Book: Children's Literature

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

Author: Seth Lerer
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press

Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children’s literature. Its history is inseparable from the history of childhood, as children are indelibly molded by the tales they hear and read—stories they will one day share with their own sons and daughters.

Children’s Literature charts the makings of the Western literary imagination from Aesop’s fables to Mother Goose, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Peter Pan, from Where the Wild Things Are to Harry Potter. Seth Lerer here explores the iconic books, ancient and contemporary alike, that have forged a lifelong love of literature in young readers during their formative years. Along the way, Lerer also looks at the changing environments of family life and human growth, schooling and scholarship, and publishing and politics in which children found themselves changed by the books they read. This ambitious work appraises a broad trajectory of influences—including Shakespeare’s plays, John Locke’s theories of education, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and the Puritan tradition—which have each shaped children’s literature through the ages as well.  

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

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