British Children's Fiction in the Second World War

British Children's Fiction in the Second World War

British Children's Fiction in the Second World War

British Children's Fiction in the Second World War


This is a broad-ranging discussion of wartime children's literature and its effects. came of age as they faced the new world. In a unique time for British children, parental controls were often relaxed if not absent. Radio and reading assumed greater significance for most children than they had in the more structured past or were to do in the more crowded future. exported to the USA, as well as that imported to the UK and through an exploration of wartime Europe as it was shown to British children. Questions of leadership, authority, individualism, community, conformity, urban-rural division, ageism, and gender awareness are explored. Edwards looks at the literary inheritance when the war broke out and asks whether children's literary diet was altered in the war temporarily or permanently. Concerned with the effects of the war on what children could read and their interpretation of it, he reveals the implications of this for the world they would come to inhabit. will tap into 'nostalgia' market and general readership amongst those with an interest in the Second World War. It is immensely broad-ranging, covering over 100 writers. It provides telling insight to the effects of children's reading on the post-war world they came to inhabit.


Chips had told some big brass hat from the War Office that bayonet
fighting was vulgar. Just like Chips. and they found an adjective for
him – an adjective just beginning to be used: he was pre-War

James Hilton, Good-bye, Mr Chips (1934), p. 99

Once upon a time, there was a United Kingdom in an archipelago off the coast of Europe. One day when its children woke up, their country was at war. a lot of these children read stories; and this is a book about the stories written for them while the war was on.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a writer of a book for children, The Hobbit (1937), and he spent much of the war writing its sequel, The Lord of the Rings (1954–5). At the same time, he was crafting into shape for publication a lecture ‘On Fairy-Stories’ which he had delivered as the Andrew Lang Lecture to the University of St Andrews on 8 March 1939 (it was published in 1947). in his last note to it, Tolkien wrote: ‘As for the beginning of fairy-stories: one can scarcely improve on the formula Once upon a time. It has an immediate effect … It produces at a stroke the sense of a great uncharted world of time.’

The book you are reading is supposed to be history, seeking to chart a world of time from that same year when Tolkien lectured on fairy-stories, 1939, until 1945, the year when another great writer and critic of fiction for young minds, George Orwell, published his Animal Farm: a Fairy Story. But historians who want to be useful should sometimes begin: ‘Once upon a time’. Our first paragraph, beginning like that, relates to 1939. But it would do just as well for 1914: the United Kingdom was larger in 1914, and covered all the archipelago; but, despite that, there was much in common among the assumptions in the stories held by their writers, their publishers, their sellers and their readers. Our first paragraph could even relate to 1899. a smaller proportion of the archipelago’s children read books in those days, and a smaller proportion of the stories were . . .

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