Classic English Literature

Background Information about this module
In this module we will explore a number of post-war fictions produced for young readers, including children and adolescents. By studying a variety

of children’s books you will become aware of the variety of content, theme and mode of address being made available for children in recent

decades. We will particularly focus upon the ways in which the literature reflects social issues and dilemmas in contemporary children’s lives.

We will explore how a ‘special’ literature for children has evolved, and focus especially upon how these stories vary from other audience-defined

literatures insofar as adults on behalf of children typically create them, rather than being generated by their intended consumers. This has a

number of interesting implications upon the production and the critical reception of children’s books, which we will explore in detail during the

course of the module.

Academic interest in the world of children’s books has developed as an eclectic area for enquiry, drawing commentary and analysis from a variety

of perspectives such as sociology, psychology, literary studies, cultural studies, education, librarianship, booksellers, publishers, parents and

children. Opinions about what specific books have to offer to developing readers vary according to the implicit criteria being used to gauge their

merit. Debates within the field relate to perceptions of the implied child readership, and are (often implicitly) based upon notions of what

children can and cannot, should and should not, do, see and know. Debates also hinge around perspectives on reading and issues of ‘textual


Further, many claims are made about the possible social, moral, political, educational and developmental impact of books upon the children who

read them. This unit allows you to think about some of these claims, and the way that they may reveal for instance, a view of the child as ‘pupil’

or reveal a ‘blank slate’ model of the child and how, in turn, these models cause adults to evaluate the books in different ways, which can result

in controversy and sometimes heated debate.

During this module you will be invited to think a good deal about the ways in which children’s post-war fictions have been produced and evaluated.

It is more important to reflect upon the ways in which children’s fictions potentially inform the imaginative worlds of children, rather than

considering their treatment in schools or formal teaching contexts. The reading suggested in this handbook forms only a small part of the

literature which could be read, both in terms of the primary texts (the children’s books themselves) and the critical material (commentators upon

the value of children’s books). This guided reading is designed to introduce you to major writers and important genres (types of books), and to

consider the beginnings of emergent critical debates, which have, in turn, helped to shape the literature. This is only a flavour of the

literature that exists. You are expected to conduct further reading, especially in relation to the topic you choose for your assignment.

It is important that all students read the children’s books in advance of seminars. These, together with short articles on particular issues and

theoretical perspectives, and the development of formative activities e.g. mini-presentations, in class, will guide you towards an appreciation of

the module’s perspective on the potential significance of children’s books.

Brief overview of the structure of the module
The first part of the modulewill help you to become familiar with some of the main debates and controversies that have developed within the field

of children’s literature in recent years. We will discuss these debates in class time, exploring the ways in which they rest upon varying

perspectives on ‘the child’, the value of reading and literacy and the ways in which books work.
We have also chosen a few examples of books for children that you will read and discuss. We will be considering the ways in which these children’s

books may be of value to the reader, with specific reference to the ways in which they deal with themes (such as bullying, family and school life,

friendship, fear). They also represent a range of ‘genres’, topics, trends and approaches to writing for children. Studying them together in

class time will help you root the debates and issues in concrete examples of literature being produced for children. They will give you a broad

base upon which to develop your own ideas.
By participating in sessions you will be able to practice and gain informal and formal feedback on effective ways of analysing the different

values, attitudes and assumptions that are revealed when someone talks, explicitly or implicitly, about the value of children’s fiction.
Start exploring the wide-ranging material offered in the children’s literature journals such as Children’s Literature in Education, the Lion and

the Unicorn now. As you read, think about the underlying values, attitudes and assumptions an article reveals or discusses in relation to the

value of children’s books for young readers. This will help you with the assignment.
In the earliest stages of the module we introduce key theoretical perspectives and offer you the opportunity to apply them to picture books. This

will allow you to get feedback on your grasp of theory for this module, in time for you to adjust (if necessary) your approach to the final

We will look at examples of fiction for the very young through to teenage literature, extending your knowledge of this wide-range and challenging

field. This will form the basis of your assignment.We will critically explore Children’s Literature and its relation to Childhood Studies,

particularly looking at the range of issues, themes and challenges that contemporary childhood represents.

Aims of the module
This module aims to provide an introduction to a range of modern children’s authors and examples of their work. The module will increase students’

awareness of the varied ways in which childhood and/or youth is represented in children’s literature. Moreover, students will consider

perspectives on the potential value of the different literary experiences being created for children, adolescent readers and young adults, so that

they can identify and explore the competing criteria by which modern children’s fiction may be judged.
Learning outcomes
1. Identify, select and contrast a range of fictions produced for children and young people
2. Reflect upon the fictional portrayal of children/youth growing up in a range of circumstances
3. Critically evaluate the potential value of selected fictions for children and young people
4. Debate the criteria by which children’s fiction may be judged and identify your own criteria and framework for making judgements about

children’s literature


The module will be assessed by means of a 4,000 word analytic review (essay).
Choose an issue or theme that has interested you whilst studying the module. Analyse the presentation of the theme/issue in not more than three

children’s books, one of which may be a picture book.

This task enables you to exercise choice over your topic/focus and enables you to engage in an in-depth exploration of the subject-area. It

requires you to apply concepts and ideas to specific chosen texts, reviewing them accordingly.
Further information and support will be given throughout the module in class time.


Assessment criteria

Your essay will be assessed using the following assessment criteria, which will be used to determine the extent to which:

You show the ability to recognise and extract important theoretical concepts from the literature on childhood/children’s literature, using them to

organise a critical, detailed and balanced discussion of a relevant theme or issue

You demonstrate the ability to apply abstract ideas to critically analyse your chosen children’s book(s) effectively and convincingly

Your work contains a sophisticated and coherent main argument that is built around strong ideas and high quality thinking

Your chosen focus and essay structure demonstrates your ability to develop, carry and support a sustained argument

You use appropriate academic conventions for the presentation of your work

The Joint Honours grid will be used to mark your work.

In the sessions you will start to think about the following question: in what ways does the book we are studying challenge and engage the reader?
To get you started, useful questions to ask yourself are:
• Are the readers seen as passive blank slates or active explorers?
• What kind of challenges and experiences does the text offer?
• What theoretical concepts and critical sources have I used to focus my assignment (e.g. ‘textual health’ ‘knowingness’ ‘constructions of

childhood’, ‘gender politics’)?
• Which aspects of the book am I focussing down on to make my case?
• Have I included a list of references?

Formative tasks, which we’ve threaded throughout the module, will enable you to practise
• Constructing an argument about children’s literature
• Critically analysing a primary text
• Using and applying theoretical and critical reading

All of this will feed directly into your summative assignment, so we warmly encourage you to make the most of formative opportunities.


Session 1: Thursday 23rd April 2015 6.30pm-10.30 pm
An introduction to studying and analyzing children’s literature
A toolkit for analysing children’s fictionbased on
Thomas, H. (1998) Reading and Responding to Fiction: classroom strategies for developing literacy, London: Scholastic.

Suggested further reading
Chapter 2 ‘Why and how are children’s book studied?’ In Reynolds, K. (2011) Children’s Literature: a very short introduction. Oxford: OUP, 31-60.
Gamble, N. & Yates, S. (2002) Exploring Children’s Literature: Teaching the Language and Reading of Fiction, Paul Chapman.

Session 2:Friday 24th April 2015 6.30-10.30pm
Attitudes to literacy and literature: understanding professionals’ views of readership.
Smith, V. Learning to be a reader: promoting good textual health. In Goodwin, P. (ed.) (2008) Understanding children’s books: a guide for

education professionals. London: Sage. 33-42.
Rosen, Michael, (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.London: Walker.

Meek, M.,(1998) How Texts Teach What Readers Learn.Thimble Press.

Suggested further reading:
Cremin, T., Bearne, E., Mottram, M. and Goodwin, P. (2008) ‘Primary teachers as readers’ English in Education, 42(1), pp. 8–23.
Further Suggested Reading Hoffman, A. R. (2010) ‘The BFG and the Spaghetti Book Club: A Case Studyof Children as Critics’. Children’s Literature

in Education 41:234–250.
Session 3: Saturday 25th April 2015 2pm-6.30pm
Picture Books and Perspectives on Children as Readers.

This lecture will focus on looking closely at picture books (Graham 2008)
Burningham,John (2003) GranpaLondon:Red Fox

Hoffman, A. R. (2010) ‘The BFG and the Spaghetti Book Club: A Case Studyof Children as Critics’. Children’s Literature in Education 41:234–250.

Sendak, Maurice.Where The Wild Things Are.Red Fox

Suggested theoretical reading: Fremantle, S. (2006) ‘The power of the picture book.’In Pinsent, Pat.The Power of the Page. London, David Fulton.

Session 4: Sunday 26th April 2015 9am-6pm

Postmodernism and Picturebooks. Are these simple texts? Irony, parody and intertextuality.

Lewis, D. (1998) ‘Oops!: Colin McNaughton and “Knowingness”’. Children’s Literature in Education, 29 (2), 59-68.
Scieszka, Jon & Smith, LaneThe True Story of the Three Little Pigs

Scieszka, Jon & Smith, LaneThe Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

Gravett, EmilyLittle Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

Gravett, EmilyWolves
Further Suggested Reading:Philip Nel‘Postmodernism’ in Nel, P and Paul, L (eds.) (2011) Keywords for children’s Literature, New York University

Press (p181-185)
Session 5: Thursday 21st May 2015 6.30-10.30pm
Children’s classics and popular fiction for children

White, E. B. (1963) Charlotte’s Web. Penguin.
Dahl, Roald. (1983) The Witches.
Further reading:Curtis, J. (2014)“We Have a Great Task Ahead of Us!”: Child-Hate in Roald Dahl’s The Witches. CLE 45 (2), pp. 166-177.
Session 6: Friday 22nd May 2015 6.30-10.30pm
Ideology and the children’s book: gender

Kemp, Gene. (1993) The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler. Puffin.
Browne, A. (1996)Piggybook,Julia MacRae.

Session 7: Saturday 23rd May 2015 2pm-6.30pm
Books about teenage sex

Blume, Judy(1975) Forever. Pan Horizons
Burgess, Melvin. (2003) Doing ItAndersen Press

Further reading: Reynolds, K, (2007) ‘Baby, You’re the Best: Sex and Sexuality in Contemporary Juvenile Fiction’ Radical Children’s Literature

future visions and aesthetic transformations in juvenile fiction, Basingstoke: Palgrave. Pp114-130

Clarke, J. (2010) Childhood sexuality.Coming of age. In Kassem, Murphy and Taylor (eds). Key Issues in Childhood and Youth Studies.64-72.

Burgess, M (2004) ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ Children’s Literature in Education, 35, 4 , 289-300
Session 8: Sunday 24th May 2015 9am-6pm
Students will choose a book to study beforehand from the following list of themes and issues:
Perspectives on Disability.Haddon, Mark (2003). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time London:David Fickling

Challenging Representations of Childhood.Cassidy, Anne.(2004)Looking for JJ London: Scholastic

Perspectives on Families Wilson, Jacqueline.(1999) The Illustrated Mum.Corgi Yearling.

Presenting Distressing Themes for an Intended Child Audience.Boyne, John. (2006) The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.London: David Fickling

Watson, V. (1992) Irresponsible Writers and Responsible Readers. In Styles, M et al (Eds.) After Alice: exploring children’s literature.Cassell,



Other notorious texts you could consider in your assignment include

Perera, Anna (2009) Guantanamo BoyPuffin

Cormier, Robert.(1979) After the First DeathLions: Teen Tracks

Cormier, Robert.(1975) The Chocolate WarFontana: Lions

Burgess, Melvin. (1996) Junk, Andersen Press.

Burgess, Melvin. (2013) The Hit.Chicken House.

Burgess, Melvin. (2006) Sara’s Face.Andersen Press.
Indicative reading

NB Please see the online Reading List on the elp site- it has links to e-books and journal articles which you can access online from the library


Adams, J (2010) ‘‘Into Eternity’s Certain Breadth’’: Ambivalent Escapes
in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Children’s Literature in Education 41:222–233

Arizpe, E and Styles, M (2003) Children reading pictures: interpreting visual texts. London :RoutledgeFalmer.

Baddeley, P and Eddershaw, C (1994) Not So Simple Picture Books: Developing Responses to Literature with 4-12 Year Olds London: Trentham Books Ltd

Basu,B., Broad, K.R. and Hintz, C. (2013) (eds.) Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers,Routledge.

Beckett, S. (2011) Crossover Picturebooks: A Genre for All Ages. Routledge

Bond, G. Honesty and hope: presenting human rights issues to teenagers through fiction.’ Children’s Literature in Education 25, (1) 1994.41-52.

Bradford, C, McCallum, R., Mallan, K., & Stephens, J. (2008) New world orders in contemporary children’s literature: utopian transformations,


Bradford, C. (1997) Playing with father: A. Browne’s Picture Books and the masculine, Children’s Literature In Education 29, (2 )
Chambers, A. (2011) Tell Me (Children, Reading & Talk) with The Reading Environment Stroud: Thimble Press
Cremin, Teresa; Bearne, Eve; Mottram, Marilyn and Goodwin, Prue (2008).Primary teachers as readers.English in Education, 42(1), pp. 8–23.

Curtis, J. (2014)“We Have a Great Task Ahead of Us!”: Child-Hate in Roald Dahl’s The Witches. CLE 45 (2), pp. 166-177.

Eccleshare, J. Teenage fiction: realism, romances, contemporary problem novels. In Hunt P. (ed.) (1996).International companion encyclopedia of

children’s literature. London: Routledge, pp387-392.

Gamble, N.& Tucker, N. (2000) Family Fictions, Continuum.

Gamble, N. & Yates, S. (2002) Exploring Children’s Literature: Teaching the Language and Reading of Fiction, Paul Chapman.

Gilbert, R. (2010) Grasping the Unimaginable: Recent Holocaust Novels
for Children by Morris Gleitzman and John Boyne Children’s Literature in Education 41:355–366

Goodwin, P. (ed.) (2008) Understanding children’s books: a guide for education professionals . London: Sage.

Greenwell, B. (2004) The Curious Incidence of Novels about Asperger’s syndrome.Children’s Literature in Education35 (3) 2004.271-284.

Gubar, M. Whacked out Partners: the inversion of empathy in the Joey Pigza Trilogy. Children’s Literature in Education35 (3) 2004. 271. 219-238.

Hollindale, P.(2011) The Hidden Teacher: Ideology and Children’s Reading.Stroud : Thimble Press

Hollindale, P. (1997) Signs of Childness in Children’s Books.Thimble Press.
Hunt, P. (1996) International Companion: Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature.Routledge. [See especially, Meek’s introduction and Lesnik-

Oberstein, K. ‘Defining Children’s Literature and Childhood.’p.17-31.]

Kokkola, L. (2011)Virtuous Vampires and Voluptuous Vamps: Romance Conventions Reconsidered in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” Series, Children’s

Literature in Education42 (2) 165-179.

Lesnik-Oberstein, K. (1996) Defining Children’s Literature and Childhood. In Hunt, P. International Companion: Encyclopaedia of Children’s


Lesnik-Oberstein K. (1994.) Children’s literature: criticism and the fictional child. Oxford, Clarendon P.

Lewis, D. (1998) ‘Ooops!: Colin McNaughton and Knowingness’. Children’s Literature in Education, 29, (2) 59-68.

Lewis, D (2001) Picturing Text. Reading Contemporary Picturebooks, London: RoutledgeFalmer

Meek, M, (1998) How Texts Teach What Readers Learn.Stroud: Thimble Press.

Mills, S (2000) ‘Pig in the Middle’Children’s Literature in Education, 31 (2) p.107-124
Misheff, S. (1998) ‘Beneath the web and over the stream: the search for safe places in Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia’, Children’s

Literature in Education, 29 (3) p.131-141
Montgomery, H and Watson, NJ. (eds) (2009) Children’s Literature: Classic Texts and contemporary trends. London: Palgrave MacMillan, OUP.

Moody, N &Horrocks, C. (eds.) (2005) Children’s Fantasy fiction: debates for the 21st Century. LJMU Press.

Nel, P. and Paul, L. (2011) (eds.) Keywords for children’s Literature, New York University Press.

Nikolajeva, Maria. (2001) Howpicturebooks work. New York/London, Garland

Paul, L. (1996) ‘Feminist Criticism: from sex role stereotyping to subjectivity’. In Hunt P. (ed.) International companion encyclopedia of

children’s literature. London:Routledge,1996. 101-112.

Pinsent, P. (2006). The Power of the Page. London, David Fulton.

Pinsent, P. (1997) Children’s Literature and the Politics of Equality. David Fulton.

Reynolds, K. (2011) Children’s Literature: A Very Short Introduction
OUP Oxford

Reynolds K., and Grenby, M. (2011) (Eds.) Children’s Literature Studies: A Research Handbook, Palgrave Macmillan

Reynolds K., (2004) (ed.) Modern Children’s Literature: An Introduction
Palgrave Macmillan

Reynolds, K, (2007) Radical Children’s Literature future visions and aesthetic transformations in juvenile fiction,Basingstoke: Palgrave.

(Especially Chapter 6, Baby, You’re the Best: Sex and Sexuality in Contemporary Juvenile Fiction Pp114-130)
Rudd, D. (2000) Enid Blyton and the Mystery of Children’s Literature. London: Palgrave. (See especially Chapter 2 ‘Theory and Method: Literature,

Discourse and the Constitution of the Child,’ pp6-23).
Rudd, D (ed.) (2010).The Routledge Companion to Children’s Literature London: Routledge.

Sands OConnor, K. (2012) Shackled by past and parents: the child in British literature since 1970. In Gavin, A. (ed.) The Child in British

Literature: Literary Constructions of Childhood: mediaeval to contemporary.

Stephens, J. (1992) Language & Ideology in Children’s Fiction.Longman.

Waller, A. (2013) Melvin Burgess:New Case Book series. Palgrave MacMillan.

Watson, V. (1992) ‘Irresponsible Writers and Responsible Readers’. In Styles, M et al (Eds.) After Alice: exploring children’s literature.Cassell,


Watson, V & Styles, M (eds) (1996) Talking pictures: pictorial texts and young readers London: Hodder & Stoughton

Wolf, S., Coats, K., Enisco, P. and Jenkins, C. (eds.) (2010) Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature.London: Routledge.

Younger, B. (2009) Learning Curves: Body Image and Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature. Scarecrow Press
A sample of useful texts found via the NU library catalogue for further readingin e-book format includes

Allan, C. (2012) Playing with picturebooks: postmodernism and the postmodernesque . Palgrave.

Bradford, C, McCallum, R., Mallan, K., & Stephens, J. (2008) New world orders in contemporary children’s literature: utopian transformations,


Curry, A. (2013) Environmental Crisis in Young Adult Fiction: a poetics of earth. Palgrave.

Eccleshare, J. (2002) A guide to the Harry Potter novels. Continuum.

Grenby, M. (2008) Children’s Literature (Edinburgh Critical Guides to Literature) Edinburgh University Press
Hilton, M &Nicolajeva, M. (2012) Contemporary adolescent literature and culture: the emergent adult.Ashgate.
Hintz, C., Broad,K. &Basu, B. (eds.) (2012) Contemporary Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults: Brave New Teenagers. Routledge.
Hunt, P. (2004)(2ndEdn) International Companion: Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature.Routledge.
Hunt. P. (2006) Understanding children’s literature: key essays from the second edition of ‘The international companion encyclopedia of

children’s literature’. Routledge.
Hunt, P and Lenz, (2003) M. Alternative worlds in fantasy fiction.Continuum.
LesnikOberstein, K. (Ed) (2004) Children’s Literature: new approaches. New York: Palgrave.

Kokkola, L. (2003) Representing the Holocaust in Children’s Literature.Taylor and Francis.

McCulloch , F. (2011) Children’s Literature in Context. London: Continuum.

Ni Bhroin, C. and Kennon, P. (eds)(2013) What Do We Tell the Children? Critical Essays on Children’s Literature. Cambridge Scholars Press.

Pepetone, G. (2012) Hogwarts and All: Gothic Perspectives on Children’s Literature.New York: Petere Lang Publishing.

Reynolds, K, (2007) Radical Children’s Literature future visions and aesthetic transformations in juvenile fiction, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Rudd, D (ed.) (2010).The Routledge Companion to Children’s Literature London: Routledge.

WilkieStibbs, C. (2013) The Feminine Subject in Children’s Literature.Taylor & Francis.

Wu, Y, Mallan, K. &McGilllick, R. (2014) (ed.s) (Re)imagining the World: Children’s literature’s response to changing times.Springer.

Zipes, J. (2002) Sticks and Stones: the troublesome success of children’s literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter.Taylor & Francis.

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