerusalem in 1915 and issued five booklets and Sifriyah Ketanah li-Yeladim, which was established in Jaffa in 1916 and issued 55 booklets.

Most of the schoolbooks published between 1905 and 1923 were written by a new group of teachers, among whom the three teachers of the Girls' School in Jaffa were the most prominent: Mordekhai Ezraḥi (Krishevsky), Yosef Azaryahu (Ozarkovski), and Yeḥi'el Yeḥi'eli (Jochelchik). Along with purely educational considerations, the activities of the group were also – and perhaps mainly – guided by national considerations and the desire to create a new type of Jew. To this end, they attempted to compile a repertoire for everyday behavior and renovated ceremonies to replace the traditional religious ceremonies. In this framework they published several schoolbooks and readers, partially written by them and partially taken from other sources. One of their readers – Sifrenu (1919–21) – became especially widespread. The Sifrenu series was widely acclaimed, published in approximately 20 editions, and used by most of the Hebrew schools throughout the country; *as late as 1935 a revised version entitled Karmenu was still being published.

These texts endeavored to present an "autochthonic Hebrew child" by the use of several devices, among which the most conspicuous were representation of the "native" way of speaking (through the introduction of many dialogues) and repeated descriptions of various local settings in Ereẓ Israel. The texts offered clear-cut opposition between the child of Ereẓ Israel and that of the Diaspora, emphasizing the outdoor life of a child in Ereẓ Israel as compared with the indoor settings of the child of the Diaspora. The Hebrew child was presented as free, even naughty, self-confident and attached to the Land of Israel, engaged in new activities such as excursions to places linked to the ancient history of "the people of Israel" and singing the "songs of Zion." The textual plots usually consisted of a juxtaposition of events of ancient (biblical) history and current events in Ereẓ Israel.

In the 1930s the addressee of Hebrew children's literature was already a child for whom Hebrew was a native language, and very often his only language. Hebrew children's literature was no longer seen in the 1930s as a means of disseminating the Hebrew language, but it was still regarded as a means of disseminating national values and cultivating national yearnings as well as promoting ideological tenets. The leadership of the Yishuv coopted Hebrew children's literature as a major vehicle for educating the young and molding their character. Most writers for children were teachers and educators who, with the exception of Levin Kipnis, were politically defined and continued writing along the same lines as their predecessors. Most prominent among them were Eliezer Smoly, Ẓevi Livneh (Liberman), and Bracha Habas.

The framework of writing for children was indoctrinarian, as can be seen, for example, in the works of Bracha Habas. One of the most prominent figures in the field of children's literature—an editor and author at the *Histadrut's Youth Center, which had been founded by Berl *Katznelson—and publishing regularly as a journalist for Davar and Davar li-Yeladim, Bracha Habas presented in her texts the narrative of an evolving nation, in which the Jewish community was fighting for its life and homeland. It was characterized by an attempt to present an ideal of the Hebrew individual consisting of his perfect conduct and his authentic language. The books also constructed national heroes and offered descriptions of the landscape of Ereẓ Israel, as well as encouraging aliyah (immigration to Ereẓ Israel). In terms of their values these writings promoted the agenda of the Zionist mainstream: self-sacrifice for the sake of the state in-the-making, national pride, love of the soil, agriculture work, and life in a collective.

This was true even for non-recruited literature, such as Yemimah *Tshernowitch-Avidar's Shemona be-Ikevot Eḥad and Naḥum Gutman's Ha-Ḥofesh ha-Gadol, o Ta'alumot ha-Argazim. It was even true for lullabies, such as Shir Eres by Emmanuel Harussi, which reads: "The granary of Tel Yosef is set on fire/ smoke also comes out of Bet Alpha/ but you should not cry anymore/ lay down, nap and sleep"

However, not all writers were required to comply with ideological demands, certainly not the most prestigious writers for adults such as Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik, Saul *Tchernichowsky, Zalman *Shneour, Jacob *Fichmann, and Devorah *Baron, who regarded their writing for children as a national task, an indispensable component of the creation of the new nation.

The involvement of prestigious writers for adults in the writing for children continued to characterize Hebrew children's literature in the 1930s and 1940s, though they did not necessarily regard their writing for children as serving ideological aims. The texts of prominent modernistic poets such as Abraham *Shlonsky, Nathan *Alterman, and Lea *Goldberg later became classics of Hebrew children's literature. At the same time a specific group of professional writers for children began to emerge. This process of differentiation, whose first buds can be traced back to the late 1930s, was fully manifested in the 1950s with writers such as Yemimah Tshernowitch-Avidar, Yaakov *Churgin, Anda *Amir-Pinkerfeld, Miriam *Yalan-Stekelis, Fania *Bergstein, and Aharon Ze'ev.

One of the means of filling out the system as quickly as possible and approximating the conditions of European culture was by translation, which was reinforced by the wish to prove that all the child's educational and cultural needs could indeed be supplied in Hebrew. This made the translation of the so-called children's classics a priority. In light of the almost monolithic character of the original texts, the variety of the repertoire was achieved through translation. Already before World War i several translations of books for children had been published: Jules Verne's Seviv ha-Areẓ bi-Shemonim Yom (Around the World in 80 Days, translated by Ben-Yehuda, 5661 (1901)) and Karl Gutzkow's Uriel Akosta, translated by the teachers of the girls' school in Jaffa, Jerusalem, 1906). Later on some publishers began specializing in translated literature for children. Most prominent among them was Omanut, which published translated literature almost exclusively (in 1932, for example, Omanut published 30 translated books and one original). Until 1944, when it was closed down, Omanut published almost 500 translated books from among the best known classics, mostly translations from German and Russian. In the 1940s and 1950s Am Oved and Sifriyat ha-Po'alim concentrated on publishing translated literature. The books published by Sifriyat ha-Po'alim gave expression to its world view. Most of them were translated from the Russian and were deeply immersed in Soviet culture. The Shaḥrut series of Am Oved, on the other hand, concentrated on translations of classics such as Yotam Ha-Kasam and Ziknei Bet ha-Sefer be-Vilbay, or books with Jewish themes, such as George Eliot's. In fact, several publishers adopted the criterion of Jewish themes as determining their editorial selection. For instance, in the framework of the Dorot series of the Yizrael publishing house were published the 12 volumes of Zikhronot le-Vet David as well as adaptations of Meir Lehmann, Ludwig Philippson, George Eliot, and Benjamin d'Israeli

During the 1940s the narratives characterizing texts for children were in several respects a continuation of the previous ones: Hebrew children's literature continued to be an engaged literature, subjugated to ideological tenets. Ereẓ Israel was still presented as the antithesis of the Diaspora. The characterization of the protagonists remained the same: assertive children, independent, lovers of nature, and native speakers of Hebrew. Special place was given to historical heroes of the near or ancient past, like Judah Maccabee, Joseph Trumpeldor, and Alexander Zeid, who shared similar traits: courageous, motivated by their love for their country, working its soil, honest and moral, and prepared to give their lives in defense of its people and its land. The archetypal protagonist was involved in events in which enemies were endangering the land and people of Israel and injuring their national pride. Defending the people and the land, the protagonists restore their dignity and often die heroic deaths.

Much place continued to be given to the descriptions of Ereẓ Israeli holidays and festivals which replaced the traditional ceremonies of the Diaspora. Also similar was the preference of the agricultural settlement to the city and the lengthy descriptions of the landscape and of the nature.

In terms of their location, the stories were almost always set in a kibbutz or moshav. Even when the protagonist lived in the city, the story was to take place in an agricultural settlement. The message of the titles was more often than not of an ideological nature (Smoly's Ha-Na'ar Amiẓ ha-Lev ("The Brave-Hearted Boy"), Halperin's Yaldei ha-Sadeh ("Children of the Field")). The child protagonist is prepared to take chances, even risking his own life, but his relations with the adult world are fairly harmonious, with adults and children often replacing each other.

Despite the harmonious relations, the presentation of the family began to change in the 1940s. The parents were not represented anymore as the center of the child's life, nor as a source of authority. The child was represented as primarily attached to the Land of Israel and to nature, not to his parents. In many texts the children left home at an early age to fulfill pioneering missions and join a group (which thus replaces their family). Another change concerned the decline of the universal socialist ideology whose place was taken by the national ideology.

The most decisive change in the narrative of the 1940s resulted, however, from the need to relate to the Holocaust as well as to the preparations for the proclamation of the State of Israel. Three narratives were consequently developed: the narrative of the ties to European Jewry in times of affliction (and afterwards the narrative of the Holocaust), the "military" narrative, and the narrative of the lessons that should be drawn from the Holocaust.

The negation of the Diaspora typical of children's literature of the 1930s was replaced by the story of European Jewry in distress. It was marked by concern for and identification with their plight. Other stories dealt with the immigration of refugee children, describing their difficult exodus when leaving the dreadful conditions of Europe. Here the narrative of survival immigration replaced the previous narrative of ideological immigration in a clear attempt to change the readers' attitude towards survival immigration. From the end of 1942 the story of children from Ereẓ Israel rallying to help Jewish children in the Diaspora evolved (for example, Yemimah Tshernowitch-Avidar and Mira Lobe's Shenei Re'im Yaẓu la-Derekh (1950)), as well as of stories told by a grandfather to his grandson in Ereẓ Israel, in which he nostalgically describes his childhood in the Diaspora. The stories depicted the sense of a shared fate, and even alluded to the helplessness of the Yishuv and its inability to provide real assistance to Diaspora Jews in distress. The literature for very young children generally kept silent about the events in Europe, though sometimes it incorporated two levels of reading: the text for the very young was accompanied by a tragic level addressing the adult reading the texts to children.

In fact, the children's literature of the 1940s was the first to provide a means for telling a story of the Holocaust that was not being told in any other discourse. From this standpoint children's literature told a unique Holocaust story, colored by a sense of remorse about the negation of the Diaspora, dominant in the literary and educational discourse prior to World War ii.

Alongside the Holocaust narrative there evolved in the early years of World War ii the "military" narrative which told the story of youths (sometimes children) in Ereẓ Israel fighting the enemy in defense of the homeland. At its peak, particularly during the years of the anti-British struggle, it described children as daring and irreplaceable fighters. At first the war was a central theme in literature for very young children and was absent in the literature for older children. Latter most of the "military" literature addressed older children. The archetypal story was that of a close-knit group of children described as a quasi-"military" unit, who, instead of using their skill as detectives to solve a mystery (as was often the case with young detectives of Western literature), fought against an enemy threatening to conquer their country. They also described the fighting ability of the young Hebrew collective as representing an unparalleled "military" force. Several stories began to point directly to the British as the enemy of the Zionist endeavor. The Arabs of Palestine were also marked as the national enemy, against whom war was inevitable. The portrayal of an enemy who was present "here and now" turned the "military" narrative into a recruitment story. For the first time in the history of Hebrew children's literature, a present-day conflict was depicted in which children would play a unique and central role.

Translated literature continued to be published. Owing to the strong link with the Soviet Union and Russian culture, most of the texts were translated from Russian or by the use of Russian literature as a mediating system. Some were appropriated by the Hebrew system almost as original. This was the case of Ha-Mefuzar mi-Kefar Azar 1943) translated by Lea Goldberg, or Kornei Chukovsky's Limpopo (1943) and Barmalai (1946) translated by Natan Alterman.

Writing original popular children's literature, such as detective stories, was still tabooed in the 1940s, unless they were immersed in an ideology, which praised the military abilities of the younger generation. Two typical examples are Yemimah Tshernowitch-Avidar's best seller Shemona be-Ikevot Eḥad (1945) which told the story of a group of eight kibbutz children who managed to capture a dangerous German spy during World War ii and Naḥum Gutman's Ha-Ḥofesh ha-Gadol, o Ta'alumat ha-Argazim 1946), which told the story of two youths who endanger their lives while trying to save an important shipment needed by the Jewish Yishuv under Turkish rule.

Towards the end of the World War ii there evolved the narrative of the "national lesson" which combined the Holocaust and the "military" narratives into a new narrative – that of revolt and revenge of Jewish Diaspora children. This new narrative had its roots in the Warsaw ghetto revolt (April 1943) which left a mark on the narrative of the Yishuv. This narrative, often accompanied by chilling descriptions of violence, coupled the Holocaust to the heroic fighting of the few against the many. Its stories described children from "there" avenging family members who had been murdered; it also emphasized the generational aspect of the revenge and the ethos of an underground war waged by youngsters. The story of integrating the child-survivor into the society of children in the Yishuv began to take shape. Its protagonist was an orphaned child-refugee who arrives in Ereẓ Israel. Physically and mentally broken, he is integrated into a group of children within a short period of time, and forgets his traumatic past. The "correct" mode of absorption illustrated by this narrative took on the character of a "cure." The child was often adopted by a family or a Hebrew collective and his adoption was accompanied by a systematic effort to erase the memory of the horrors of the Holocaust. The survivor's successful integration was depicted as a happy ending. The large number of texts that presented such modes of integration indicates that very many writers were party to an effort to assist in the absorption process. It was only in the 1970s that the memory of the survivors was called upon and no longer required to be suppressed.

During the 1950s the Holocaust narrative was weakening whereas the "military" combined with the "national lesson" became dominant, especially in popular children's literature which gradually and cautiously was gaining some legitimacy, but still drew much fire. When Yigal *Mossinsohn began publishing in 1949 Hasambah – the first series of original popular literature – he was vehemently attacked for corrupting the souls of the children of Israel, and this despite the ideological underpinning of the series. The Hasambah series, first published by the children's magazine Mishmar li-Yeladim, told the story of a group of children who participated in many adventures and was deeply rooted in the Zionist narrative and values.

Hence, from the mid-1950s, Hebrew children's literature was no longer exclusively the product of an ideological motivating force. More emphasis was then put on the aesthetic and psychological features of the texts for children. Aspects of life which were previously ignored were gradually introduced in the 1960s. Themes which had been taboo were now placed on the literary stage: divorce, death, sex, protagonists of social groups previously ignored (such as women or young girls), urban life, various ethnic groups. The change can be discerned not only in terms of theme but in the poetics of the texts as well, driven by the wish to introduce the child's point of view. In several texts the authoritative point of view of a narrator was replaced by the child's point of view or by the introduction of more than one point of view.

Since the 1950s, with an acceleration of the process in the 1960s, children's literature has undergone a process of autonomization and normalization. From a literature bearing the ideological burden of the Zionist project, regarding itself as one of its major agents, it became similar to Western children's literature. This was evident in both the professionalization of children's literature – a clear distinction was made between literature for adults and literature for children – and the specialization of several publishing houses in children's literature. Almost all large publishing houses were involved in publishing for children and most of them appointed editors specifically for children's literature. The economic basis of children's literature became much more solid, several books for children became bestsellers, and several writers for children made their living from writing (Devorah Omer, Galila Ron-Feder) even before this was the case with writers for adults (*Oz, *Grossman). The professional differentiation coordinated with gender differentiation – most of the professional writers for children were women. At the same time almost all known writers for adults (with the exception of Yehoshua *Kenaz) wrote at least one book for children, though only Grossman and *Shalev did it systematically.

The status of the writer for children was enhanced by the award in 1978 of the highly prestigious Israel Prize to three authors in recognition of their life's work in children's literature (Nahum Gutman, Anda Amir, and Levin Kipnis).

The standard of visual presentation of books for children progressed enormously and a new generation of illustrators for children became an integral part of the scene. Age differentiation became more and more distinct: books for infants, books for toddlers, books for preschoolers, books for the first grades, books for youth.

Since the 1970s, Hebrew children's literature has experienced a tremendous boom. Publishing policy, even of the publishing houses of the labor parties, was now placed on a commercial basis in its broadest sense. That is to say, books were chosen for publication either because they were believed to be valuable, or saleable, or both.

The system of children's literature has managed to become a complete system consisting both of popular and high literature. The number of published books and the number of copies sold has increased considerably. No fewer than 480 children's books were published in 1976, of which 194 were new titles and 286 were reprints. The number of books published more than doubled between 1965/6 and 1979/80, and almost tripled in the 20 years between 1965/6 and 1986.

YearNo. of children's booksNo. of total%

The Central Bureau of Statistics does not have data for books published after 1996. However, according to the data of the Jewish National and University Library (which is not necessarily in accordance with the data of the Central Bureau of Statistics), they received 463 children books in 1996 (7.7%), 518 in 1997 (7.8%), 450 in 1998 (7.2%), and 474 in 1999 (8%). Since then the percentage of children's books has declined: 370 in 2001 (5.3%), 317 in 2002 (4.5%), 346 in 2003 (4.1%), and 426 in 2004 (5.5%).

The ulta-Orthodox world did not remain indifferent to the boom in Hebrew children's literature. Probably in an effort to compete with it, ulltra-Orthodox writers, especially women writers, began writing in mass for children; among them most prominent is Yokheved Sachs. To a lesser extent was the effort to write books for the children of the settlers in the occupied territories (for instance Emunah Elon), probably in an attempt to promote a different value system from the one prevalent in Hebrew children's literature since the 1970s.

Poetry for children was allotted considerable space and new writers began writing poetry for children, introducing new models which emphasized the child's point of view and its individual character (Adulah, Datyah Ben-Dor, Hagit Benziman, Shlomit Cohen-Assif, Edna Kremer, Haya Shenhav and Miric Senir). Yehudah Atlas's Ve-ha-Yeled ha-Zeh hu Ani (1977) served as a model for the presentation of the child as a specific unique individual rather than a stereotyped "ẓabar." In addition, the writing of lyric poetry for children developed (Tirzah Atar and Nurit Zarchi), satirical poetry (Efrayim Sidon), philosophical poetry (Mikhal Senunit), or ironical poetry (Meir Shalev). Writing of prose for the very young also increased: some of it was based on a realistic model (Nira Harel, Miriam Roth), others on a didactic model (Alona Frankel), fantasy (Haya Shenhav), or prose challenging the family role model (Meir Shalev and Etgar Keret).

The range of topics covered by children's literature expanded greatly both as a result of the "normalization" of the system and because of its nexus with European and American children's literatures, which were undergoing a similar process. Instead of the earlier, almost exclusive focus on realistic fiction about the history of the Jewish people and the history and the life of the people of Israel the door was opened to themes from the private sphere which had previously been shunned, such as first love, friendship, parent-child relations, children's adventures, death in war, death of family members, divorce, and family crisis in general. Even when describing the group or the community the books concentrated on the child's point of view, his fears and his wishes. For instance, Raya Harnik's, Aḥi Aḥi (1993), Uri Orlev's Ḥayat ha-Ḥoshekh (1967) and Ya'akov Shavit's Nimrod Kelev Ẓayid (1987) deal with a child's response to the death of a father or brother. Other writers depict conflicts between the individual and society, notably Nurit Zarchi's Yaldat Ḥuẓ (1978), Ofrah Gelbart-Avni's Kirotshe-lo Ro'im (1992), Roni Givati's Mishalot Ḥoref (1993), Yisrael Lerman's Ha-Yeled mi-Gedat ha-Naḥal (1992), and Yona Tepper's David Ḥeẓi Ḥeẓi (1990).

Some of the prose writing for older children continued to be realistic fiction about the history and life of the Yishuv in the pre-State period, and the history of the Jewish people. Merkaz Shazar and Yad Ben-Zvi, usually not involved in publishing for children, initiated the publication of historical novels, presumably due to the success of several historical novels as major agents in the construction of past images, notably Devorah Omer's Ha-Bekhor le-Vet Avi (1967) and Sarah, Gibborat Nili (1969). Among the prominent authors to publish such works were Dorit Orgad (Ha-Ḥatufim li-Ẓeva ha-Ẓar, 1986), Devorah Omer (Pitom be-Emẓa ha-Ḥayyim, 1984, and Ahavat Itamar, 2001), and Esther Streit-Wurzel (Ha-Beriḥah, 1969). These novels did not introduce the critical historical narrative which became popular in both historiographical and prose writing for adults. Except for Daniella Carmi, there was no attempt to shed light on the "other," nor to write critically about the Zionist project. On the other hand, unlike previous historical novels written during the pre-State period (like Smoly's), writers did not hesitate to explore the shortcomings of their protagonists and did not endeavor to imbue the child with national values of heroism.

The model of the Zionist adventure narrative of popular literature was replaced by an adventure model based on the child's world. Especially popular were books by Semadar Shir and the series Jinji by Galila Ron-Feder. Like any other popular literature the stories are based on a certain repetitive pattern. They are highly respected in terms of their characters, their role division, the world described, and the development of the plot.

The narrative of the Holocaust changed and was not limited to the survivor generation but to the second generation as well. The books relate the dreadful events of the Holocaust combined with stories of survival. The narrative is of a documentary nature or between realism and fantasy, for instance, Uri Orlev's, Ha-I bi-Reḥov ha-Ẓipporim (The Island on Bird Street, 1981), winner of the Andersen Prize; Tamar Bergman's Ha-Yeled mi-Sham (1983); Ami Gedalia's Ha-Ed ha-Aharon (1989); Ruth Ilan-Porath's Kurt Aḥi (1983); Rivka Keren's Kayiẓ Aẓuv, Kayiẓ Me'ushar (1986); Irena Liebman's Sus Eẓ u-Shemo Zariz( 1988); and Ruth Almog's Ha-Massa Sheli im Aleks (1999).

The fields of picture books and books for the very young have changed significantly in terms of the design and graphics of books. A new generation of artists followed Nahum Gutman and Aryeh Navon, who illustrated several books for children. Most prominent among them were Orah Eyal, Ora Eitan, Alona Frankel, Hilah Havkin, Avner Katz, Danny Kerman, Ruth Modan, and Ruth Tsarefati.

Translations and re-translations of children's classics (most of them dating back to the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries) continued to predominate. The most important of these appeared in the framework of the Kitri series by the Keter publishing house, which published new translations of, among others, Joanna Spyri's Heidi, George Sand's La Petite Fadette, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Edmondo de Amicis's Cuore, Waldemar Bonsels's Die Biene Maja und Ihre Abenteuer, Jules Verne's Michel Strogoff, Henryk Sienkiewicz's Wpustyni i w puszczy ("In Desert and Wilderness"), Mark Twain's The Prince and The Pauper, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island, Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies, Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, Alexander Dumas's La Tulipe Noir, Alphonse Daudet's Tartarin Sur Les Alpes, and L.M. Montgomery's The Foundling. The Marganit series by the Zemora publishing house specialized in translations of American and European classics of the 20th century, such as several of Roald Dahl's books (Matilda and Danny the Champion of the World), Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus, Eleanor H. Porter's Pollyanna, Edith Nesbit's The Railway Children, Ferenc Molnar's A Palutcai Fiuk, Robert Lawson's Rabbit Hill, and Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy.

In addition, popular and successful children's literature, published mainly in the United States and England, began to be regularly translated into Hebrew, often within months following publication of the original. In addition to the Harry Potter series, works of well known writers such as Eric Hill (the English Spot series) or the Olivia books by the American Ian Falconer have also been translated almost immediately after they appeared.

Hebrew children's literature has undergone tremendous changes over the last 200 years. Starting as a literature with virtually no natural reading public, it has acquired a large and stable reading public. Although it was believed to serve as a tool for other purposes, it managed to liberate itself from ideological and didactic constraints, and to emerge as a full and "normal" system, having a "normal" reading public and functioning on the same basis as any other national literature in the West.

[Zohar Shavit (2nd ed.)]

in the united states

Besides Israel and Europe, the United States is the other large Jewish center, where a substantial children's Hebrew literature developed. A function of the different aspects of the U.S. Jewish educational system at various times, it also depended on writers of children's Hebrew literature who had emigrated from Europe. The first U.S. readers were copies or imitations of children's books that had been put out in Europe; for example, Reshit Limmudim le-Yaldei Benei Avraham, by A.R. Levy (1895). By the turn of the century a considerable number of Hebrew readers, adapted to the U.S. Hebrew educational environment, were published. They were written in an easy style and had a limited vocabulary. Most prominent in this field was the educator Z. Scharfstein, founder of the New York educational publishing house Shilo, which printed dozens of Hebrew textbooks and readers.

Children's literature in the United States developed sporadically because it mainly depended on emigrant European authors (the most noted works of that period are Abraham Luria's Ahavah NisgavahḤizzayon li-Venei ha-Ne'urim (1892), and Ezekiel Levitt's Ha-Nerot Hallelu (1903). After 1916, however, it grew into a serious literary activity. The regular flow of publications has primarily been due to the activities of such public institutions as bureaus of Jewish education and the *Histadrut Ivrit. Public bodies, such as the Association of Hebrew Teachers, various bureaus for Jewish education, and the Jewish Education Committee, also published booklets for children in a very easy style. Among these were the following series: Ma'asiyyot le-Tinokot (15 numbers); Orot and Mikra Oneg (1930?, about 20 numbers), edited by Z. Scharfstein; Sifriyyah le-Var-bei-Rav and Sippurim li-Yladim (1954), by Akiva Ben-Ezra; Ha-Ivri ha-Katan (1938–45) published in Chicago and Sippurim Yafim (1932–38), by H.A. *Friedland (Cleveland, 100 numbers). The Lador Publishing House, established by the Jewish Board of Education in New York printed children's books, including adapted modern and classical works, biographies, and essays on religion and on society. Hebrew children's literature in the United States is only produced occasionally.

[Uriel Ofek]

children's literature in yiddish

Yiddish literature for children had its beginnings in the folklore that sprang up among the people and for the most part was not especially oriented toward the young. Up to the end of the 19th century, children's literature was in general orally transmitted in the home: folksongs, lullabies, stories based on the Bible and Talmud, and stories translated into Yiddish. Relatively few Yiddish children's books existed; among them were Spanishe Haydn oder Tsigayners ("Spanish Heathens or Gypsies"), an 18th-century translation; and two late 19th-century texts: Reb Khayml der Kotsin ("Reb Chaim, the Judge," a play by Joel Berish, 1867) and Yontevdige Ertseylungen ("Holidays Tales," a collection of stories by Mordecai Spektor, 1889). *Sholem Aleichem's story "Dos Meserl" ("The Penknife," 1887) may be regarded as the first Yiddish story for children, although it was not initially a children's story. Yiddish children's literature began to appear in the first half of the 20th century. It enjoyed its most fertile period during the interwar years. The origins of Yiddish children's literature are to be sought in the development of Yiddish-language educational institutions, both secular and religious, for which textbooks were published, both original compositions and translations. One of the early manifestations was in Yiddish periodicals for children, usually edited by teachers. The first was Farn Kleynem Oylem ("For the Young Audience"), edited by Joseph Heftman, which appeared as a supplement in Di Yidishe Vokh ("The Yiddish Week," 1912–13).

Following the Holocaust, Yiddish children's literature continued to be published only in the Americas. In Argentina, for example, the periodical Argentiner Beymelekh ("Argentine Saplings") began publication in the late 1930s, and in the United States, the periodical Kinder Zhurnal ("Children's Magazine"), appeared through the late 1970s.

In Europe

In the early 20th century numerous institutions began to publish children's literature, among them: the Kletzkin Farlag in Vilna (from 1908) and the Kultur Lige (founded in 1917 in Kiev), both of which later moved to Warsaw. The system of Yiddish-language schools in Poland, Tsisho (cysho; Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye, "Central Yiddish School Organization"), founded the press Shul un Lebn ("School and Life"). By the 1920s there were several publishers of Yiddish books in Warsaw. Shloyme Bastomski founded a press in Vilna, Naye Yidishe Folkshul ("New Yiddish People's School"), and Moyshe Taykhman directed the press Kinderfraynd ("Children's Friend") in Warsaw. The Orthodox Agudat Israel founded the press Beys-Yankev in Lodz. All of these presses published Yiddish books (originals, adaptations, and translations) and periodicals for children.

In Vilna the periodicals Der Khaver ("The Friend," 1920–22 and 1929–39) and Grininke Beymelekh ("Green Saplings," 1914–15, 1919–22, 1926–39) appeared, most of the issues under the editorship of Bastomski. In Warsaw the periodical Kinderfraynd (1936–39) was edited by Moyshe Taykhman. Agudat Israel published the children's periodicals Kinder Gortn ("Kindergarten," from 1924) and Frishinke Blimelekh ("Fresh Blossoms").

The fathers of modern Yiddish literature also wrote and adapted childrens' literature – works by Sholem Yankev *Abramovitsh (Mendele Moykher Sforim) and Sholem Aleichem (e.g., his Mayses far Yidishe Kinder ("Stories for Jewish Children"; 1918)), and Motl Peysi dem Khazens ("Motl Peysi, the Cantor's Son"; 1913). I.L. *Peretz also wrote many books and poems for children, as well as adapting folktales. Modern Yiddish children's literature included original texts, adaptations, and translations. Literary works of various genres and for a range of ages were published. It began from song games and counting songs for small children, continued with stories about animals, friends, and school, and extended to folktales and travelogues for adolescents. Many writers emigrated from their original homes to other countries in the course of their lives.

The following is a partial listing of the most important authors: Soviet Union – Rokhel Boymvol, Benjamin Gutianksi, Yehezkel *Dobrushin, Daniel *Charney, Der *Nister, Leib *Kvitko, Itzik *Kipnis, Helene Khatzkeles (translator); Poland (including Vilna) – Shloyme Bastomski, Moyshe *Broderzon, Blume Hamburg, Falk Heilperin, Gabriel Weissman, Malke Chaimson, Joseph Tunkel (Der *Tunkeler, who also translated works of Wilhelm Busch), Kalman Liss, Kadie *Molodowsky, Leib Malakh, Sore Reisen; Romania – Eliezer Steinbarg, famous as a writer of parables, also wrote many works for children; Germany – Joseph-Hillel Levy, Eliezer Schindler.

In the United States

At the beginning of the 20th century there were a number of individual presses active, but most publishers of children's books were school systems. Children's periodicals were also published by such organizations as Kinderland ("Child-Land") and Kindertsaytung ("Children's Newspaper") by the Workmen's Circle; Kindervelt ("Children's World") by the Natsionaler Arbeter Farband; Yungvarg ("Young Folks") by the Internatsionaler Arbeter Ordn; Kinder-Zhurnal ("Children's Journal") by Matones, the press of the Sholem Aleichem Folks-Institut.

In the United States anthologies published for children included adaptations and abridgements of classics, as well as new original works. Most Yiddish children's authors in the Americas were immigrants born in Eastern Europe, some of whom began to write while they were still living in Europe and continued to do so after immigrating. Among them were Ephraim *Auerbach, David *Ignatoff, Benjamin-Jacob *Bialostotzky, Rivke Galin, Hermann Gold, Jacob *Glatstein, Naphtali *Gross, Leah K. Hofmann, Peretz *Hirschbein, Zishe *Weinper, Nahum Weissman, *Yehoash, Nahum *Yud, Chaver-Paver, Nahum Khanin, Aleph *Katz, A. Leib (Abraham-Mordecai), Mani *Leib, Ida Maaze, Kadie *Molodowsky, Yudl *Mark, Moyshe *Nadir, Shloyme Simon, Leon Elbe, Ida Kozlowsky-Glazer, Yosl Kotler, David Rodin (Eliyahu Levin), Isaac-Elkhanan Rontsh, Isaac-Hersh Radoshitsky, Abraham *Reisen, Shloyme Shneider; Argentina – Moyshe David Giesser, Shne'er (Shneur) Wasserman, Zalman Wassertzug, Litman (Simkha Freylekh), Zelik Mazur, Abraham Moshkowitz, Samuel Tzesler, Avigdor Spitzer.

[Adina Bar-El (2nd ed.)]

children's literature in ladino

In contrast to Hebrew and Yiddish, Ladino, the language spoken by Sephardi Jews in Mediterranean countries, especially Turkey, the Balkans, and Ereẓ Israel, was not taught in schools. As a result, comparatively few literary works for children are written in Ladino. On the other hand, there exists a rich folk literature in this language, which formed part of the cultural upbringing of the youth.

The first readers for children in Ladino were translations or "imitations" from the Hebrew, including excerpts from Menorat ha-Ma'or, King Solomon's Proverbs, Josippon, and other works. The many coplas (folk sagas and ballads) found in Ladino literature greatly enriched the lives of children, e.g., Akedat Yiẓḥak, Yosef ha-Ẓaddik, Nes Ḥanukkah, and others, as well as poems composed for recital on Purim, at carnival time, and on other holidays. In the 18th century, some of these works began to be published, such as Abraham de Toledo's Coplas de Yoçef ha-Ẓaddik (Constantinople, 1732). An important collection of Ladino parables was published by Kayserling (Budapest, 1809).

When the demand for education made itself felt in the Sephardi communities, many textbooks for children came to be published, especially in Constantinople, Smyrna, Salonika, Belgrade, and Vienna. One of the readers written for children was Sefer Ḥanokh la-No'ar by Abraham Pontremoli (1872), including moral tales and parables.

In the 20th Century

At the turn of the 20th century, Ladino fiction for children made its appearance. Initially it consisted mostly of translations of classical works and Hebrew stories by Ben Avigdor, Yehudah Burla, and others. In Salonika, Jerusalem, and Constantinople there also appeared many adventure stories – originals and imitations – which were usually serialized. Among the writers of adventure tales were Alexander b. Ghiat; Elia Carmona (Rav-ha-Ḥovel he-Amiẓ, Ḥalomo shel Jack ha-Katan, 1910–12); Ize de Pirlilo ("Bat-Soḥer ha-Peninim," 1901); David Fresco (He-Ḥayyat ha-Ivver, 1926, and many other works); J.S. Behar (Silamar, 1926); and Benzion *Taragan, whose books appeared both in Salonika and in Jerusalem. Many of these works were read by adults as well as by children. Some modest literary activities in Ladino also took place in North Africa.

When the State of Israel was established, most of the Jewish communities in the Middle East emigrated either to Israel or elsewhere. With the demise of these Jewish centers in the Diaspora, the younger generation abandoned its "Diaspora" language, and for all practical purposes children's literature in Ladino came to an end.

[Uriel Ofek]

holocaust literature

Children's literature of the Holocaust emanates from two major sources: adults writing reflectively about themes derived from Holocaust occurrences and children writing, revising, or reflecting upon their personal adolescent experiences.

The first category includes such writers as Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) and Eve Bunting. The former author's thinly disguised antisemitism theme in The Sneetches, and his Yertle the Turtle, a stand-in for Hitler, harken back to Seuss's March 20, 1942, turtle victory cartoon in the radical newspaper pm newspaper (Minear, 1999). Bunting's Terrible Things is a picture book allegory closely paralleling Martin Niemoller's poem, "First They Came for the Jews." Such literature, taught inductively, has great appeal for children 7–11. For slightly older readers is Hana Volavkova's beautifully edited I Never Saw another Butterfly…, children's drawings and poems from te rezin, 1942–1944, including Pavel Friedmann's poem, "The Butterfly." A much different book is Yuri Suhl's Uncle Misha's Partisans, about Jewish resistance fighters living in the forests near Klynov, a Ukranian village, where the 12-year-old orphaned Motele infiltrates Nazi operations.

This latter book, a novel, raises questions about using fictional works to depict Holocaust events. Key is veracity to psychological and historical truths. Definitely worthwhile are Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, about a 10-year-old Jewish girl assisted by a Danish peer to flee the Nazis by escaping to Sweden; Uri Orlev's The Island on Bird Street, about 11-year-old Alex's survival experiences in the Warsaw ghetto; Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic, wherein modern teen-age Hannah turns into Jewish Chaya living in a 1942 Polish village. Similarly, Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottsfeld's Anne Frank and Me transforms the super modern teenager, Nicole, into a Jewish girl living in German-occupied Paris in 1942. The latter books both use a time warp effect to unsettle their protagonists and, hopefully, adolescent readers.

Good teachers choose literary selections allowing for maximum exploration of human values. Holocaust educator Karen Shawn recommends that works selected reflect historical reality, foster involvement and identification with the victims and survivors, engage and enlighten the students, present the truth without traumatizing the reader, and offer flexibility of classroom use. Shawn, invoking Louise Rosenblatt's reader response theory, stresses the value of teachers fostering a "transaction" between the reader and the text.

Adolescents definitely make transactions when reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Whether the diary is read and studied to learn about World War ii Amsterdam, teen angst, relationships, life in hiding, or growth toward maturity and responsibility, the book's 25,000,000+ copies sold worldwide elevate the book to its peerless status. "Anne had problems like mine!" is the universal cry of readers facing puberty. Recent critics are adjudging versions of Anne's diary, e.g., media depictions, or her father Otto's diary passages selections rather than Anne's own words. The diary remains, for many, the window to learning more about the Holocaust. Simon Wiesenthal gave his daughter the diary to read when she came of age.

Anne's writing, of course, is part of the world of children who have written, revised, or reflected upon their personal adolescent experiences. For older readers, the ones over 15, there is Night. Elie Wiesel's experiences as a 12- to 16-year-old Hungarian Jew caught up, with his immediate family, in the maelstrom of the Sighet ghetto, the Auschwitz-Birkenau factory of death, and Buchenwald, represent for many teens the epitome of Holocaust death, degradation, and destruction. Selling but a few thousand copies annually after its 1960 English publication, Night now sells approximately 400,000 copies a year notes literary agent Georges Borchardt.

Night, in fact, was one of five books most often taught by the then 100 Mandel (now Museum) Fellows trained at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to a survey conducted by this writer in 2000. The others were Gerda Weissman Klein's All But My Life, Ruth Minsky Sender's The Cage, Nechama Tec's Dry Tears, and Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz. These books relate the experiences of relatively young victims (Levi, age 24, the exception) transported from Poland, Hungary/Romania, or Italy to various ghetto, concentration camp, or death camp sites. Several spent years in captivity, the persecution/destruction of such youths being the core of Nazi genocide.

A book set, widely sold, read, and studied, unusual in both form and approach, is Maus i and Maus ii, which tell the story of Vladek Spiegelman, an Eastern Poland Jew transported to Auschwitz, as seen through cartoonist Art Spiegelman's second generation eyes. The graphic comic book Pulitzer Prize-winning set depicts Art's father as a victim mouse in a world of Nazi cats. Volume two broaches how children somehow survive having a Holocaust survivor parent.

A book, in many ways an adult book, often used with students in their later teens, is Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower. The 1998 version repeated the opening tale of the Jew Wiesenthal being confronted near the Lemberg (Lwow), Austria, camp by a dying Nazi asking forgiveness for his part in an atrocious mass murdering of Jews. Wiesenthal, aghast at the request, poses the question for possible responses by leading authorities of our time – and by the readers. As youths explore the responses of the 53 experts, they discover a wide range of views, from absolute forgiveness (The Dalai Lama) to none (Cynthia Ozick). The challenge is in mediating morality.

Cursory examination of foregoing literature reveals picture books, poetry, novels, diaries, graphic comic book, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. Owing to the varied forms, however, children's literature of the Holocaust remains cross genre literature; not a separate one.

One valuable addition to the diary genre is Alexandra Zapruder's Salvaged Pages. Researching diaries largely from Eastern Europe, many previously unpublished or excerpted only briefly elsewhere, Zapruder reveals a wide range of adolescent responses to the varying situations of Nazi entrapment. Ranging in age from 12 to 22, nearly two dozen diarists chronicle their world shrinking from city to ghetto, to reformulated Jewish life, sometimes to concealment, to trains – to refugee status – or death. The writers, only six of whom survive, share their fears, wishes, dislikes, and dreams. Mostly, however, these boys and girls explore their struggles to be moral in an immoral society. If Anne Frank's diary record reflects innocence, Salvaged Pages reveals innocence stripped away. Zapruder's diarists reflect considerable diversity of nationality, economic and social class, religious orientation, and wartime experiences. Sheer survival is the chief concern. The ghetto diaries (e.g., Terezin, Lodz, Kovno, Vilna) are the richest; yet hardest to distill. Why did young people even confide in diaries during such terrible times?

All 22 diarists were Jews. Zapruder's book's second appendix, however, provides rewritten and reconstructed diaries, letters, diary-memoirs, and texts by young non-Jewish Nazi genocide victims. Most helpful are the Editor's Note and Introduction, explaining how historians help readers distinguish among diaries as immediate records, revised records, and reflective (sometimes post-war) records.

The varied pieces of Holocaust literature written by adults and children can instruct and edify youths of all ages. "Age-appropriate," in fact, is the term found in many states' documents which mandate or promote (approximately half) Holocaust study. Works mentioned – and many others – can be used to reach educational objectives and standards. Adolescent readers entering the historical world of their peers become witnesses to the cataclysmic 1933–1945 events. Such witnessing can help perfect the world – Tikkun Olam.

See also "Children's Literature in Hebrew" above.

[William Younglove (2nd ed.)]

children's literature in english and other languages

Most of the children's literature on Jewish themes written in languages other than Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino appeared in English (either in Britain or the U.S.), although there were other significant contributions in Central and Eastern Europe. In some countries Jews were prominent children's writers, producing books of general, rather than specifically Jewish, interest; a notable example was Felix *Salten, author of the German animal story Bambi (1923). However, those who dedicated their work to the Jewish youngster sought not merely to retell the Bible stories, but rather to increase knowledge of and pride in the Jewish heritage.


great britain

Three pioneers of Jewish children's literature in English were the sisters Celia (Moss) Levetus (1819–1873) and Marion (Moss) Hartog (1821–1907), who wrote Tales of Jewish History (1840), and Grace *Aguilar, author of Women of Israel (1845) and various works of fiction, notably The Vale of Cedars (1850), a romantic tale of heroism set among the Spanish Marranos. Later, some of Israel *Zangwill's novels, such as The Children of the Ghetto (1892) and The King of Schnorrers (1894), were popular children's books. In time, too, English translations of many Hebrew and Yiddish classics by writers like H.N. Bialik and Shalom Aleichem became juvenile bestsellers. Under the pen name "Aunt Naomi," Gertrude Landa, wife of the journalist and author M.J. Landa, published a volume of Jewish Fairy Tales and Fables (1908), while another collection of Jewish Fairy Stories (1947?) was edited by Gerald Friedlander. These books were part of the Shapiro Vallentine publishing company's "Library for Jewish Children." The series also included Claud Field's Jewish Legends of the Middle Ages and Samuel Gordon's The Lost Kingdom… (1926), a romance about the Khazars. Apples and Honey (1921), a "gift book for Jewish children," was published by Nina (Davis) *Salaman, a noted writer and translator. Other books of the period included Kate Lady *Magnus' highly successful Outlines of Jewish History (1886; revised 1958); J.M. Myers' Story of the Jewish People (3 vols., 1924–25); and The Golden Thread (19632) by S. Davis and M. Kaye. In 1931, Izak *Goller began publishing a series of plays on biblical themes (e.g., A Purim Night's Dream), which long retained their appeal to Jewish youngsters.

The establishment in 1922 of the Jewish Memorial Council and of the Jewish National Fund's education department in 1935 accelerated the production of Jewish literature for the young. The jnf issued hundreds of Jewish publications, including the annual Moledet, and Nitzanim (1950– ), short stories mainly about Ereẓ Israel. In 1935, Joseph Halpern published his History of Our People in Bible Times, sequels appearing in 1939 and 1965; and Hyman *Klein produced various annotated religious texts for the young. Later, the publishing houses of Vallentine Mitchell and Soncino Press produced many children's works on Judaism and Jewish history; the authors of these included I. Fishman, S.M. Lehrman (d. 1988), and Isidore *Epstein. Among the best-known writers of Jewish children's books in Britain were Arthur Saul Super, who coedited an illustrated Children's Haggadah (1933); Beth-Zion Abrahams (The Jews in England, 1950); Josephine Kamm (Great Jews, 1948–49; Leaders of the People, 1959); S. Alter Halpern (Tales of Faith, 1968); and Pamela Melnikoff (The Star and the Sword, 1968). Many works on Israel for Jewish youngsters also appeared. Books for Jewish children were published in the Commonwealth and included stories on Jewish and Israel themes by the South African writer Betty Misheiker (1919– ).

An unusual and popular publication was Chronicles, News of the Past (1958), biblical newspapers in English and Hebrew editions, appearing in Israel.

[Joseph Halpern /

Godfrey Edmond Silverman]

united states of america

Probably the earliest significant works for Jewish children to appear in the United States were those by the English writer Grace Aguilar, some figuring among the first books issued by the Jewish Publication Society of America. The poems of Emma *Lazarus also proved attractive to young American Jews. A pioneer of Jewish literature for the young was Abram Samuel Isaacs (1852–1920), who wrote Stories from the Rabbis (1894), books on Moses Mendelssohn (1910) and Grace Aguilar (The Young Champion, 1913), and Under the Sabbath Lamp (1919). Many Hebrew classics appealing to young people have also appeared in English, translated by Shulamit Nardi, I.M. Lask, Martha Marenof, and others. During the first decades of the 20th century Hannah Trager published stories about youngsters in Ereẓ Israel (2 vols., 1920); and Samuel S. Grossman (1893–1930) produced plays on biblical and other Jewish themes. A prominent children's writer of the era between the world wars was Jessie *Sampter, whose works in this field include Around the Year in Rhymes for the Jewish Child (1920) and Far Over the Sea (1939), translations of poems by Bialik. The Tree of Life; Sketches from Jewish Life of Yesterday and Today (1933), a volume of prose, verse, and drawings, was produced by Enrico (Henryk) *Glicenstein and Alexander M. *Dushkin. Other leading writers for Jewish children included Sadie Rose Weilerstein (1895–1993), author of What Danny Did (1928), The Adventures of K'tonton (1935), and What the Moon Brought (1942); Elma Ehrlich Levinger (1887–1958), who wrote Jewish Holyday Stories (1918) and In Many Lands (1929); and Sulamith Ish-Kishor, author of The Bible Story (2 vols., 1921–23) and various collections of verse and prose.

With the advent of Nazism in Europe, children's books on Jewish themes rapidly multiplied. The process gained added momentum after the creation of the State of Israel, when the literature issued by religious and educational bodies and the various Zionist youth movements was reinforced by eminent American writers. Thus, Howard *Fast produced a Picture-Book History of the Jews (1942) and popular biblical fiction; Meyer *Levin wrote works on Judaism and Israel for juveniles (The Story of the Jewish Way of Life, 1959); and Manuel Komroff (1890–1974) published a Bible Dictionary for Boys and Girls (1957) and Heroes of the Bible (1966). Other children's writers were Lilly M. Klaperman, Dorothy Freda Zeligs, Freda Clark Hyman, and Abraham *Burstein. Edith L. Calisch (1898–?) emulated Britain's Gertrude Landa with her Fairy Tales from Grandfather's Big Book (1938). A very high proportion of Jewish children's books have been sponsored by the various synagogue bodies in the United States and by national and local Jewish educational organizations. Children's books on the festivals and general religious knowledge written from the Reform standpoint were produced by Sophia M. Cederbaum, Lillian B. Freehof (1906– ), and M.G. Gamoran (d. 1984); and from that of Conservatism or Orthodoxy by Lillian S. Abramson, Azriel Louis Eisenberg (1903–1985), Robert Garvey, the prolific Norma Simon, Morris Epstein (1922–1973), Sol Scharfstein (1921– ), Hyman Goldin, Robert Sol, and Nissan Mindel (of the Ḥabad "Merkos l'Inyonei Chinuch"). Bible stories were published by Behn Boruch and Gay Campbell (Ruth Samuels, 1912– ), and children's operettas and books on Jewish music by Harry Coopersmith (Joseph and his Brothers, 1953). Anthologies of interest to Jewish children and youth were The World Over Story Book (1952), edited by Norton Belth, Feast of Leviathan (1956), tales from Jewish literature by Leo W. *Schwarz and various "treasuries" by Nathan *Ausubel. Leading reference works included The Junior Jewish Encyclopedia (1957, 19632), edited by Naomi Ben-Asher and Chaim *Leaf, and A. Burstein's New Concise Jewish Encyclopedia (1962).

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]

later trends

Not until the 19th century, when educational philosophy and the growing popularity of child psychology proclaimed the child a distinct personality with special needs, was any attempt made to create a body of literature which took into account the needs and development of children. The Jewish community in America did not attempt to supply children with suitable religious material until the 1920s, when first the Reform (uahc) and later the Conservative (United Synagogue) movements established commissions of education which encouraged the writing of books dealing with legends, stories, teaching Jewish values, biographies, and books about Jewish holidays in addition to textbooks. Soon commercial Jewish publishing houses began to publish children's books, but these seldom included original works.

Denominational publishing still exists. The uahc (Reform), Torah U'Mesorah (Orthodox), and the Merkos l'Inyonei Chinuch (Lubavich) publish a respectable list of books for children each year. United Synagogue no longer publishes children's books except for pedagogical material and Sidduri, a recorded book for handicapped youngsters. Commercial Jewish publishing has not declined but has changed. Some of the old-time firms no longer publish children's (or any) books, but new Jewish publishers have taken their place. Some of these are small, independent presses like Kar-Ben Copies, Dov-Dov, and Aura. sbs is a new commercial Jewish publisher who works with the Olivestone Press. Many of the Orthodox presses specialize in children's books which depict a strict Torah life-style and use Hebrew or Yiddish freely within the text. Although the books are primarily written for children from all denominations because of their simple text and brightly colored cartoon pictures. However, stilted writing, poor characterization and didactic moralizing eliminates most of these from the realm of literature. There is even an Orthodox comic book – "Mendy the Golem," which features "Oy Vader."

Mesorah/Artscroll publishes with Torah U'Mesorah and has brought out several attractively illustrated anthologies of traditional modern stories. Judaica Press has established the Jewish mystery story as a vehicle for teaching Jewish values. Authors are Miriam Stark Zakon, Gershon Winkler, and Carol Korb Hubner. Feldheim has established a "Young People's Series" reviving many classics and commissioning original works like the Savta Simcha books by Yaffa Ganz. Children's literature from Orthodox Jewish presses remain a good source of stories based on Aggadah and tales of faith and piety.

Of the independent presses Kar-Ben Copies has consistently issued attractive low-cost books for the young child. The need for books for the very young is quite new and is also addressed by uahc.

The Jewish Publication Society of America, long a producer of quality Jewish literature, inaugurated a new series of books for children in 1976 when it published Haym Salomon, Son of Liberty by Shirley Milgrim in honor of the Bicentennial. Since 1979 the jps has brought out approximately 2–3 children's books each year of good literary quality and format.

Many of today's children's books are issued in paperback. Besides being less costly than hardcover books it has been found that children are more likely to pick up a paperback to read than a hardcover book.

Although the Jewish publishers are still deeply involved in publishing children's books, they are outnumbered by the large trade publishers. The Holocaust and the establishment of the modern State of Israel brought many professional writers, some of them non-Jews, to children's literature with Jewish themes. These writers primarily wrote fiction, and some of them wrote well. The trouble in many cases was that they were not educated Jewishly and so – with the best of intentions – often distorted the Jewish aspect of the story. There were, however, also many exceptions where the talents of the professional writer were combined with Jewish knowledge.

The 1960s and 1970s saw an upsurge in ethnic and minority interest. Many authors, some of them Jews, were moved to explore their own background. The Jewish content of the books began to improve along with the writing style. This is apparent in the handling of sensitive subjects like, such as antisemitism, intermarriage, and the Holocaust. Earlier novelists portrayed interdating and intermarriage as an answer to antisemitism and a step towards universal brotherhood, but books of the 1970 and 1980s recognized the insidiousness of intermarriage and celebrated the specialness of being totally Jewish.

As for the Holocaust early novels show Jews as helpless, depending upon the largesse of their Christian friends for rescue; later novels tell stories of resistance, both physical and spiritual, and of courage. Recently many personal narratives and biographically based novels have been written by survivors and their children, who are also writing about what it means to be a child of survivors.

Books about Israel have decreased since the 1960s. Five were written in the 1970s, but in the 1980s there has been no children's fiction about Israel. There has been one good non-fiction reference book, The Junior Encyclopedia of Israel by Harriet Sirof.

Because of the high costs of four-color printing there are still not enough good picture-books being produced. Nevertheless, there has been a certain increase and Yeshiva Museum held an exhibit of original Jewish children's picture-book art. Two awards are given annually for the best Jewish children's picture-book and there is no lack of good artists.

The Jewish Book Council continues to develop attractive posters, bookmarks, and kits and to publicize Jewish Book Month in schools and libraries. It grants annual awards for the best children's books and regularly reviews children's books in the press releases it distributes to the Anglo-Jewish press.

Other awards are granted by the Association of Jewish Libraries and by Present Tense magazine. All this generates public interest in Jewish books.

Children's literature as a subject for scholarly study has become more established, and with it Jewish children's literature. It has been the theme of dissertations, articles, and course-work.

Another reason why Jewish children's literature is becoming more prominent is the growth of Jewish book clubs and direct mail techniques of advertising and ordering.

Trade and Jewish publishers currently publish catalogues of Jewish children's books, as do booksellers such as Eeyore in New York City, whose Eeyore's Books of Jewish Interest for Children features a narrative storyteller, Peninnah Schram, and The Jewish Bookshelf, whose computerized lists are always up-to-date. Both sell books by mail. Trade publishers who furnish separate bibliographies of Jewish children's books are Atheneum, Bantam, Dell, Farrar, the William Morrow Group and others. Holiday, Clarion, Doubleday, Holt and Watt are trade publishers with a substantial number of Jewish-content children's books listed in their catalogues.

The growth of Jewish libraries and other factors mentioned above have encouraged the compilation of bibliographies of books for Jewish children. Among them are Selected Jewish Children's Books by Dr. Marcia Posner (jwb Jewish Book Council, 1982, 1984); Jewish Children's Books: A Selected Bibliography of 100 Books for a Beginning Library (Assoc. of Jewish Libraries – ssc Division, 1982); and A Comprehensive Guide to Children's Literature with a Jewish Theme by Enid Davis (Schocken, 1981).

Reviews of Jewish children's books are available in the Anglo-Jewish press, courtesy of the jwb Jewish Book Council Jewish Books in Review and the Jewish Book Work, and in most Jewish periodicals.

Children's literature for Jewish children has been the subject of a dissertation ("The Search for Jewish Content in American Children's Fiction") and for a research article published in Phaedrus (1980) by Philip E. Miller and Naomi M. Patz, "Jewish Religious Children's Literature in America: An Analytical Survey." The Association of Jewish Libraries publishes a newsletter four times a year which reviews and discusses children's books. In their Building a Judaica Library Collection, Ruth and Meir Lubetski include sources for Jewish children's books even though their book is directed mainly toward academic and research libraries.

Slowly but steadily children's literature with Jewish themes is making progress in the United States. The first Conference on Jewish Children's Books was held by the Jewish Book Council in 1982.

[Marcia Posner]

Other Languages


Children's literature on Jewish themes has not been outstanding in France. Yet it was here that one of the first Jewish children's writers was active in the early 19th century – Esther Eugénie Rebecca Foa (1795–1853), who published novels and stories for the young, such as La Juive, histoire des temps de la Régence (1835). As in the English-speaking countries, some works of interest to Jewish children and adolescents were also translated from Hebrew and Yiddish, and others by French Jewish writers were also popular among the young. Edmond *Fleg's L'Enfant prophète (1927; The Boy Prophet, 1928), the story of a child's return to Judaism, was a classic example of this process. There have been various juvenile publications on Judaism and the Jewish heritage, and an anthology of Jewish stories for children, Les contes de l'arche de Noé (1955), was published by Renée Neher-Bernheim (1922– ), who also wrote popular works on Jewish history.


The picture was rather different in Germany and Austria, where books for Jewish children were more common from the mid-19th century. Some works by Berthold *Auerbach and Heinrich *Heine appealed to the young, as did the historical fiction of Ludwig Philippson, who endeavored to promote a sense of pride in Jewish heroism. Although they possessed more educational than literary value, the historical romances of the Orthodox writer Marcus *Lehmann, collected in Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (6 vols., 1871–88), long enjoyed popularity among Jewish youngsters and many were translated into English and other languages. Others active in this field during the late 19th and early 20th century were M.S. Sperling, Eduard Kulke, C.Z. Kloetzel, and E. Gut (Fuer unsere Jugend, 3 vols., 1916–26). A comically titled German Jewish bestseller was Schabbes-Schmus, Schmonzes Berjonzes von Chaim Jossel (1907), which by 1912 had run to no less than 38 editions. Between the world wars, many books of interest to Jewish youngsters were published by Emil (Bernhard) Cohn. Heinrich Einstaedter and Karl Ochsenmann produced Bilder und Klaenge aus juedischer Welt (1925); and works about Ereẓ Israel were sponsored by the German Zionist organization, generally taking the form of translations from Hebrew literature. Irma Mirjam Berkowitz (1898–?) wrote children's fiction about life in Palestine, and Yaakov Simon's anthology Lasttraeger bin ich; juedische Jugendgeschichten aus dem neuen Palaestina (1936) was one of the last Zionist works for children to appear in Germany.

italian and dutch

In Italy, too, attempts were made in the 19th century to promote adherence to Judaism by means of children's fiction. C. Coen's Scelto fior di memoria per fanciulli israeliti, a volume of poetry, appeared in 1860. The outstanding writer of books for Jewish youngsters was Giulia (Cassuto) Artom, who published illustrated works such as Prima-vera ebraica (1931). In the Netherlands, children's literature was rare, except for one or two books by Samuel Goudsmit (1884–1954), but several important works for and about Jewish children, notably the Diary of Anne Frank (Het Achterhuis, 1946), appeared after World War ii.

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]


The Zionist movement and the virulence of native antisemitism together provided the impulse for the creation of Jewish children's literature in Romania, where Jewish heroism and achievements were particularly emphasized. Translations from the Hebrew and Yiddish classics and from modern Hebrew works regularly appeared in the important fortnightly Copilul Evreu, a children's periodical that flourished between the world wars. Biblical, aggadic, and midrashic tales and legends also formed part of this publication and original contributions were made by Avram Axelrad, Marcel Breslaşu, Enric *Furtunt, B. Iosif, N. Kitzler, I. Mendelovici-Meron (the editor), Mayer *Rudich, and others. The Galil Publishing House also issued juvenile literature, such as N. Zelevinski's Minunata caˇlaˇtorie a unui copil evreu ("The Wonderful Journey of a Jewish Child," 2 vols., 1931). During the Nazi era, M. Blumenthal published works for Jewish children and adolescents (Pioneri evrei, 1942) sponsored by the Romanian Zionist organization; and Eugen Campus produced two volumes on Jewish folklore under the auspices of the Bucharest Sephardi community, Peştera vraˇjitaˇ ("The Enchanted Cave," 1942) and Vintule, tĭ harule ("Wind, You Scoundrel," 1942). In 1945, after the Nazi defeat, the Bikurim Publishing House issued booklets on the Jewish festivals, and a volume of Bible stories for children by Joachim *Prinz, issued by the World Jewish Congress, appeared in Romanian translation (1948). Under the Communist regime, activity in this field came to an end.

[Dora Litani-Littman]


Jews were among the pioneers of general children's literature in Hungary, Adolf *Àgai editing the one important periodical for the young and Ferenc *Molnár becoming Hungary's outstanding children's writer; Molnár's A Pál-utcai fiuk (1907; The Paul Street Boys, 1927) was a classic novel about young people, and, like most of his works, was based on urban Jewish life. At first, most fiction for Jewish youngsters was restricted to translations from authors such as B. Auerbach, M. Lehmann, and I.L. Peretz. Subsequently, a few Hungarian Jewish writers published Zionist works for the young, notably L. Sass, Zs. Mészáros, and János *Giszkalay, who wrote for young people. As in Romania, their aim was to prevent the total assimilation of Hungarian Jewish youth. In general, however, Jewish writers paid little attention to the need for literature of this type. After World War ii, all further activity in the field ceased following the Communist bar on Zionist work in 1949.

[Baruch Yaron]


In Eastern Europe, books for Jewish children were, understandably, most often written in Hebrew or Yiddish rather than in the vernacular. During the late 19th and early 20th century, however, Shimon (Semyon) *Frug wrote highly successful lyric poetry on Jewish national themes, some of which appeared in Russian as well as Hebrew and Yiddish. Frug's brilliant and stirring verse greatly appealed to Jewish youth immediately before the Bolshevik Revolution. Two other writers of the same period were P.G. Klaczko, author of Pod znamyenem Makkaveyev ("Under the Maccabean Banner," 1903), and M.I. Daiches, who edited anthologies of verse and prose for Jewish children, such as Yevreyskiye osenniye prazdniki ("The Jewish Autumn Holidays," 1913). After the revolution, Jews became prominent as children's writers in the U.S.S.R. Lev Abramovich *Kassil was, in fact, the outstanding creator of Soviet juvenile fiction, others in the field being Samuel *Marshak, his sister Yelena Ilina (1901–1964), and his brother M. Ilin (1895–1953). However, none of them wrote especially for Jewish children, although Kassil's autobiographical Shvambraniya (1933) does include a scene relating to his youthful protest against Gogol's antisemitism. More recently, Vetvi ("Branches"), a volume of stories in Russian about life in Israel, originally written in Hebrew by Miriam Yalan Stekelis, appeared under the auspices of the Davar Publishing House, Israel.


Material specifically written for Jewish children was long negligible, consisting mainly of translations or of Zionist educational pamphlets issued by the Aviv Publishing House during the 1930s. The one major writer in the field was the educator Janusz Korczak, whose name is linked with the Jewish orphanage which he heroically guarded under the Nazi occupation. Korczak's output was extraordinarily prolific and includes an entire volume for and about Jewish youngsters, Mośki, Jośki, Srule (1910) and many other tales of Jewish life among the poor, as seen through the eyes of a child. Of these, one describes a child's petition to the king of England for unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine; another, dealing with kibbutz life, was based on Korczak's impressions after a year's stay in Ereẓ Israel. Literary activity of this type ceased after the Nazi annihilation of Polish Jewry.

[Esther Tarsi-Gay]

czech and serbo-croatian

The only writers of importance in Czechoslovakia who published works for the Jewish youngster were Richard *Feder (Židovské besídky) and Ivan *Olbracht, whose Biblické příběhy ("Bible Tales," 1939) were specially adapted for the young. In Yugoslavia, Mirjam Weiller edited Priče za židovsku mladež (1919), a volume in Croatian, the same language being used for Samuel *Romano's children's verse collection Bajke, priče, slike Šemuela čike (1938). Two later Yugoslav authors of Jewish children's literature were the Zionist writer and translator Hinko *Gottlieb and the poet and translator Ina Jun *Broda.

in latin america

The strongly secular and radical Yiddishist tradition in Latin America has discouraged the growth of any vernacular literature intended for Jewish children and adolescents, despite the existence of Jewish publishing houses such as Candelabro in the Argentine. Works on Jewish themes have at best been translated from Hebrew or other languages. Brazil has, however, been something of an exception to this rule in that a few writers have managed to create a small reservoir of books in Portuguese for the Jewish youngster. Some of these publications retold the Bible stories, others fostered an interest in Hebrew or Israel, others dealt with Judaism and the Jewish religious calendar. Brazilian authors and editors of books for Jewish children included Pedro Bloch, H. Lemle, Bat-Sheva Iussim Segal, and Henrique Iussim. The last named, who specialized in works on the Bible, eventually settled in Israel.


G. Bergson, Sheloshah Dorot be-Sifrut ha-Yeladim ha-Ivrit (1966); Z. Scharfstein, Yoẓerei Sifrut ha-YeladimShellanu (1947); M. Regev, Sifrut Yeladim Mahutah u-Veḥinoteha (1967). yiddish: Mark, in: jba, 3 (1945), 139–41; Niger, in: School Almanac (1935), 188–95; Kazdan, in: Shul Pinkes (1948), 335–79. For English translations of children's literature from Hebrew, see Goell, Bibl, 90–97. add. bibliography: in yiddish: A. Bar-El, Itonei Yeladim Yehudiim be-Polin: sikhum mehkar: kolel leksikon sofrim umeshorerim le-yeladim be-yidish (2002); idem, Bein ha-Eẓim ha-Yerakrakim: Itonei Yeladim be-Ivrit u-ve-Yidish be-Polin 1918–1919 (2005); D. Charney, in: Literarishe Bleter, 2 (20 Jan. 1939), 21–22; S. Niger, in, Shul-Almanakh (1935), 188–95; Kh.-Sh. Kazdan, in: Shul-Pinkes (1948), 335–79; Ch. Shmeruk, in: Di Goldene Keyt, 112 (1984), 39–53. holocaust literature: C. Bennett, & J. Gottsfeld, Anne Frank and Me (2001); G. Borchardt, Interview Reading Between the Lines at Event with Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, Calendar Section (April 26, 2005); E. Bunting, Terrible Things (1980); A. Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl: The Critical Edition, D. Barnouw and G. van der Stroom (eds.), Arnold J. Pomerans and B.M. Mooyart-Doubleday (translators) (1989); G.W. Klein, All But My Life (1995); P. Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity (1958); L. Lowry, Number the Stars (1989); R.H. Minear, Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War ii Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1999); U. Orlev, The Island on Bird Street (1984 [See also K. Shawn's Virtual Community, Real Life Connections: A Study of The Island on Bird Street via International Reading Project, in Samuel Totten (ed.), Teaching Holocaust Literature (2001.); R.M. Sender, The Cage (1986); K. Shawn, "What Should They Read and When Should They Read It?" in: Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies, 8:2 (1994), g1–g16 (See also "Choosing Holocaust Literature for Early Adolescents," in: Samuel Totten and Stephen Feinberg, (eds.), Teaching and Studying the Holocaust (2001), 139–55.); D. Sheridan, "Changing Business As Usual: Reader Response Theory in the Classroom," in: College English, 53:7 (November 1991), 804–14; A. Spiegelman, Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (1973); idem, Maus ii: A Survivor's Tale. And Here My Troubles Began (1986); Y. Suhl, Uncle Misha's Partisans (1973); N. Tec, Dry Tears. The Story of a Lost Childhood (1982); H. Volavkova, H. (ed.), I Never Saw Another Butterfly (1993); E. Wiesel, Legends of Our Time (1968); idem, Night (1960); S. Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (1997); J. Yolen, The Devil's Arithmetic (1988); A. Zapruder, Salvaged Pages (2002).

Children's Literature

views updated Jun 27 2018

Children's Literature

Like the concept of childhood, children's literature is very much a cultural construct that continues to evolve over time. Children's literature comprises those texts that have been written specifically for children and those texts that children have selected to read on their own, and the boundaries between children's literature and adult literature are surprisingly fluid. John Rowe Townsend once argued that the only practical definition of a children's book is one that appears on the children's list by a publisher. Contemporary publishers are not making that distinction any easier; for example, Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There (1981) was published as a picture book for both children and adults, and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is available in adult and children's versions with the only difference being the book's cover art. While folk and fairy tales were not originally intended for children, they have become a staple of children's literature since the early nineteenth century. On the other hand, many books written for and widely read by children during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are considered historical children's literature today and are read almost exclusively by adult scholars of children's literature. Children's literature has been written, illustrated, published, marketed, and purchased consistently by adults to be given to children for their edification and entertainment. Generally speaking, it is the intended audience rather than the producers of the texts who define the field. Children's texts written by child or adolescent authors, such as Daisy Ashford's The Young Visiters (1919) or Anne Frank's Het Achterhuis (1947; The Diary of a Young Girl, 1952), are exceptions to the rule. Many famous children's authors, such as Louisa May Alcott and Lewis Carroll, produced family magazines as children, and bits of their juvenilia were reworked into published children's books. More often, children's books result from the collaboration or direct inspiration of a specific child or group of children with an adult author. James Barrie's friendship with the Lewelyn Davies boys resulted in the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (1904) and the novel Peter and Wendy (1911). The bedtime stories that A.A. Milne told his son Christopher Robin were revised into Winnie-the-Pooh (1926).

Although children's literature is intended primarily for children, it is more accurate to view such texts as having dual audiences of children and adults. Adults, particularly parents, teachers, and librarians, often function as gatekeepers who identify appropriate texts for children. Since children's literature has been marketed and purchased by adults who, in turn, present it to children, authors and publishers have attempted to produce children's texts that appeal to the desires of the actual adult purchaser, if not the child reader of the text. In the picture book and chapter book genres especially, an adult reads to a child or children in a group. It is only with the advent of the paperback book that adolescents, and in some cases younger children, have been able to select their books independent of adult supervision or funds. Prior to the development of public education and free libraries in the late nineteenth century, children's literature tended to be limited to the middle and upper classes. A children's book reflects the ideologies of the culture in which it was written and embodies that period's assumptions about children and appropriate behavior. Consequently, children's literature more often embodies adult concerns and concepts of childhood rather than topics children might choose for themselves. This gap between children's and adult's attitudes toward children's literature is often revealed in the difference between the top-selling children's books, which are frequently series books, and the books chosen annually by the American Library Association as the outstanding picture book (winner of the Caldecott Medal) and the outstanding book of prose (winner of the Newbery Medal).

Early History

In order for a society to produce a substantial body of children's literature it must recognize the existence of children as an important and distinctive category of readers with separate needs and interests. Despite Philippe AriÈs's much debated assertion that childhood was discovered in the seventeenth century, children's texts with limited circulation have been located from earlier periods of history. Manuscripts for religious education and courtesy books intended to teach rules of conduct were circulated among the wealthy in the Middle Ages. Harvey Darton has suggested that there were no children's books in England prior to the seventeenth century; however, he limits children's books to those printed texts that appeared after Johannes Gutenberg's fifteenth-century invention and includes handmade as well as printed texts that were concerned primarily with instruction, thus excluding educational textbooks or religious primers.

The twin purposes of instruction and delight have long been accepted as the primary goals of children's literature. John Newbery, a London bookseller, published at least thirty children's books and is recognized as the first British publisher to make children's books a permanent and profitable branch of the book trade. Newbery's A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744) is the first significant commercial children's book published in English. Greatly influenced by John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), thefrontispiece of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book features the motto"Delectando Momenus : Instruction with Delight," which Newbery borrowed directly from Locke. Locke modified the concept from Horace's Ars poetica (c. 19 b.ce.; On the Art of Poetry ), which recommended, "He who combines the useful and the pleasing wins out by both instructing and delighting the reader." What Locke theorized, Newbery put into practice. Locke recommended that to encourage reading, a child should be given an "easy pleasant book suited to his capacity." While Locke rejected fairy tales, he felt fables, because they often were coupled with a moral, were appropriate texts for children. He specifically recommended both Reynard the Fox (1481) and Aesop's Fables (1484), noting "If his Aesop has pictures in it, it will entertain him much the better." A Little Pretty Pocket-Book is a compendium, including an illustrated alphabet, a selection of proverbs, and an illustrated group of Aesop's fables.

Darton was too limiting when he excluded didactic books from his definition of children's literature. Townsend considered the material published prior to Newbery as the prehistory of children's literature. These books were not intended for children, but eventually reached them, particularly chapbooks that featured folk tales or the legends of Robin Hood. Educational texts such as The Babees Book (1475), a conduct book for young gentlemen, also contribute to the prehistory of children's literature. William Caxton, the first English printer, published several texts that were not intended specifically for children, but his printings did appeal to them, notably Aesop's Fables, Reynard the Fox, and Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur (1485).

An early form of didactic children's literature was the hornbook in which a single sheet of printed text, generally consisting of an alphabet and a prayer, was shared by a group of young scholars. The printed text was attached to a wooden frame and protected by a bit of flatted horn attached to a wooden handle. A later innovation was the battledore, which used parchment or heavy paper instead of wood and therefore allowed for printing on both sides. The Czech theologian and educator Johann Comenius recognized that children learn both visually and verbally. He published Orbissensualium pictus (1658) in Hungary, and the textbook was translated into English by Robert Hoole as Visible World (1659). The first illustrated textbook, Orbis sensualium pictus includes simple captions in Latin and in the common language as well as woodcuts that provide a visual encyclopedia of the world. This integration of visual and verbal elements has remained a significant design feature of children's literature, particularly in information and picture books. Another influential children's textbook was the New England Primer (c. 1689), compiled by Benjamin Harris. (While no copy of

the first edition has been located, a second edition was advertised in 1690 and the earliest surviving American copy is dated 1727.) It also combined significant visual and verbal elements; its most famous section is the illustrated alphabet, which begins "A, In Adam's Fall We Sinned All," linking the teaching of literacy with religious education. The New England Primer became the most frequently used schoolbook in North America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Puritan children's literature was intended to provide children with religious and moral education. The most extreme example is James Janeway's A Token for Children: Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children (1672) in which multiple deathbed scenes present children who are physically weak but spiritually strong. While the Puritans were one of the first groups to create a large body of children's books, their doctrine of original sin assumed that all children were damned until they were converted to Christianity. A less harsh version of Puritan theology for children is found in John Bunyan's A Book for Boys and Girls (1686), a collection

of poems or divine emblems drawn from nature. Bunyan's religious allegory Pilgrim's Progress (1678) was not written specifically for children but was quickly produced in abridged versions for younger readers along with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726). The enduring popularity of Pilgrim's Progress with children can be observed in the March sisters "Playing Pilgrims" in the first half of Alcott's LittleWomen (1868).

Newbery's children's books were less overtly religious than those produced by the Puritans. Instead his children's texts appealed to parents drawn to economic and social advancement. Directly aimed at the emerging urban middle classes, these books showed how literacy led to financial success. The most overt example is The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765), which is thought to have been written by Oliver Goldsmith, who wrote other children's texts for Newbery. The story features the poor but hard working orphan, Margery Meanwell, who becomes a tutoress and eventually impresses and marries a wealthy squire. Newbery's children's books support a middle-class ideology.

Newbery's genius was not as an author or illustrator but as a promoter and marketer of children's books who was skilled at convincing middle-class parents of the value of this new product category. His frequent advertisements in the press and his habit of inserting other titles and specific products into the texts of his children's books is a practice that continues in children's publishing. He also developed the custom of coupling children's books with non-book accessories. A Little Pretty Pocket-Book was available at a slightly higher price when accompanied by either a "Ball and Pincushion, the Use of which will infallibly make Tommy a good Boy and Polly a Good girl."

The development of children's literature in England occurred simultaneously with the rise of the English novel. It is worth noting that the first children's novel, The Governess, or Little Female Academy (1749) by Sarah Fielding, was published in the same year as Tom Jones, which was written byher brother Henry Fielding.

The Governess introduced the popular genre of the school story, the most celebrated example being Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's School Days (1857). This enduring fascination with the genre is echoed in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Another major educational theorist to have a profound influence on children's literature was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose Émile (1762) was published in France and quickly translated into English. In Émile Rousseau rejected the Puritan concept of original sin and maintained that children were born innocent but were later corrupted by society. Ironically for a text that was to inspire the publication of many children's books, Rousseau thought children should learn by doing rather than by reading. He argued that children should only be taught to read at age twelve and then be limited to the book Robinson Crusoe. The best-known English follower of Rousseau, Thomas Day, wrote History of Sandfordand Merton (17831789), a three-volume comparison between the virtues of Harry Sandford, the poor but virtuous son of a farmer, and Tommy Merton, the spoiled son of a wealthy merchant, who are educated under the constant moralizing of their tutor, Mr. Barlow. Mary Wollstonecraft's Original Stories from Real Life (1788), illustrated by William Blake, is a similar story for girls, with the rational Mrs. Mason finding object lessons from nature to inform her two charges, Caroline and Mary. Rousseau's belief in the ability to reason with children rather than using physical punishment is exemplified in Anna Laetitia Barbauld's Lessons for Children books (1778) as well as in Richard Edge-worth's Practical Education (1798), written in collaboration with his daughter, and in Maria Edgeworth's The Parent's Assistant (1796). Maria Edgeworth, daughter of Richard, was one of the finest writers of moral tales, which were those short domestic stories that encouraged children to focus on self-improvement. Such moral tales were one of the dominant forms of children's literature during the eighteenth century.

Fairy and Folk Tales

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, fairy and folk tales were considered inappropriate reading material for children, especially among the middle class. Puritans viewed them as a form of witchcraft, and both Locke and Rousseau warned against their frightening aspects, preferring stories of daily life. Mary Sherwood was the most strict writer of the moral tale and the author of the popular The History of the Fairchild Family (18181847), which was intended to provide the reader with religious education. At one point in the book, after the Fairchild children quarrel, to teach them a lesson their father takes them to a gibbet on which hangs the decaying body of a man who was executed for killing his brother. Sarah Trimmer's Fabulous Histories (1786) is a tale in which a family of robins teaches moral values. Trimmer also edited The Guardian of Education (18021806), a journal for parents and tutors, which was one of the first to evaluate children's books and to attempt a history of children's literature.

Attitudes toward fairy tales as children's literature changed during the nineteenth century when Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their two-volume collection Kinderund Hausmärchen (18121815) in Germany. The Grimms were part of the German romantic movement and, with other writers for adultsincluding Ludwig Bechstein, Clemens Brentano, and E. T. A. Hoffmannchampioned the folk tale and the literary fairy tale. The Grimms were attempting to collect and preserve German folklore for other scholars, but when Edgar Taylor translated the tales into English as German Popular Stories (18231826), he revised and redirected the tales for children. George Cruikshank illustrated the volumes, and his humorous designs were praised by John Ruskin. The popularity of the Grimm's fairy tales as children's literature was buttressed by the 1697 publication of Charles Perrault's Histories, ou contes du temps passé,avec des Moralitez (1697). Perrault's artful and moral collection of eight fairy tales was translated as Histories, or Tales of Past Times in 1729 by Robert Samber. The literary fairy tales written by Perrault are often referred to as The Tales of Mother Goose or simply Mother Goose's Tales. The phrase Contes dema mere l'oye appeared in the engraving of an older woman telling stories to a group of children that served as the frontispiece of Perrault's collection; the phrase was translated by Samber as "Mother Goose's Tales."

Fairy tales became fashionable among adults in the French court at the end of the seventeenth century as a result of Perrault's publication and of Marie-Catherine Aulnoy's publication in the same year of Contes de fées (Stories of the fairies). Aulnoy's collection of literary fairy tales was translated into English in 1699 as The History of Tales of the Fairies. Another influential French writer of literary fairy tales was Marie Beaumont, who immigrated to England in 1745, where she published Magasin des enfans (1756), which wastranslated into English as The Young Misses Magazine (1757). The work features the conversations of a governess with her

pupils and includes a number of fairy tales, the best known being her version of "Beauty and the Beast."

Perrault's fairy tales gradually were adopted as children's texts known collectively as tales of Mother Goose. Aulnoy's fairy tales were identified as the tales of Mother Bunch and became the basis for many pantomines, a Victorian family theatrical entertainment.

Henry Cole, under the pseudonym Felix Summerly, edited the influential series of children's books, The Home Treasury (18431847), which helped rehabilitate the reputation of fairy tales as appropriate children's fare. Cole wanted the series to develop imagination in children and also to counteract the attacks on fairy tales by writers such as Trimmer and Sherwood. Moreover, the series was intended as an alternative to the enormously popular information books written by Peter Parley. Parley was the pen name of Samuel Goodrich, a prolific American writer of information books who considered fairy tales and nursery rhymes coarse and vulgar. The Home Treasury, with its numerous fairy tales and works of imaginative literature, was conceived by Cole as anti-Peter Parleyism. The constant battle over fairy tales, an impulse that pits the value of stories of ordinary life against imaginative and fantastical texts, is a debate that regularly appears in the history of children's literature.

With the publication of Hans Christian Andersen's Eventyr, fortalte for bo § rn (Tales, told for children; 1835, 1843, 1858, 1861) into English in 1848, the triumph of the fairy tale as legitimate children's literature was complete. Shortly thereafter, collections of folk tales and literary fairy tales, which were written in the manner of folk tales by a specific author, tended to dominate children's literature until the end of the Victorian period. The most popular literary fairy tale of the Victorian period was Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), which was followed by its sequel Through the Looking Glass (1872); both were illustrated by John Tenniel. Carroll's imaginative novels are often credited with changing the emphasis of children's literature from instruction to delight. When compared with the majority of the children's books that preceded the Alice books, Carroll's works are remarkably free of religious or social lessons. Carroll even gently parodied Isaac Watts's poem "Against Idleness and Mischief" from Divine Songs (1715), yet the allusion also confirms the continued popularity of Watts's religious work. Religious lessons, such as those found in George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1871), or social lessons, as those emphasized in Christina Rossetti's Speaking Likenesses (1874), remained significant features of children's literature during the Victorian period.

Carroll's Alice books did not single-handedly cause a shift in children's literature. Catherine Sinclair's Holiday House (1839), which describes the frolicsome adventures of Laura and Harry Graham, reintroduced noisy, mischievous children into the world of children's books. Heinrich Hoffmann's Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder (Merry stories and funny pictures) was published in Germany in 1845 but since the third edition, which appeared in 1847, was known as Struwwelpeter. It featured illustrations and poems that mocked the excesses of Puritan cautionary tales for children. Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense (1846) is another celebrated collection of nonsense verse with comic illustrations that rejects the impulse to be morally improving or didactic. Lear specialized in the limerick although he also was skilled at writing longer poems, such as "The Owl and the Pussy-cat" and "The Dong with a Luminous Nose," which are tinged with melancholy. Carroll and Lear are often paired as the two great writers of nonsense literature. Both authors were influenced by those anonymous comic verses known in England as nursery rhymes and in the United States as Mother Goose rhymes. There have been countless publications of collections of Mother Goose rhymes. One of the most notable is Mother Goose's Melodies (1833), published by Munroe and Francis of Boston, in which Mother Goose proudly announces herself to be one of the great poets of all ages and on a first name basis with Billy Shakespeare. James Orchard Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes and Tales of England (1845) provided the respectability for nursery rhymes that fairy tales had already achieved.

Victorian Children's Literature

Victorian children's literature reflected the culture's separate spheres for men and women with different types of books written for girls and boys. Stories for girls were often domestic and celebrated the family life, such as Alcott's Little Women or Kate Douglas Wiggin's Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903). Stories for boys, such as Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), encouraged boys to have adventures. While Victorian children's literature developed the character of the good and bad boy, female characters were allowed less flexibility. Adventure storiessuch as R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island (1858), Robert Louis Steven-son's Treasure Island (1883), and Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901)became a popular genre for boys. Girls were encouraged to read moralistic and domestic fiction such as Charlotte Yonge's The Daisy Chain (1856) and the extremely popular girls' school stories by L. T. Meade, begun with The World of Girls (1886). Animal tales, such as Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1877) and Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894) and

Second Jungle Book (1895), were thought to appeal to both sexes. This tradition continued into the twentieth century with Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908), and E. B. White's Charlotte's Web (1952) as some of the most memorable animal stories. Stuffed animals became the characters in A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1828), which are illustrated admirably by Ernest Shepard.

The second half of the nineteenth century saw an explosion of children's literature, both in terms of quantity and quality. Children's literature historically has been more open to women as authors and illustrators because it has been considered less significant than adult literature and because publishers have regarded women as more capable of teaching and raising children. Children's literature also began to segment itself in terms of social class as penny dreadfuls, or dime novels, were produced for the working class and more high-minded literature was produced for the middle and upper classes.

The Victorian era is considered a golden age for book illustration and picture books. In the first half of the nineteenth century most children's books were illustrated with woodcuts or printed on wood blocks and then hand-colored, but later innovations in printing allowed for the widespread use of color. By the 1850s the master color printer Edmund Evans worked with some of the most capable picture book illustrators of the ageincluding Randolph Caldecott, Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, Beatrix Potter, and Richard Doyleto produce brilliant picture books and illustrated texts.

Contemporary Children's Literature

Twentieth-century children's literature was marked by increased diversity in both characters and authors. Earlier popular children's bookssuch as Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings (1880); Helen Bannerman's The Story of Little Black Sambo (1899); Hugh Lofting's The Story of Dr. Dolittle (1920); Jean de Brunhoff's Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (1931), translated by Merle Haas from the French as The Story of Babar, The Little Elephant (1933); and Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) have since been judged racist. Most children's literature prior to the twentieth century embodied a white ideology that was reflected in both the text and illustrations. From the 1920s on, there have been attempts to provide a more multicultural approach to children's literature. W. E. B. Du Bois's The Brownies Book (19201921) was the first African-American children's magazine. It featured stories, poems, and informational essays by authors such as Langston Hughes and Jessie Fauset. Over time publishers became more concerned with multiculturalism and issues of diversity. Notable African-American writerssuch as Arna Bontemps, Lucille Clifton, Mildred Taylor, Virginia Hamilton, and John Steptoeand Asian-American writersincluding Laurence Yep, Allen Say, and Ken Mochizukihave forever changed the once all-white world of children's literature.

On the other hand, children's literature has become more segmented in terms of age appropriateness. In the 1940s Margaret Wise Brown, inspired by the education theories of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, the founder of the Bank Street College of Education, began to produce picture books intended for children under age six. Brown's best-known picture books for the very young are The Runaway Bunny (1941) and Goodnight Moon (1947), both illustrated by Clement Hurd. Mitchell also promoted stories that reflected the real world in collections such as her Here and Now Storybook (1921). This newfound interest in age-specific material led to the creation of the widely used Dick and Jane readers (19301965) developed by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp and distributed by Scott Foreman and Company. Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat (1957) was written as a creative alternative to such basal readers, although it was also designed as a controlled vocabulary book.

While Lothar Meggendorfer developed the movable picture book at the end of the nineteenth century with tabs and pullouts, pop-up books, shaped books, and tactile books did not achieve widespread popularity until the twentieth century. The best known of these books is Dorothy Kunhardt's interactive Pat the Bunny (1940). More contemporary texts, such as Jan Pienkowski's pop-up books Haunted House (1979) and Robot (1981), blur the distinctions between book and toy. Board books are available for infants and toddlers; some of the most imaginative are the series of Rosemary Wells's Max books, beginning with Max's Ride (1979), which provide compelling stories for preschoolers.

While many twentieth-century children's texts appealed to and explored the lives of older children, most critics point to Maureen Daly's Seventeenth Summer (1942) and J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (1951) as the beginning of adolescent literature as a genre separate from children's literature. More recently, middle school literature has emerged as a distinctive category. Texts such as Beverly Cleary's Ramona series, which began with Beezus and Ramona (1955), Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (1964), and Judy Blume's problem novels, such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970), have attracted readers too old for picture books but not ready for the adolescent novel.

Series books remain a larger, but contested, segment of children's literature. Books that follow the same set of characters or repeat an established formula have been an important part of children's literature since the nineteenth century with the publication of Horatio Alger's novels, which feature plucky boys who go from rags to riches, or Martha Finley's series on the pious but popular Elsie Dinsmore. Early in the twentieth century Edward Stratemeyer's syndicate of anonymous writers wrote books for multiple series under various pseudonyms, including the Nancy Drew series as Carolyn Keene, the Hardy Boys series as Franklin W. Dixon, and the Tom Swift series as Victor Appleton. While librarians and critics have tended to dismiss the repetitive nature of series books, some series bookssuch as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, begun with Little House in the Big Woods (1932), and C. S. Lewis's collection Chronicles of Narnia (19501956), which started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)have been recognized as outstanding works of literature. Nonetheless, most series fictionsuch as L. Frank Baum's Oz series, begun with Wonderful Wizardof Oz (1900); R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series, begun with Welcome to the Dead House (1992); and Anne Martin's Baby-Sitters Club series, begun with Kristy's Great Idea (1986) have been embraced by older children but generally dismissed by adults and critics as insubstantial.

Media adaptation of children's books as films or as television series has become an increasingly important aspect of children's literature. Popular television series have been based on books such as Wilder's Little House series and Marc Brown's Arthur Adventure series, begun with Arthur's Nose (1976). Walt Disney has dominated the field of film adaptation of children's texts into cinema, beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the first feature-length animated film. Best known for animated films based on fairy tales, Disney has produced a number of live-action films, such as Mary Poppins (1964), based on P. L. Travers's Mary Poppins (1934), as well as animated features based on Carlo Collodi's Le avventure di Pinocchio (1882) and T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone (1939). As is the case with Victor Fleming's film The Wizard of Oz (1939), based on L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel, or Alfonso Cuaron's film A Little Princess (1995), based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 novel, film adaptations often change, if not revise, the original text. This complicates the meaning of a children's text when children are more familiar with a text through viewing a media adaptation than through reading the book.

Since the 1960s, an increasing number of well-designed picture books have been produced. Such book illustrators as Maurice Sendak with Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Chris Van Allsburg with Jumanji (1981), and Anthony Browne with Gorilla (1983) have created highly imaginative picture books. Talented graphic designerssuch as Eric Carle with The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969), Leo Lionniwith Swimmy (1963), and Lois Ehlert with Color Zoo (1989)have provided bold new approaches to creating picture books.

Despite the recent trend of categorizing children's literature by age, an increasing number of adults have begun reading children's books, blurring the boundaries between children's and adult texts. J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, begun with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1997), has wide appeal with both child and adult readers. Francesca Lia Block's postmodern fairy tales, such as Weetzie Bat (1989), and the darkly ironic A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket, which began with The Bad Beginning (1999), both have strong adult readership. Picture books have always been a showcase for designers and illustrators to display their talents. Increasingly sophisticated picture bookssuch as David Maccaulay's Black and White (1990) or the postmodern revisions of fairy tales written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales (1992)appeal as much to adults as to children. Contemporary children's literature continues to be a highly innovative and challenging field. As children's literature has become an increasingly financially profitable business, more successful writers who have first established themselves as writers for adults, such as Carl Hiassen (Hoot [2002]) and Michael Chabon (Summerland [2002]), are choosing to write for children.

See also: ABC Books; Comic Books; Juvenile Publishing; Movies .


Avery, Gillian. 1965. Nineteenth Century Children: Heroes and Heroines in English Children's Stories 17801900. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Avery, Gillian. 1994. Behold the Child: American Children and Their Books. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Bader, Barbara. 1976. American Picturebooks from Noah's Ark to the Beast Within. New York: Macmillan.

Carpenter, Humphrey, and Mari Prichard, eds. 1984. The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Darton, F. J. Harvey. 1932. Children's Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Green, Roger Lancelyn. 1964. Tellers of Tales: British Authors of Children's Books from 1800 to 1964. New York: Franklin Watts.

Hunt, Peter, ed. 1995. Children's Literature: An Illustrated History. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hunt, Peter, ed. 1996. Intentional Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. New York: Routledge.

Hürlimann, Bettina. 1959. Three Centuries of Children's Books in Europe. Trans. and ed. Brian Alderson. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing Company.

Jackson, Mary V. 1989. Engines of Instruction, Mischief, and Magic: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginning to 1839. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Muir, Percy. 1954. English Children's Books. London: B.T. Batsford.

Silvey, Anita, ed. 1995. Children's Books and Their Creators. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Thwaite, Mary F. 1963. From Primer to Pleasure in Reading. Boston: The Horn Book.

Townsend, John Rowe. 1974. Written for Children: An Outline of English-Language Children's Literature. New York: J. B. Lippincott.

Watson, Victor, ed. 2001. The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Jan Susina

Children's Literature

views updated Jun 27 2018


Children's literature is any literature that is enjoyed by children. More specifically, children's literature comprises those books written and published for young people who are not yet interested in adult literature or who may not possess the reading skills or developmental understandings necessary for its perusal. In addition to books, children's literature also includes magazines intended for pre-adult audiences.

The age range for children's literature is from infancy through the stage of early adolescence, which roughly coincides with the chronological ages of twelve through fourteen. Between that literature most appropriate for children and that most appropriate for adults lies young adult literature. Usually young adult literature is more mature in content and more complex in literary structure than children's literature.

Most of the literary genres of adult literature appear in children's literature as well. Fiction in its various formscontemporary realism, fantasy and historical fiction, poetry, folk tales, legends, myths, and epicsall have their counterparts in children's literature. Nonfiction for children includes books about the arts and humanities; the social, physical, biological, and earth sciences; and biography and autobiography. In addition, children's books may take the form of picture books in which visual and verbal texts form an interconnected whole. Picture books for children include storybooks, alphabet books, counting books, wordless books, and concept books.


Literature written specifically for an audience of children began to be published on a wide scale in the seventeenth century. Most of the early books for children were didactic rather than artistic, meant to teach letter sounds and words or to improve the child's moral and spiritual life. In the mid-1700s, however, British publisher John Newbery (17131767), influenced by John Locke's ideas that children should enjoy reading, began publishing books for children's amusement. Since that time there has been a gradual transition from the deliberate use of purely didactic literature to inculcate moral, spiritual, and ethical values in children to the provision of literature to entertain and inform. This does not imply that suitable literature for children is either immoral or amoral. On the contrary, suitable literature for today's children is influenced by the cultural and ethical values of its authors. These values are frequently revealed as the literary work unfolds, but they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Authors assume a degree of intelligence on the part of their audience that was not assumed in the past. In this respect, children's literature has changed dramatically since its earliest days.

Another dramatic development in children's literature in the twentieth century has been the picture book. Presenting an idea or story in which pictures and words work together to create an aesthetic whole, the picture book traces its origin to the nineteenth century, when such outstanding artists as Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, and Walter Crane were at work. In the 1930s and 1940s such great illustrators as Wanda Gag, Marguerite de Angeli, James Daugherty, Robert Lawson, Dorothy Lathrop, Ludwig Bemelmans, Maud and Miska Petersham, and Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire began their work. Many of these and other equally illustrious artists helped to bring picture books to their present position of prominence. Since 1945 many highly talented illustrators have entered this field.

With the advent of computer-based reproduction techniques in the latter part of the twentieth century, the once tedious and expensive process of full color reproduction was revolutionized, and now almost any original media can be successfully translated into picture book form. Although many artists continue to work with traditional media such as printmaking, pen and ink, photography, and paint, they have been joined by artists who work with paper sculpture, mixed media constructions, and computer graphics.

The changes in literature for older children have been equally important. Among the early and lasting contributions to literature for children were works by Jack London, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Hans Christian Andersen. These writers, however, considered adults their major audience; therefore, they directed only some of their literary efforts toward young readers. Today, large numbers of highly talented authors have turned to younger readers for an audience and direct most, if not all, of their writings to them.

Another major change in publishing for children has been the rise in multicultural children's literature. Prior to the mid-twentieth century the world depicted in children's books was largely a white world. If characters from a nonwhite culture appeared in children's books they were almost always badly stereotyped. The civil rights movement alerted publishers and the reading public to the need for books that depicted the America of all children, not just a white majority. Although the percentage of children's books by and about people of color does not equate with their actual population numbers, authors of color such as Virginia Hamilton, Mildred Taylor, Alma Flor Ada, Walter Dean Myers, Gary Soto, and Laurence Yep, and illustrators such as Allen Say, Ed Young, John Steptoe, Jerry Pinkney, and Brian Pinkney have made major contributions to a more multiculturally balanced world of children's books.

Not only are there larger numbers of talented writers and artists from many cultures at work for children, but the range of subject matter discussed in children's fiction has also been extended remarkably. Topics that were considered taboo only a short time ago are being presented in good taste. Young readers from ten to fourteen can read well-written fiction that deals with death, child abuse, economic deprivation, alternative life styles, illegitimate pregnancy, juvenile gang warfare, and rejected children. By the early twenty-first century it had become more nearly true than ever before that children may explore life through literature.

Literature in the Lives of Children

Literature serves children in four major ways: it helps them to better understand themselves, others, their world, and the aesthetic values of written language. When children read fiction, narrative poetry, or biography, they often assume the role of one of the characters. Through that character's thoughts, words, and actions the child develops insight into his or her own character and values. Frequently, because of experiences with literature, the child's modes of behavior and value structures are changed, modified, or extended.

When children assume the role of a book's character as they read, they interact vicariously with the other characters portrayed in that particular selection. In the process they learn something about the nature of behavior and the consequences of personal interaction. In one sense they become aware of the similarities and differences among people.

Because literature is not subject to temporal or spatial limitations, books can figuratively transport readers across time and space. Other places in times past, present, or future invite children's exploration. Because of that exploration, children come to better understand the world in which they live and their own relationship to it.

Written language in its literary uses is an instrument of artistic expression. Through prose and poetry children explore the versatility of the written word and learn to master its depth of meaning. Through literature, too, children can move beyond the outer edges of reality and place themselves in worlds of make-believe, unfettered by the constraints of everyday life.


The three principal settings in which children's literature functions are the home, the public library, and the school. In each of these settings, the functions of literature are somewhat different, but each function supports the others and interacts with them.

Home. Irrefutable evidence indicates that those children who have had an early and continuing chance to interact with good literature are more apt to succeed in school than those who have not. Parents who begin to read aloud to their children, often from birth, are communicating the importance of literature by providing an enjoyable experience. The young child makes a lasting connection between books, which provide pleasure, and the undisputed attention from the parent who takes time to do the reading. During the preschool years, books contribute to children's language structures and to their vocabulary. Children acquire a sense of language pattern and rhythm from the literary usage of language that is not found in everyday conversational speech. Then, too, children discover that print has meaning, and as they acquire the ability to read print as well as understand pictures, children find further pleasure in books. In finding that reading has its own intrinsic reward, children acquire the most important motivation for learning to master reading skills.

Public library. Public libraries have taken on an increasingly important role in serving children. Children's rooms, which were once the domain of a few select children, are inviting places for all children, whether or not they are inveterate readers. Libraries organize story hours, present films, and provide computers and quiet places to do homework as well as present special book-related events and sponsor book clubs and summer reading programs. Children's librarians guide the reading interests of children and act as consultants to parents. Full exploitation of the public library in the broader education of children has not yet been achieved, but growing acceptance by the public of the library as a community necessity rather than a luxury will help it to continue to play an increasingly important role in the lives of children.

School. Literature did not begin to make broad inroads into the reading curriculum until the 1950s. Before that time many schools had no library, and a good number of these schools did not even feel the need for one. Many schools relied almost exclusively on textbooks for instruction. By the end of the twentieth century, however, nearly every curriculum authority had come to recognize the importance of trade books (books other than textbooks) in the in-school education of children. In the early twenty-first century most schools have central libraries staffed by trained librarians and some schools provide financial support for classroom libraries as well. When this is not the case, teachers, recognizing the value of good literature, often reach into their own pockets to provide trade books for their classrooms. A 1998 survey of school library media programs by the Center of Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education found a mean of twenty-eight volumes per elementary school child in both public and private schools.

Function in the school curriculum. Literature plays an increasingly large role in the formal education of children in three related but rather discrete areas: the instructional reading program, the subject matter areas, and the literature program.

Most instructional reading programs recognize the importance of literature. Basal reading textbook programs generally recommend that trade books be used from the beginning of formal reading instruction in order to motivate readers through the long, and sometimes frustrating, efforts that learning to read usually demands. Through trade books the reader finds those efforts are rewarded by the pleasure gained from reading. In many schools the teaching of reading has been centered on trade books rather than textbooks. But in literature-based programs, teachers plan instruction around experiences with "real" books, experiences that include helping students make their own reading choices and giving children time to share responses to reading with their peer group. Schools with such literature-based programs recognize the importance of creating a classroom community of readers that will not only help children learn how to read but will also encourage them to become lifelong readers.

Subject matter areas, such as social studies and the sciences, have depended to a large extent upon textbooks to provide common learning for entire classes. However, there are limitations inherent in the nature of textbooks that require supplementation by trade books. Because textbooks survey broad areas of knowledge, space limitations prevent in-depth explorations of particular topics. Recent discoveries and events cannot always be included because textbook series require long periods of preparation. Content area textbooks are often subject to review by state committees that limit potentially controversial material. Trade books are widely used to offset these limitations. Nonfiction books provide opportunities for in-depth consideration of particular topics. Furthermore, the comparatively short time needed for the preparation and publication of trade books makes recent discoveries and occurrences available to the reader.

Elementary school literature programs vary widely. As state and national standards and testing drive curriculum some schools reflect the attitude that literature is a luxury, if not an undesirable frill.

In such schools little, if any, in-school time is devoted either to reading for pleasure or to the formal study of literature. Most schools, however, recognize children's need for some pleasurable experiences with literature that enable them to return to books to think more deeply about the characters, themes, and other literary elements. In such schools the study of literature is grounded in reader response theory that grew out of Louise Rosenblatt's contention in Literature as Exploration that "the literary work exists in a live circuit set up between reader and text" (p. 25). Thus the reader is seen as a coconstructor of meaning with the author. Any plan for the direct study of literary form, structure, and content as a means of heightening the pleasure of reading includes, at a minimum, teachers reading aloud from works of literature, and the formation of book circles where small groups of students regularly meet together to discuss books. In addition teachers should plan time for children to respond to books through writing, creative dramatics, and other art forms.


There are a number of awards made to authors and illustrators of children's books, and these awards frequently aid readers in the selection of books. The most prestigious American awards are the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal. The Newbery Medal is presented each year to the author of the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" published in the previous year. To be eligible for the award, the author must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the United States. The winner is chosen by a committee of the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) of the American Library Association (ALA). The Caldecott Medal is given each year to "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." The winner is selected by the same committee that chooses the Newbery winner. In addition to the Newbery and Caldecott medals, other prominent awards given under the auspices of the ALSC include the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which is given to an author or illustrator who has "made a substantial contribution to literature for children" over a period of years; the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, which honors the author whose work of nonfiction has made a significant contribution to the field of children's literature in a given year; and the Batchelder Award, given to the publisher of the most outstanding book of the year that is a translation, published in the United States, of a book that was first published in another country. Other notable American book awards include the Coretta Scott King Awards given by the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association to an African-American author and an African-American illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions to literature for children, and the Pura Belpré Award, which is sponsored by ALSC and REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library Service to the Spanish Speaking). This award is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding book for children. The Hans Christian Andersen prize, the first international children's book award, was established in 1956 by the International Board on Books for Young People. Given every two years, the award was expanded in 1966 to honor an illustrator as well as an author. A committee composed of members from different countries judges the selections recommended by the board or library associations in each country.

The following list of outstanding children's books was selected from award winners of the twentieth century and is meant to mark important milestones in children's literature.

Aardema, Verna. 1975. Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears. Illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. New York: Dial.

Alexander, Lloyd. 1968. The High King. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Atwater, Richard, and Florence Atwater. 1938. Mr. Popper's Penguins. Boston: Little, Brown.

Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin. 1946. Miss Hickory. Illustrated by Ruth Gannett. New York: Viking.

Bang, Molly. 1999. When Sophie Gets AngryReally, Really Angry. New York: Scholastic.

Bemelmans, Ludwig. 1939. Madeline. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Bontemps, Arna. 1948. Story of the Negro. New York: Knopf.

Brink, Carol Ryrie. 1935. Caddie Woodlawn. Illustrated by Kate Seredy. New York: Macmillan.

Brown, Marcia. 1947. Stone Soup. New York: Scribner's.

Brown, Marcia. 1961. Once a Mouse. New York: Scribner's.

Burton, Virginia Lee. 1942. The Little House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Clark, Ann Nolan. 1952. Secret of the Andes. Illustrated by Jean Charlot. New York: Viking.

Cleary, Beverly. 1977. Ramona and Her Father. New York: Morrow.

Cleary, Beverly. 1984. Dear Mr. Henshaw. New York: Morrow.

Collier, James, and Collier, Christopher. 1974. My Brother Sam Is Dead. New York: Four Winds.

Cooney, Barbara, ed. and illus. 1958. The Chanticleer and the Fox, by Geoffrey Chaucer. New York: Crowell.

Cooper, Susan. 1973. The Dark Is Rising. New York: Atheneum.

Cooper, Susan. 1975. The Grey King. New York: Atheneum.

Creech, Sharon. 1994. Walk Two Moons. New York: Harper Collins.

Crews, Donald. 1978. Freight Train. New York: Greenwillow.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. 1999. Bud, Not Budd. New York: Delacorte.

Cushman, Karen. 1995. The Midwife's Apprentice. New York: Clarion.

de Angeli, Marguerite. 1949. The Door in the Wall. New York: Doubleday.

de Paola, Tomie. 1975. Strega Nona. New York: Simon and Schuster.

de Regniers, Beatrice Schenk. 1964. May I Bring a Friend? New York: Atheneum.

Emberley, Barbara. 1967. Drummer Hoff. Illustrated by Ed Emberley. New York: Prentice Hall.

Estes, Eleanor. 1944. The Hundred Dresses. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.

Feelings, Muriel. 1971. Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book. Illustrated by Tom Feelings. New York: Dial.

Field, Rachel. 1929. Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. Illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop. New York: Macmillan.

Fleischman, Paul. 1988. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. New York: Harper and Row.

Forbes, Esther. 1943. Johnny Tremain. Illustrated by Lynd Ward. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Fox, Paula. 1973. The Slave Dancer. New York: Bradbury.

Freedman, Russell. 1987. Lincoln: A Photobiography. New York: Clarion.

Gág, Wanda. 1928. Millions of Cats. New York: Coward-McCann.

Gates, Doris. 1940. Blue Willow. New York: Viking.

Geisel, Theodor S. [Dr. Seuss]. 1951. If I Ran the Zoo. New York: Random House.

George, Jean. 1972. Julie of the Wolves. New York: Harper and Row.

Goble, Paul. 1978. The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. New York: Bradbury.

Haley, Gail E. 1970. A Story, A Story. New York: Atheneum.

Hall, Donald. 1979. Ox-Cart Man. Illustrated by Barbara Cooney. New York: Viking.

Hamilton, Virginia. 1974. M.C. Higgins the Great. New York: Macmillan.

Henry, Marguerite. 1948. King of the Wind. Illustrated by Wesley Dennis. New York: Rand McNally.

Hesse, Karen. 1997. Out of the Dust. New York: Scholastic.

Hodges, Margaret. 1984. Saint George and the Dragon. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Boston: Little, Brown.

Hogrogian, Nonny. 1971. One Fine Day. New York: Macmillan.

Keats, Ezra Jack. 1962. The Snowy Day. New York: Viking.

Konigsburg, E. L. 1967. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. New York: Atheneum.

Konigsburg, E. L. 1996. The View from Saturday. New York: Atheneum.

Langstaff, John. 1955. Frog Went A-Courtin'. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.

Lawson, Robert. 1944. Rabbit Hill. New York: Viking.

L'Engle, Madeleine. 1962. A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Farrar, Straus.

Lenski, Lois. 1945. Strawberry Girl. New York: Lippincott.

Lester, Julius. 1968. To Be a Slave. New York: Dial.

Lionni, Leo. 1963. Swimmy. New York: Pantheon.

Lobel, Arnold. 1972. Frog and Toad Together. New York: Harper and Row.

Lobel, Arnold. 1980. The Giver. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Lowry, Lois. 1989. Number the Stars. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Macaulay, David. 1973. Cathedral. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Macaulay, David. 1990. Black and White. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

MacDonald, Golden. 1946. The Little Island. Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. New York: Doubleday.

MacLachlan, Patricia. 1985. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: Harper and Row.

Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. 1998. Snowflake Bentley. Illustrated by Mary Azarian. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Mathis, Sharon. The Hundred Penny Box. New York: Viking.

McCloskey, Robert. 1941. Make Way for Ducklings. New York: Viking.

McCloskey, Robert. 1948. Blueberries for Sal. New York: Viking.

McCully, Emily Arnold. 1992. Mirette on the High Wire. New York: Putnam.

McKissack, Patricia. 1988. Mirandy and Brother Wind. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Harper and Row.

Means, Florence Crannell. 1945. The Moved-Outers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Milhous, Katherine. 1950. The Egg Tree. New York: Scribner's.

Minarik, Else. 1961. Little Bear's Visit. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. New York: Harper and Row.

Murphy, Jim. 1995. The Great Fire. New York: Scholastic.

Musgrove, Margaret. 1976. Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions. Illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. New York: Dial.

Myers, Walter Dean. 1988. Scorpions. New York: Harper and Row.

Myers, Walter Dean. 1997. Harlem. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. New York: Scholastic.

O'Dell, Scott. 1960. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Paterson, Katherine. 1977. Bridge to Terabithia. New York: Crowell.

Paterson, Katherine. 1980. Jacob Have I Loved. New York: Crowell.

Peck, Richard. 2000. A Year Down Yonder. New York: Dial.

Perrault, Charles. 1954. Cinderella. Illustrated by Marcia Brown. New York: Harper and Row.

Pinkney, Andrea. 1997. Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. New York: Hyperion.

Politi, Leo. 1949. Song of the Swallows. New York: Scribner's.

Ransome, Arthur. 1968. The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship. Illustrated by Uri Shulevitz. New York: Farrar, Straus.

Raschka, Chris. 1993. Yo! Yes? New York: Orchard.

Raskin, Ellen. 1978. The Westing Game. New York: Dutton.

Rathman, Peggy. 1995. Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: Putnam.

Ringgold, Faith. 1991. Tar Beach. New York: Crown.

Rylant, Cynthia. 1992. Missing May. New York: Jackson/Orchard.

Sachar, Louis. 1998. Holes. New York: Delacorte.

San Souci, Robert D. 1989. The Talking Eggs. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial.

Sauer, Julia L. 1943. Fog Magic. New York: Viking.

Sawyer, Ruth. 1936. Roller Skates. Illustrated by Valenti Angelo. New York: Viking.

Sawyer, Ruth. 1953. Journey Cake, Ho! Illustrated by Robert McClosky. New York: Viking.

Say, Allen. 1993. Grandfather's Journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Scieszka, Jon. 1992. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Illustrated by Lane Smith. New York: Viking.

Sendak, Maurice. 1963. Where the Wild Things Are. New York: Harper and Row.

Singer, Isaac Bashevis. 1968. When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus.

Speare, Elizabeth George. 1958. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sperry, Armstrong. 1940. Call It Courage. New York: Macmillan.

Spinelli, Jerry. 1990. Maniac Magee. Boston: Little, Brown.

Steig, William. 1969. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. New York: Windmill/Simon and Schuster.

Steig, William. 1976. Abel's Island. New York: Farrar, Straus.

Steptoe, John. 1987. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Story. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard.

St. George, Judith. 2000. So You Want to Be President. Illustrated by David Small. New York: Philomel.

Taback, Sims. 1999. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. New York: Viking.

Taro, Yashima. 1955. Crow Boy. New York: Viking.

Taylor, Mildred D. 1976. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. New York: Dial.

Thurber, James. 1943. Many Moons. Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.

Tresselt, Alvin. 1947. White Snow, Bright Snow. Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. New York: Lothrop.

Udry, Janice May. 1956. A Tree Is Nice. Illustrated by Marc Simont. New York: Harper and Row.

Van Allsburg, Chris. 1981. Jumanji. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Van Allsburg, Chris. 1985. The Polar Express. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Voigt, Cynthia. 1981. Dicey's Song. New York: Atheneum.

Ward, Lynd. 1952. The Biggest Bear. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

White, E. B. 1952. Charlotte's Web. New York: Harper and Row.

Wiesner, David. 1991. Tuesday. New York: Clarion.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. 1937. On the Banks of Plum Creek. New York: Harper and Row.

Williams, Vera B. 1982. A Chair for My Mother. New York: Morrow.

Wisniewski, David. 1996. Golem. New York: Clarion.

Yep, Laurence. 1975. Dragonwings. New York: Harper and Row.

Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon. Illustrated by John Schoenherr. New York: Philomel.

Young, Ed. 1989. Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. New York: Philomel.

Zelinsky, Paul O. 1997. Rapunzel. New York: Dutton.

Zemach, Harve. 1973. Duffy and the Devil. Illustrated by Margot Zemach. New York: Farrar, Straus.

See also: English Education, subentry on Teaching of; Language Arts, Teaching of; Reading.


Applebee, Arthur. 1978. The Child's Concept of Story: Ages Two to Seventeen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Carpenter, Humphrey, and Prichard, Mari, eds. 1984. The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Egoff, Sheila; Stubbs, Gordon; Ashley, Ralph; and Sutton, Wendy, eds. 1996. Only Connect: Readings on Children's Literature, 3rd edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Harris, Violet J., ed. 1997. Using Multicultural Literature in the K8 Classroom. Norwood, MA: Christopher Gordon.

Horning, Kathleen T. 1997. From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books. New York: Harper Collins.

Huck, Charlotte; Hepler, Susan; Hickman, Janet; and Kiefer, Barbara. 2001. Children's Literature in the Elementary School, 7th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hunt, Peter. 1999. Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.

Jackson, Mary V. 1990. Engines of Instruction, Mischief, and Magic: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginnings to 1839. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Lehr, Susan. 1991. The Child's Developing Sense of Theme: Responses to Literature. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lukens, Rebecca J. 1999. A Critical Handbook of Children's Literature, 6th edition. New York: Longman.

Lurie, Alison. 1990. Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children's Literature. Boston: Little, Brown.

Murry, Gail S. 1998. American Children's Literature and the Construction of Childhood. New York: Twayne Publishers.

Rosenblatt, Louise M. 1994. The Reader, the Text, the Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Rosenblatt, Louise M. 1996. Literature as Exploration, 5th edition. New York: Modern Language Association.

Roser, Nancy L., and Martinez, Miriam, eds. 1995. Book Talk and Beyond: Children and Teachers Respond to Literature. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Silvey, Anita, ed. 1995. Children's Books and Their Creators. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sutherland, Zena. 1996. Children and Books. 9th ed. New York: Addison Wesley.

Townsend, John Rowe. 1990. Written for Children: An Outline of English Children's Literature, 4th edition. New York: Harper Collins.

Shelton L. Root Jr.

Revised by

Barbara Z. Kiefer

Children's Literature

views updated May 18 2018


Samuel Osgood, writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1865, stated, "Fruitful as America has been and is in children's books, we have not yet apparently added a single one to the first rank of juvenile classics." During the next five decades, this gap was decisively filled, with works such as Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868–1869), Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), and Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1911), books that had a wide readership on both sides of the Atlantic. In this period of national expansion, industrial and economic growth, and increasing cultural confidence following the Civil War, literature for children and young people in America underwent an unprecedented transformation from didacticism to literary ambition and achievement. Responding to and helping to create an increasingly affluent and well-read audience, writers, editors, and illustrators of works for young people generated a broad range of stories and images that rejected or altered the moralistic approach of antebellum literature for children and presented instead a vital, energetic, and diverse spectrum of books for juvenile readers.

Earlier American writers for children, such as Samuel Griswold Goodrich, writing under the pseudonym Peter Parley, and Jacob Abbott, sought to teach religious and social morals, with varying degrees of severity. A characteristic story by Peter Parley, "The Pleasure Boat; or, The Broken Promise" (1843), concludes as follows: "The father knelt down, and they all knelt with him, and they thanked God that the life of the little boy had been saved, and prayed that the erring boys and girls might be kept from further disobedience" (Goodrich, p. 214).


Newly dominant themes after the Civil War were selfadvancement, patriotism, domestic life, and humor. Horatio Alger Jr. (1832–1899) wrote over seventy books featuring boys advancing their fortunes through hard work, honesty, and finding the right patron—the "rags-to-riches" formula that has become synonymous with his name. Beginning with Ragged Dick (1867), Alger developed his pattern of following a poor boy, in this case a bootblack (frequently a newsboy in later books), who, through shrewdness and determination, rises to the position of accounting clerk, a meteoric ascent narrated in wooden prose. Alger glorified a personality type that had been excoriated as grasping and selfish by Frances Trollope in her Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832), an unsympathetic account of American mores. In contrast, Thomas March Clark, in his humorous John Whopper the Newsboy (1871), gives a favorable account of American boys, as does William Taylor Adams (aka Oliver Optic, 1822–1897), Alger's main competitor, in his nautical adventure series, which Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) attacked as "optical delusions" in her novel Eight Cousins (1875):

Now, I put it to you, boys, is it natural for lads from fifteen to eighteen to command ships, defeat pirates, outwit smugglers, and so cover themselves with glory, that Admiral Farragut invites them to dinner, saying, "Noble boy, you are an honor to your country!" . . . Even if the hero is an honest boy trying to get his living, he is not permitted to do so in a natural way, by hard work and years of patient effort, but is suddenly adopted by a millionaire whose pocket-book he has returned; or a rich uncle appears from the sea just in the nick of time; or the remarkable boy earns a few dollars, speculates in pea-nuts or neckties, and grows rich so rapidly that Sinbad in the diamond valley is a pauper compared to him. (P. 150)

The criticism was ironic, in that the plots Alcott ridiculed were not much different from her own covert writings and from Jo March's literary effusions. Her masterpiece of domestic life, Little Women (1868–1869), was, in Elizabeth Keyser's words, "a transitional book" that had predecessors such as Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851–1852), Maria S. Cummins's The Lamplighter (1854), and Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World (1850) but unlike those works addressed itself specifically to children. Writing in the tradition of religious and rational moralism, Alcott transformed autobiography into fiction in a lively portrait of family life with such winning warmth and realism that the March family, sometimes regarded by critics as an American matriarchy, has won the hearts of generations of readers and of viewers of the film adaptations based upon it. Although her novel was moralistic and didactic—Alcott herself referred to it in a letter as "moral pap for the young"—she attenuated the religious teaching of the novel in the direction of universalism, and her characters were drawn with humor and verve, enlivening the often drab tradition of didacticism. Her immensely popular stories enabled her to sustain herself as a writer of children's books, a new departure for writers in America, and she engaged a broad audience of readers who made demands on her that she was sometimes unwilling to meet, as in her insistence on not marrying Jo to the popular Laurie but instead to the more sedate and fatherly Professor Bhaer.

Another writer who practiced the art of the domestic story was Lucretia Hale, whose humorous tales recorded in The Peterkin Papers (beginning in 1868) concerned an obtuse and accident-prone family incapable of using common sense. Her stories appeared first in Our Young Folks and then in St. Nicholas.

Samuel Clemens (1835–1910), writing as Mark Twain, fundamentally changed American children's literature by elevating regional experience—stories of riverfront boyhood on the Mississippi, in a region that was at that time "the West," into national and international significance. Mark Twain despised the moralistic tradition of previous children's books, and satirized it in "The Story of a Good Little Boy" (1870) and "The Story of the Bad Little Boy" (1875). He turned that tradition upside down, with great vigor and humor, by elevating the "good bad boy" to heroic status in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and by criticizing the values of southern society through the naive voice of the child, cast in Huck's inimitable frontier dialect, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Clemens also wrote in the more conventional genre of historical fiction in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), which some of his genteel critics and supporters praised as his finest work.


In 1867 William Taylor Adams founded a magazine for children, Oliver Optic's Magazine: Our Boys and Girls. It was one of a flood of periodicals addressing themselves to young readers in the post–Civil War era, supplying the demands of an increasingly literate audience and publishing many of the most distinguished writers of the time. Alcott herself published much of her writing for young people, including Eight Cousins, in periodicals. The most influential and highest quality children's periodical of the era was St. Nicholas Magazine. Founded in 1873 as an offspring of Scribner's Monthly, it was edited for thirty-two years by the extraordinarily capable Mary Mapes Dodge. She had established a national reputation with her novel of Dutch life, Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates (1858). Her editorial philosophy emphasized the need for clear and firm but implicit moral messages:

Doubtless a great deal of instruction and moral teaching may be inculcated in the pages of a magazine; but it must be by hints dropped incidentally here and there; by a few brisk hearty statements of the difference between right and wrong; a sharp, clean thrust at falsehood, a sunny recognition of truth, a gracious application of politeness, an unwilling glimpse of the odious doings of the uncharitable and base. (Dodge, p. 354)

As R. Gordon Kelly has described in Mother Was a Lady, Dodge edited her magazine with an awareness of the processes of urbanization and industrialization in the nineteenth century, and she sought to prepare her readers, through high-quality fiction, for the world as the American upper and middle classes thought it ought to be, and through nonfiction, for the world as it actually was. She engaged some of the most prominent writers of her day to publish in the pages of St. Nicholas, including Mark Twain, Jack London, Noah Brooks, Laura Richards, Susan Coolidge, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Louis Stevenson. When Kipling, allegedly rather condescendingly, asked whether he should write for St. Nicholas, she is reported to have retorted, "If you think you're capable of it!" She also knew how to nurture and sustain the interest of generations of readers through devices such as the St. Nicholas League, a department in which readers published their stories, poems, and sketches. Contributors who won awards in this department as young writers included Eudora Welty, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Stephen Vincent Benét. The historian Henry Steele Commager has described how, as a child, he eagerly awaited the arrival of St. Nicholas Magazine on his front stoop and how the older children snatched it away from the younger ones to read it first.

Other important children's periodicals of this era include the sensational Frank Leslie's Boy's and Girl's Weekly (1866–1884), which featured brutal and violent stories and lurid illustrations and was immensely popular. There were scores of Sunday school publications, among them Youth's Temperance Banner, Young Evangelist, Young Christian Soldier, and the long-lived Youth's Companion (1827–1929), which was intended by its founder, Nathaniel Willis, to help young readers learn stern moral values of "piety, morality, brother love" but which gradually became secularized. As David L. Greene has written: "Throughout most of its long career, The Youth's Companion was unequaled in reflecting current fashions and trends in children's literature" (Kelly, Children's Periodicals of the United States, p. 513). Demorest's Young America (1866–1875) strove to oppose the "low and demoralizing class of literature, prepared expressly to gratify that love of the marvelous, the absurd, and the unnatural that is fostered in the young" (Demorest's Young America, August 1873, p. 255), and like many periodicals of its time, it passionately advocated the temperance cause. Riverside Magazine for Young People(1867–1870), published in New York, was short-lived but set a standard of excellence seldom surpassed in the genre.


Edward Eggleston (1837–1902) made a name for himself with The Hoosier School-Master (1871), first serialized in a periodical, and continued his success as an author of Indiana stories with The Hoosier School-Boy (1883). His use of authentic regional speech patterns is mirrored in other writers of the period, such as Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, and Kate Chopin. In his Uncle Remus stories, Joel Chandler Harris (1845–1908) retells dialect tales from African American oral storytellers about Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and the creatures of the Briar Patch. His first collection, Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings, was published in 1881. Further collections included Nights with Uncle Remus (1883), Uncle Remus and His Friends (1892), and Uncle Remus and the Little Boy (1910).

Alice Hegan Rice's (1870–1942) Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1901) describes life in a shanty-town in a former cabbage patch in South Louisville, Kentucky, using dialect for comic effect. Despised by Jack London for its "pernicious preachment" and by Upton Sinclair, who referred to it as "sugar-coated sentimentality," it was nonetheless tremendously popular and appeared in multiple stage and film versions, including a 1934 movie with W. C. Fields and Zasu Pitts.

Gene Stratton-Porter (1863–1924), also accused of sentimentality by critics, won a wide audience with her novels Freckles (1904) and Girl of the Limberlost (1909), which features explorations of nature in the Limberlost swamp of northeast Indiana. In Girl of the Limberlost, Elnora Comstock collects rare moths to raise funds to put herself through high school. She is a sweet, compassionate girl who alleviates her embittered mother's ill temper. Stratton-Porter can be regarded as an early environmentalist whose concern for the protection of the natural world influenced generations of young readers.

Ernest Thompson Seton (1860–1946) was born in South Shields, England, but immigrated to Canada at the age of six and eventually settled in the United States. In 1910 he founded, with Lord Baden Powell, the Boy Scouts of America. He published about forty collections of stories about animals, nature study, and working with wood. Among his most influential books is Wild Animals I Have Known (1898), which, like many of his other works, is based upon close observation of wildlife.


Edward Stratemeyer (1862–1930), the son of a German immigrant, founded an empire of juvenile series books, including the Rover Boys, Tom Swift, and the Motor Boys. Stratemeyer's first paid story appeared in 1888, and he soon was writing regularly for publication in boys' magazines. He became a prolific and phenomenally productive writer of adventure stories, the success of which led to his founding of the Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate in New York City in 1905. He employed a group of writers and provided them with pseudonyms, plot outlines, and characters. His enterprise grew into the largest juvenile fiction publishing enterprise in the country.

Emulating Oliver Optic, Stratemeyer created such well-known series as the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and many others. Using a variety of pseudonyms as well as his own name, Stratemeyer himself is estimated to have written 160 books and to have outlined stories for about 800 more. Stratemeyer completed unfinished works by Oliver Optic (William Taylor Adams) and Horatio Alger after the deaths of these authors. In 1929 Stratemeyer hired Mildred Wirt Benson to ghostwrite stories about the girl sleuth Nancy Drew. Though Harriet Stratemeyer Adams was long credited as the author of the "Carolyn Keene" books, "a lawsuit in 1980 . . . established conclusively [Benson's] claim to original authorship," Nancy Tillman Romalov writes (p. vi). In its summary of his life, Fortune Magazine stated: "As oil had its Rockefeller, literature had its Stratemeyer."

Gilbert Patten (1866–1945), using the pen name Burt L. Standish, was the author of another phenomenally popular series character, Frank Merriwell, a brainy and brawny Yale-educated star athlete whose adventures often involved close calls. In the words of Mark Alden Branch in a Yale Alumni Magazine article, "The Ten Greatest Yalies That Never Were": "In the days when the phrase 'Yale man' conjured up an image of a solid, athletic fellow who played fair and came from a good family, Frank Merriwell was an ideal for many American boys—an unequivocal paragon of virtue who had, as one reviewer put it, 'a body like Tarzan's and a head like Einstein's'" (Branch). He was always impeccably polite and well mannered. It was a generally understood compliment to call someone "a regular Frank Merriwell."

Though L. Frank Baum (1856–1919) is best known for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), in large part due to the influence of the famous film adaptation, he was a prolific writer who responded to the popularity of Oz by producing seventeen Oz titles, including The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), Ozma ofOz (1907), Tik-Tok of Oz (1914), and The Magic of Oz (1919), and who experimented with various other excursions into fantasy. The Library of Congress has touted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as "the first totally American fantasy for children," though Baum's claim to be writing a completely new kind of fantasy needs to be regarded with some skepticism. Mainly he claimed to wish to avoid the violence and brutality of the European folktales, a desire he shared with earlier American writers, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Palmer Cox. Before he invented Oz, Baum tried his hand at Mother Goose in Prose (1897), illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, gentle stories he first told to his sons.


Eleanor Porter (1868–1920) was the author of Pollyanna (1913), a missionary of optimism, whose positive attitude converts all the melancholy or despairing members of her small-town community to cheerfulness. Pollyanna is still popular with the conservative Right and in several Slavic countries, including Russia.

Though Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849–1924) was born in England and is claimed by both English and American literary historians, she spent a significant portion of her life in the United States and wrote about American themes, particularly in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886). Cedric Errol (Little Lord Fauntleroy) is the son of an American father and a British mother. He has grown up with American egalitarian attitudes and is friends with the corner grocer and likes "the milkman and the baker and the apple-woman" (p. 8). When his aristocratic English relatives invite him to travel to England, they assume his mother is an opportunist, seeking the family fortune, but they are charmed by the straightforward Cedric, who wins friends with his honesty and bravery.

Ironically the illustrations of the novel, emphasizing Cedric's long locks and frilly clothing, eclipsed the book's portrayal of a bold and "manly" little boy, and the popularity of Fauntleroy fashions was a blight upon a generation of middle-class and upper-middle-class boys in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

In her masterpiece, The Secret Garden (1911), Burnett displays a typically American faith in science (influenced in part by her affiliation with Christian Science, an American religious movement founded by Mary Baker Eddy). Mary Lennox, a sickly, selfish orphan who returns from colonial India to her relatives' mansion in Yorkshire, is gradually healed by exposure to the healthy moor air, a wholesome diet, exercise, and the brusque, honest speech of the Yorkshire working class. Her cousin Colin Craven, who experiences a parallel transformation, believes in the "Magic" of science with unreserved naïveté. As the narrator says:

In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. (P. 353)

This unalloyed optimism was swept away by the Great War (1914–1918), with its machine guns, poison gas, trench warfare, and the slaughter of a generation of young men. Burnett's romanticism about the healing power of nature also reflects the nostalgic yearning, characteristic of her time, for a preindustrial contact with nature in the age of industrialization.

Alice Jane Chandler Webster ("Jean Webster," 1876–1916), in her popular novel Daddy-Long-Legs (1912), which led to many film versions, promoted a different kind of romanticism. As Gillian Avery has pointed out in her influential history of American children's books, Behold the Child (1994), Judy, the orphan at the center of her tale, is naturally selfassured "in spite of her disadvantaged background" (p. 181) and wins the hearts of readers just as she wins the heart and hand of her wealthy patron, a trustee at her orphanage, who offers to pay for her college education if she will write him a letter each month describing her progress.


In 1919 W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) announced the arrival of a children's magazine "for 'The True Brownies.'" It was called The Brownies' Book, and though it was only published for two years (1920–1921), it prophetically heralded a new racial selfawareness, promising a "little magazine" "designed especially for the Children of the Sun" and setting a high standard for children's fiction with multiracial consciousness. It reflected the long journey of American children's books from unquestioned racism to the socially critical and multiform children's literature of the new century.

See alsoAdventures of Huckleberry Finn; Adolescence; Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings


Primary Works

Alcott, Louisa May. Eight Cousins; or, The Aunt-Hill. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1875.

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1868–1869.

Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Chicago and New York: G. M. Hill, 1900.

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. Little Lord Fauntleroy. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886.

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. New York: Grosset and Dunlop, 1911.

Clemens, Samuel (Mark Twain). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Charles L. Webster, 1885.

Clemens, Samuel (Mark Twain). The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company, 1876.

Demers, Patricia, ed. A Garland from the Golden Age: An Anthology of Children's Literature from 1850–1900. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Dodge, Mary Mapes. "Children's Magazines." Scribner's Monthly, July 1873, pp. 352–354.

Goodrich, Samuel Grisewold (Peter Parley). "The Pleasure Boat; or, The Broken Promise." In From Instruction to Delight: An Anthology of Children's Literature to 1850, edited by Patricia Demers and Gordo Moyles. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Harris, Joel Chandler. Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folklore of the Old Plantation. New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1881.

Secondary Works

Avery, Gillian. Behold the Child: American Children and Their Books 1621–1922. London: Bodley Head, 1994.

Bixler, Phyllis. Frances Hodgson Burnett. Boston: Twayne, 1984.

Branch, Mark Alden. "The Ten Greatest Yalies That Never Were." Yale Alumni Magazine, February 2003. Available at

Griswold, Jerry. Audacious Kids: Coming of Age in America's Classic Children's Books. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Kelly, R. Gordon. Children's Periodicals of the United States. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984.

Kelly, R. Gordon. Mother Was a Lady: Self and Society in Selected American Children's Periodicals, 1865–1890. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974.

Keyser, Elizabeth Lennox. Little Women: A Family Romance. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1999.

Keyser, Elizabeth Lennox. Whispers in the Dark: The Fiction of Louisa May Alcott. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

MacLeod, Anne Scott. American Childhood: Essays on Children's Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1994.

Regan, Robert. Unpromising Heroes: Mark Twain and His Characters. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.

Romalov, Nancy Tillman. "Editor's Note." Special Issue on Nancy Drew. The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children's Literature 18, no. 1 (June 1994): v–xi.

Stone, Albert E. The Innocent Eye: Childhood in Mark Twain's Imagination. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1961.

Thwaite, Ann. Waiting for the Party: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett. New York: Scribners, 1974.

J. D. Stahl

Children's Literature

views updated May 14 2018

Children's Literature

The portrayal of African Americans in mainstream American children's literature has been, on the whole, demeaning and unrealistic. From the inception of children's literature as a separate genre in the early nineteenth century, African Americans were presented by white authors as mindless, superstitious, and shiftless. This treatment was particularly evident in two nineteenth-century works, Thomas Nelson Page's Two Little Confederates (1888) and Joel Chandler Harris's Free Joe and the Rest of the World (1887). A further example of this kind of racism can be found in Helen Bannerman's Little Black Sambo (1928).

These stereotypical portrayals continued throughout the early decades of the twentieth century; however, by the late 1930s several works emerged that tried to convey the African-American experience in an informed manner. Among the first such efforts were African-American author Arna Bontemps's You Can't Pet a Possum (1936) and Sad-Faced Boy (1937). However, most of the material published for children during this period continued to depict stereotypes of African Americans.

By the mid- to late 1940s, books began to portray a slightly more realistic picture of blacks and began to address civil rights and other issues relevant to the African-American community. Carter G. Woodson, the father of modern black historiography, wrote several books for children in the 1940s documenting African-American heritage, among them African Heroes and Heroines (1944) and Negro Makers of History (1948). During the 1950s Langston Hughes wrote a series of educational books for children, among them The First Book of Negroes (1952), Famous American Negroes (1954), and The First Book of Jazz (1955). Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956), a book of poems for children depicting the lives of the urban poor. (Brooks wrote another children's book, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, in 1974.) Other titles from this period include author Jesse Jackson's Call Me Charley (1945) and Dorothy Sterling's Mary Jane (1959).

By the 1960s, some well-written material portraying African Americans was being published. Examples include white author Ezra Jack Keats's The Snowy Day (1962) and Ann Petry's Tituba of Salem Village (1964). But in 1965 Nancy Larrick was still able to present significant evidence in her analysis of the literature that omissions and distortions were widespread. She surveyed sixty-three mainstream publishers who had published a total of 5,200 children's books between 1962 and 1964. Her investigation revealed that only 6.7 percent included a black child in either the text or the illustrations (Larrick, p. 64).

Larrick's article, coupled with the rise of the civil rights movement and the increased availability of funds for schools and libraries, motivated publishers to produce more materials about African Americans. In 1969 the Coretta Scott King Book Award was established in order to recognize African-American authors and illustrators for outstanding contributions to children's literature. As a result, more realistic portrayals began to emerge, presenting the diversity of black life, culture, and experience in both fictional and nonfictional works.

Louise Clifton wrote her first book for children, Some of the Days of Everett Anderson, in 1970; she has since written many books of poetry and stories for children that are widely praised as realistic portrayals of black children's experience and as valuable introductions to African-American heritage. During this period, June Jordan also began writing books for children and young adults that were acclaimed for their political relevance and for the intensity of their reproduction of the African-American experience; examples include His Own Where (1971), which was nominated for a National Book Award; New Life: New Room (1975); and Kimako's Story (1981). By incorporating elements of black southern folklore with a contemporary political consciousness, Julius Lester brought a special emphasis to his children's literature. His works for children and young adults include To Be a Slave (1968), which was nominated for a Newbery Medal; Black Folktales (1969); The Knee-High Man and Other Tales (1972); and The Long Journey Home: Stories from Black History (1972), a nonfiction collection of slave narratives that was a finalist for a National Book Award. International authors of children's literature also began to gain recognition in this period; a notable example is Chinua Achebe, the celebrated Nigerian author, whose best-known children's book is How the Leopard Got His Claws (1973). Other significant authors and illustrators from the period include Virginia Hamilton, Walter Dean Myers, John Steptoe, Eloise Greenfield, and the artist team of Leo and Diane Dillon.

This positive trend continued to the end of the next decade, as evidenced in the 1979 study conducted by Jeanne S. Chall, which updated Larrick's investigation. Chall's study indicated that in 4,775 children's books published between 1973 and 1975, 14.4 percent represented black characters in the text or illustrationsmore than double the percentage found by Larrick in 1965 (McCann, p. 215).

As the civil rights movement waned in the late 1970s and 1980s, the publication of books on the African-American experience diminished. New African-American writers could no longer break into the mainstream easily, and even established authors found themselves struggling to find publishers. Despite this trend, additional new authors emerged. Ossie Davis, for example, wrote two books for children based on major figures in black history: Escape to Freedom: A Play About Young Frederick Douglass (1978) and Langston, A Play (1982). Mildred Taylor also entered the scene with Song of the Trees (1975) and the Newbery Awardwinning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976).

With the retrenchment of mainstream publishers in the 1980s, alternative presses emerged to fill the void. Black Butterfly Press, Just Us Books, and the Third World Press were among the few houses that published African-American authors who were shut out of the mainstream. By the 1990s these publishers had expanded in response to the public's demand for African-American materials. Mainstream publishers also again responded to the interest in these materials, so that in the early years of the twenty-first century, numerous African-American titles were found on the lists of major publishing houses.

With the increase of these publications, debate has arisen over whether non-African Americans can write effectively about the black experience. While the cultural background of an author/illustrator is important, the crucial issue is one of perspective (i.e., the author's mind-set and point of view in creating the work). An important consideration is whether, at the time of creation, the author/illustratorregardless of his or her own cultural backgroundwas thinking as a member of the group or as an outsider (Lachmann, p. 17). If the former perspective is operative, it allows the creator to produce sincere and meaningful portrayals of the subject. Examples of white authors and illustrators who have successfully portrayed the black identity include Ann Cameron, William Loren Katz, Ann Grifalconi, and Ezra Jack Keats.

A number of successful African-American titles were published in the 1990s, including Mildred Taylor's Mississippi Bridge (1990), Angela Johnson's When I Am Old with You (1990, winner of an Honorable Mention at the 1991 Coretta Scott King Book Awards), Eloise Greenfield's Night on Neighborhood Street (1991), and Rosa Parks's Rosa Parks: My Story (1992, with James Haskins). The literature now offers a rich complexity in depicting ethnic experience. This situation is beneficial not only to the African-American community but to the larger society because it furnishes insights that can help to further communication and understanding. This trend should serve to increase the quantity and quality of African-American literature for children.

In the new century authors such as Mildred Taylor, Ann Grifalconi, Patricia McKissack, Virginia Hamilton, Angela Johnson, and Walter Dean Myers continued to produce high-quality work reflecting the African-American Experience. Contemporary issues such as teen parenthood in Angela Johnson's The First Part Last (2005), incarceration in Walter Dean Myers's Monster (2001), gang violence in Barbara M. Joosse's Stars in the Darkness (2001), and family strength in Virginia Hamilton's Time Pieces (2005) gave voice to the reality of contemporary life.

Captivating African tales such as Ann Grifalconi's The Village That Vanished (2004) and Tamara Bower's How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt (2005) included exceptional illustrations. Patricia McKissack's Precious and the Boo Hag (2005) brought humor and suspense as a young girl followed her mother's advice and outwitted the scary monster, a not too subtle reminder for young readers to mind their elders.

The journey of African Americans from slavery through racism and prejudice is chronicled in Hariette Robinet's Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses (2005) and Elisa Carbone's Last Dance on Holladay Street (2005), which graphically depict life in 1800s America. In The Land (2003) Mildred Taylor explains the genesis for racial feuds found in her earlier novels, giving voice to the struggles of the period. Toni Morrison's fictional dialogue and actual photographs result in an eloquent photo-essay, Remember: The Journey to School Integration (2004). Race relations and family strength are key elements in this world of harsh realities.

Contemporary big city life is captured in Barbara Joosse's Hot City (2004), while Jane Kurtz's In the Small, Small Night (2005) and Marie Fritz's A Gift for Sadia (2005) portray the adjustment of African children who migrated to America. Strength of character, perseverance in the face of hardship, and family love predominate. Stories written by, or about, African-American celebrities include Will Smith's Just the Two of Us (2005), George Forman's humorous Let George Do It (2005) and Chris Raschka's John Coltrane's Giant Steps (2002). Books that introduce both the writer and the works include Patricia McKissack's Zora Neale Hurston: Writer and Storyteller (2002), Caroline Lazo's Alice Walker: Freedom Writer (2000), and Doreen Rappaport's Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (2001).

The decade that began in 2000 produced African-American children's literature of substance. These works, and hopefully more to come, are a dynamic segment of the children's literature market.

See also Bontemps, Arna; Brooks, Gwendolyn; Davis, Ossie; Folklore; Hughes, Langston; Literature; Morrison, Toni; Parks, Rosa; Slave Narratives; Woodson, Carter G.


Broderick, Dorothy. Image of the Black in Children's Fiction. New York: Bowker, 1973.

Lachmann, Lyn Miller. Our Family, Our Friends, Our World: An Annotated Guide to Significant Multicultural Books for Children and Teenagers. New Providence, N.J.: Bowker, 1992.

Larrick, Nancy. "The All-White World of Children's Books." Saturday Review (September 11, 1965): 6365, 8485.

McCann, Donnarae, and Gloria Woodard. The Black American in Books for Children: Readings in Racism. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985.

Norton, Donna E., Saundra E. Norton, and Amy McClure. Through the Eyes of a Child. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill, Prentice Hall, 2003.

Rand, Donna, and Toni Trent Parker. African-American Children's Books. New York: Wiley, 2001.

Rollock, Barbara. Black Authors and Illustrators of Children's Books: A Biographical Dictionary. 2nd ed. New York: Garland, 1992.

Sims, Rudine. Shadow and Substance: Afro-American Experience in Contemporary Children's Fiction. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English, 1982.

heather caines (1996)

norma l. grant (2005)

Children's Literature

views updated Jun 11 2018

Children's Literature

Although literature for children and young adults is a well-developed genre in the twenty-first century, in the 1800s it was in its beginning stages in both the United States and England. Children learned to read from hornbooks (sheets of parchment or paper mounted on a piece of wood and covered with a transparent layer of horn), and then primers (first readers). The material they read was meant to instruct them on good moral values. At this time, children were treated as small adults rather than as having unique needs. Yet, as views on childrearing evolved toward a greater awareness of children's developmental needs, the material written for children began to change as well. At the same time, public education was expanding, adding to the pool of readers. Most juvenile books were geared toward ten-year-olds, though a few were designed for younger children.

Technical advances made during the industrial revolution also had an impact on reading: They made printed material (magazines, pamphlets, and books) affordable for a wider range of readers. Magazines were often sold for 2 to 3 cents, "dime novels"—the equiv-aalent of a cheap paperback in the twenty-first century—for 10 cents, and hardbound books for 50 cents to $1.50. However, during the war years, in regions where Americans suffered economically, even such modestly priced reading material became a luxury.

Boys' Adventure Stories

By the mid-1860s adventure stories geared toward boys had become very popular. Full of action and suspense, they usually appeared serially in juvenile or general readership magazines before being sold in book form. Numerous magazines for children were founded over the course of the nineteenth century. They were often published by such civic-minded organizations as churches, which meant that the emphasis was more on moral development than entertainment. During the war years, a reader could choose from some dozen magazines, such as All the Year Round, The Student and Schoolmate, Child's World, and The Boy's Own Magazine. This last title enjoyed a healthy existence from 1855 to 1874 because its publishers, the husband-and-wife team of John and Mary Bennett, knew their audience and offered the magazine at a reasonable price (2 cents, gradually increasing to 6 cents). It contained adventure stories illustrated with woodcuts, stories of school life, articles on cricket, and articles on scientific topics. There were also puzzles and contests in which winners would receive such prizes as watches and pencil cases. The Boy's Own Magazine was quite a success, for in 1863 subscriptions numbered 40,000 (Meigs et al 1969, p. 249).

The Irvin P. Beadle Company of New York specialized in dime novels—pocket-sized booklets printed on white rag paper and sporting a colored cover. Beadle titles included detective stories, mysteries, and frontier adventures that were often printed in series. Edward Sylvester Ellis wrote approximately two hundred such novels, eighteen of them during the Civil War period. His most popular title, selling more than 600,000 copies, was the 1860 tale Seth Jones; or the Captives of the Frontier (Bingham 1980, pp. 191–192). Another prominent author of this period was the Unitarian minister Horatio Alger, whose Frank's Campaign (1864) was the first of many rags-to-riches stories published by Loring, a Boston firm (Bingham 1980, p. 197). An anonymous reviewer for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper called Alger's debut novel a "well written story, full of unpretentious interest, and inspired by genial feeling and good moral motive" (December 17, 1864, p. 203). While the attraction of Alger's books for juvenile readers was their entertainment value, parents could be assured that good moral values were being imparted, even if the writing was often lackluster. Another type of adventure tale was the travel adventure, such as the Woodville Series (1861–1871), popularized by former schoolteacher William Taylor Adams, who wrote under the pseudonym Oliver Optic.

Realistic Domestic Stories

Whereas publishers gave boys tales of adventure, they offered girls realistic stories of American life. Jane Andrews introduced readers to The Seven Little Sisters Who Live on the Round Ball That Floats in the Air (1861), a story about girls who live in different countries, and Adeline Dutton Train Whitney, who published as Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney, released the popular tale Faith Gartney's Childhood (1863) (Meigs et al 1969, p. 204). Aiming for the attention of somewhat younger readers was Sophie May, writing as Rebecca Clarke. In 1863 she introduced a series of books based on the character Little Prudy (Little Prudy [1863], Little Prudy's Sister Susy [1864], Little Prudy's Captain Horace [1864], etc.), which ran until 1865 (Meigs et al 1969, p. 204). While A. R. Baker of the Lowell DailyCitizen and News described Little Prudy as "excellent and pleasant for the little folks" (Baker 1864, n.p.), the following year a critic complained about Cousin Grace, from the same series: "It contains many things which are quite too good for their surroundings, and much that is really excellent; but altogether it confirms the opinion which is frequently forced upon us, that the work of preparing juvenile books in series is carried out too fast" (Boston Daily Advertiser, October 26, 1864, n.p.).


One of the most popular stories of the Civil War era, "The Man without a Country" (1863), was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in December of 1863. This tale, written by the Reverend Edward E. Hale under the pseudonym Frederick Ingham, U.S.N., recounts the life of Philip Nolan, a man found guilty of participating in Aaron Burr's failed efforts to create a republic in the Southwest. During his trial Nolan angrily declares that his wish is to never hear of the United States again. The court takes him at his word and sentences him to stay aboard various ships, and for more than fifty years he is not allowed to set foot on or even see the United States.

While the story is fictional, its verisimilitude struck many contemporary readers. An anonymous reviewer for the Daily Cleveland Herald described the tale as "extraordinary," adding, "Whatever may be the truth of the story—and it seems impossible to be believed—it is one of those extraordinary narratives that impress the reader with its truthfulness, even when known to be pure fiction" (November 24, 1863, col. C). As well as impressing readers with its realism, the tale had another effect: It engendered feelings of loyalty in the North and thus encouraged enlistment (Meigs et al. 1969, p. 207).



"The Atlantic Monthly for December." Daily Cleveland Herald (Cleveland, OH), November 24, 1863, col. C

Meigs, Cornelia, et al. A Critical History of Children's Literature: A Survey of Children's Books in English, rev. ed. London: Macmillan, 1969, p. 207.

Other Genres

Such other genres as the fairy tale, fantasy, poetry, and novelty had also formed part of juvenile offerings since the 1850s. The fairy tales of the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (such as "The Ugly Duckling") and of the German folklorists Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (such as "Hansel and Gretel") were widely popular. Another enduring tale of the time is the 1865 fantasy Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). Although many of the poems for children that appeared in the newspapers were trite, there were such notable exceptions as Christina Georgina Rossetti's Goblin Market (1862), in which the evil fairies are changed through the power of love. Coventry Patmore attempted to gather the best children's verse of the time in his 1863 compilation The Children's Garland from the Best Poets. Novelty books, among them puzzle books, books containing silhouettes to be cut out, and illusion books held great appeal. J. H. Brown's Spectropia; or Surprising Spectral Illusions (1864) was printed in black and white, and hand-painted in bright colors. If the reader stared at the pictures for a time and then turned their attention to the ceiling or wall, a "ghost" in complementary colors could be seen. In Shadow and Substance (1860), the illustrator Charles Henry Bennett produced drawings of human figures casting unusual shadows (Quayle 1971, pp. 133–135).

Some of what were to become among the best-loved children's classics were written during the last third of the century, after the Civil War: Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868–1869), Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883), and Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Books (1894–1895). A new generation of literate children were ready to make these works their own.


Baker, A. R. Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, MA), January 1, 1864.

Bingham, Jane, and Grayce Scholt. Fifteen Centuries of Children's Literature: An Annotated Chronology of British and American Works in Historical Context. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston), October 26, 1864, col. H.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (New York), December 17, 1864.

Meigs, Cornelia, et al. A Critical History of Children's Literature: A Survey of Children's Books in English, rev. ed. London: Macmillan, 1969.

Quayle, Eric. The Collector's Book of Children's Books. London: Clarkson N. Potter, 1971.

Jeanne M. Lesinski

Children's Literature

views updated May 29 2018


American children's literature was an embryonic concept in early America. As an outpost of the British Empire, colonial children principally read works imported from England. In the absence of copyright laws, colonial and early American printers freely borrowed whole titles or parts of books and bowdlerized British works liberally. Authentic American texts written exclusively for child entertainment did not appear until the 1820s. Seventeenth-century classics like John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678), Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), and popular advice books such as Lord Halifax's The Lady's Gift, or Advice to a Daughter (1688) or Henry Peacham's Compleat Gentleman (1622) remained popular imports in the eighteenth century. Williamsburg bookshops sold chapbooks (small illustrated stories), advice books, and Anglican prayer books and catechisms to wealthy families. In New England the New England Primer and a variety of Protestant catechisms sold well in the eighteenth century. By the 1780s such children's classics as the Tales of Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella were being printed in Boston by Isaiah Thomas.

English-language children's literature underwent significant redefinition in the works of London printer John Newbery (1713–1767). He closely adhered to the learning theories of John Locke, which stressed the ease with which children could soak up information rationally presented. Newbery reworked familiar folktales into instructive moral lessons like A History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765) or A Little Pretty Pocketbook (1744). Newbery often introduced his books with a short essay directed to parents, admonishing them to use every daily event and life experience as a teaching moment. American printers imported Newbery books, but Hugh Gaine of New York and Isaiah Thomas also produced their own versions of his popular titles, adding maxims or additional stories to known titles at will. Not until 1790 did the U.S. Congress pass a copyright law giving authors the exclusive right to their own work for fourteen years, an act that stimulated American publications.

Regardless of legislation in colonial Massachusetts requiring that schools be established in all towns (1642), schooling and literacy remained sporadic and was the responsibility of parents or masters. The New England Primer, first published about 1690, remained the principle instructional text, whether children memorized it at home or in a school setting. It introduced children to the alphabet through memorized couplets, then presented simple phrases and proverbs, until students could read the Apostle's Creed and a catechism. Some versions of the Primer included a lengthy dialogue among Christ, the Devil, and a young man.

American printers accommodated to the changing political tenor of the New World by changing British references in the Primer. For example, "Our King the good" became "Kings should be good"; after the Revolution, that same line became "The British King / Lost States thirteen." Parents, tutors, and schoolroom teachers all relied on the New England Primer or one of the lesser known dissenting church primers, such as the one written by Quaker activist John Woolman in 1766, which focused on nature themes rather than biblical ones. Two English authors compiled grammar exercises that sold well in America: A New Guide to the English Tongue, by Thomas Dilworth, and English Reader, by Lindley Murray.

With the boycott of British imports during the 1770s and beyond, American booksellers were thrown upon their own devices to supply the classroom and the small market of book buyers. American civic leaders like Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams began to call for increased educational opportunities for children so as to ensure the success of the new Republic. Arguing (in a letter to John Canfield in 1783) that America "must be as independent in literature as she is in politics," Noah Webster produced a set of progressively difficult volumes for reading instruction that emphasized republican virtue, proper behavior, and standardized spelling. The first work in this series, the American Spelling Book (1783), was affectionately dubbed the "blue back speller." It remained a standard in the American classroom for several generations. Webster's The Little Reader's Assistant (1790) included a question and answer section called the "federal catechism" that provided a basic civics lesson. Mason Locke Weems also stressed republican virtues in his Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington (1800), the first account to include the myth of George Washington and the cherry tree.

The first American to produce bona fide children's literature was Samuel Goodrich (1793–1860), who wrote under the pen name Peter Parley. Goodrich began his career as a printer in Boston and published Tales of Peter Parley about America anonymously in 1827. In it the elderly Parley conversed with children on their level, in simple sentences, while relaying tales about Indians or battles of the American Revolution. Later works profiled famous Americans from Captain John Smith to Benjamin Franklin. Goodrich drew a moral tale from every story and, like Noah Webster, replaced dependence on biblical injunctions with a generic civic morality, an approach that lingered in children's literature through the nineteenth century.

See alsoGames and Toys, Children's; Patents and Copyrights .


Avery, Gillian. Behold the Child: American Children and Their Books, 1621–1922. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Murray, Gail S. American Children's Literature and the Construction of Childhood. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

Rosenbach, A. S. W. Early American Children's Books. New York: Kraus Reprint Corp, 1966; New York: Dover, 1971.

Gail S. Murray

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