The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature

By Humphrey Carpenter; Mari Prichard | Go to book overview

N

Nana, dog-nursemaid in PETER PAN by J. M. BARRIE.

Nancy Blackett, in the SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS books by Arthur RANSOME.

Nancy Cock's Pretty Song Book for all Little Misses and Masters, an early collection of NURSERY RHYMES, published c. 1780 by John MARSHALL. Collections under the same title were issued by other printers, with different contents.

Nancy Drew, a blonde teenage DETECTIVE in novels by Carolyn Keene (USA, published during the 1970s).

Nanny, as a term applied to a children's nurse, was in use at least occasionally as early as 1711, when it appears in a letter from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her old nurse. However it did not become universal in English-speaking countries until after the First World War. See Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy , The Rise and Fall of the British Nanny ( 1972).

Narnia, an imaginary country, setting of seven children's books by C. S. LEWIS: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ( 1950), Prince Caspian: the return to Narnia ( 1951), The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader' ( 1952), The Silver Chair ( 1953), The Horse and his Boy ( 1954), The Magician's Nephew ( 1955), and The Last Battle ( 1956), which won the CARNEGIE MEDAL.

The immediate inspiration for the first book was a series of nightmares that Lewis had about lions. More seriously, he was concerned to do for children what he had done for an adult readership in his SCIENCE FICTION trilogy, beginning with Out of the Silent Planet ( 1938): to re-imagine the Christian story in an exciting narrative context. 'Narnia' was to be an answer (as Lewis put it) to the question 'What might Christ be like if there really were a world like Narnia and he chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as he actually has done in ours.' So the children who journey through the wardrobe in the first book, and others who make the 'journey to Narnia in the sequels, experience the chief events of Christianity, described as they might happen in another world-- the earliest and most obvious example being the death and resurrection of the great lion Asian in the first book.

The novels are not, however, allegorical; they are entirely in keeping with the belief, shared by Lewis and his close friend and Oxford colleague TOLKIEN, that stories in themselves, especially of the mythical type, can give spiritual nourishment without imparting abstract meaning. The books have a very obvious debt to George MACDONALD, whose writings played a large part in Lewis's intellectual development, and they also reflect his childhood enthusiasm for Hans ANDERSEN, E. NESBIT, and the NORSE MYTHS, which he first encountered in a retelling illustrated by Arthur RACKHAM.

The Narnia books incorporate many of Lewis's personal prejudices and quirks--for example, the cowardliness and meanness of Eustace in The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader' is put down to the fact that he is the child of 'up-to-date and advanced people . . . vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers' ( Lewis himself drank robustly and was a pipe-smoker). Yet the books are, as Naomi LEWIS has written, 'intoxicating' to all but the most relentlessly unimaginative of readers, and must be judged the most sustained achievement in FANTASY for children by a 20th-cent. author.

Katharine PATERSON'S novel Bridge to Terabitha ( 1978), which won the NEWBERY MEDAL, is about two children who are inspired by the Narnia books to invent their own magic kingdom.

NASH, OGDEN ( 1902-71), American comic poet, aimed one of his books of verse specifically at children: Parents Keep Out ( 1951).

National Book Award, given annually since 1969 by the National Book Committee of America, for an outstanding American children's book.

National Velvet ( 1930), a sensationally successful story by the British novelist and playwright Enid Bagnold ( 1889-1981), the story of a 14-year-old girl, Velvet Brown, who acquires a horse (The Piebald) in a raffle, and eventually wins the Grand National on it. The book was filmed in 1944 with Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet, and contributed to the establishment of the PONY STORY as a popular genre of fiction for girls.

Natty Bumppo, hero of the LEATHER-STOCKING TALES by James Fenimore COOPER.

Natural history was a popular subject from the beginning of British juvenile publishing; A DESCRIPTION OF THREE HUNDRED ANIMALS ( 1730), published (and probably written) by Thomas BOREMAN, was one of the first books that could justly be described as 'for the entertainment of youth'. It drew on the

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The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Note to the Reader xiv
  • A 1
  • B 40
  • C 92
  • D 139
  • E 160
  • F 173
  • G 194
  • H 234
  • I 268
  • J 274
  • K 287
  • L 300
  • M 327
  • N 370
  • O 385
  • P 393
  • Q 436
  • R 437
  • S 466
  • T 513
  • U 549
  • W 559
  • Y 583
  • Z 587
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