This book suggests ways of reading children's literature within the context of literary history. The authors provide a broad overview of the influence of literary 'movements', such as Romanticism, Modernism and Postmodernism, on the production of children's literature, and argue for the relevance of such texts to the study of mainstream literary history. The general discussions are accompanied by a series of short essays about individual children's books. The readings offered in these short chapters suggest ways of applying the broader framework of literary history to particular texts, and are not intended to provide definitive (if there can ever be such a thing) analyses of the chosen texts.
While the authors intend to offer a new way of thinking about children's literature in relation to a more inclusive sense of literary history, this book is neither a 'rewriting' of either the history of children's literature, nor a revisionist challenge to the literary histories which already exist. It is selective rather than comprehensive, and exclusively Anglo-American in focus. There are a number of literary histories available (see the Bibliography, p. 165), which provide more detailed accounts of children's books in an historical context. Rather than duplicate this material, this book offers a new way of shaping it, with the intention of reading children's literature through familiar ways of looking at mainstream literature. By providing this perspective on children's literature, we have chosen to emphasise narrative texts and to concentrate on those works of fiction which are continually published and republished, rather than 'popular' fiction, series books or the wide variety of books produced as part of the children's publishing market. There are, admittedly, many other books to consider, and it is hoped that the ways of approaching texts suggested here will lead readers to find equally relevant examples.