?What is children’s literature
Children’s literature consists of written works and accompanying illustrations produced to entertain or instruct young people. The genre encompasses a wide range of works, including classics of world literature, picture books and easy-to-read stories written exclusively for children, and fairy tales, lullabies, fables, folk songs, and more.
When we think of a children’s story today, we probably think of it as entertainment, rather than as a tool for moral instruction. children’s literature includes books, poems, and plays meant for children. Even though the genre is defined by its audience, children and adults alike enjoy stories intended for children. Let’s delve back into history and see what we can learn about its many forms and purposes.
A Brief History
Due to its oral tradition, it’s difficult to trace the origin of the first children’s story. Because many cultures viewed children as people already on their way to adulthood, they didn’t perceive childhood as its own sacred time that they should value for its experience; rather, it was about preparation. Prior to the mid-19th century, children’s stories consisted mainly of moral principles and/or realistic perspectives of the world. Let’s look at a few of the primary highlights from the past, particularly during the golden age of the genre, where children’s literature moved into the realm of entertainment for all ages.
A crucial time for many new developments, the Renaissance saw the development of the first movable printing press, which paved the way for faster and more diverse publication. Some children’s literature existed at this time, but it was primarily in the form of textbooks or books for moral instruction, such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and The Pilgrim’s Progress. Even these examples were not originally written with children in mind, but rather children were drawn to the adventures and images in them.
During the time of the rise of Puritanism, John Locke’s philosophies on the mind of a child as a blank slate became extremely popular, thus beginning the evolution of seeing the child in a different life stage than an adult and the progression of childhood as we know it today. Parents became more concerned about the mental, and especially the spiritual, minds of their children. If writers did write with children in mind, it was frequently to use Hell or other punishments to scare them into obedience.
One early form of literature children had access to was the chapbook, a small, saddle-stapled book that usually included a fairy tale, poems, and almanacs. This type of book was also much more affordable for the common layperson. The first tales of Jack, the giant, and the beanstalk were printed in this fashion in the late 18th century. Interestingly, when we look at past we can see that the popularity and production level of children’s literature were directly proportional to the development of philosophies and/or theories about children and childhood.
The 19th century is considered the golden age of the genre, but what occurred socially in order for this to be possible? The answer? John Newbery, who you may be familiar with given the popular award for children’s books today, the John Newbery Medal, that is named after him. Newbery created Newbery’s Pretty Pocket Book in 1744, which was the first multi-media book meant for both children’s enjoyment and enrichment. Moreover, he fully developed the children’s side of his publishing house so that it printed even more books for children.
as society grew to respect childhood more, which can be partially attributed to the growing middle class and the amenities the Industrial Revolution provided, children’s literature absolutely blossomed! Writers such as Lewis Carroll and his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Robert Louis Stevenson and his Treasure Island, and Mark Twain and his Huckleberry Finn moved away from the strict moralism of earlier productions and turned instead to writing imaginative pieces to entertain. Notably, though, the literature of this period did still reinforce stereotypical gender roles. For instance, we see in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott a heroine who, while embracing her independence briefly, does still marry and grow into a submissive wife.
Today, however, children’s literature is more expansive and diverse than at any other time throughout history. Changes in technology and even more modern amenities and luxuries have birthed a greater level of entertainment. We now have children’s literature that encompasses many genres in and of itself, from historical fiction to fantasy to science fiction. As such, toddlers enjoy pop-up books, pre-teens have early readers, and teenagers immerse themselves in graphic novels. The literature has also developed immensely in its topic selection – what once only existed for moral development now exists to explore any number of subjects ranging from environment preservation to technological innovation to sexual orientation.
Children’s Literature Genres
This chart, adapted from Cullinan and Galda’s Literature and the Child, provides brief descriptions of children and young adult literature genre’s (Cullinan & Galda, 2002, p. 8). When searching for children’s books in the library catalog, you may notice categories identified as subject genre/form.
|Category||Genres in children’s and young adult literature|
|Picture Books||Interdependence of art and text. Story of Concept presented through combination of text and illustration. Classification based on format, not genre. All genres appear in picture books.|
|Poetry & Verse||Condensed language, imagery. Distilled, rhythmic expression of imaginative thoughts and perceptions.|
|Folklore||Literary heritage of humankind. Traditional stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, and songs from the past. Oral tradition; no known author.|
|Fantasy||Imaginative worlds, make-believe. Stories set in places that do not exist, about people and creatures that could not exist, or events that could not happen.|
|Science Fiction||Based on extending physical laws and scientific principles to their logical outcomes. Stories about what might occur in the future.|
|Realistic Fiction||“What if” stories, illusion of reality. Events could happen in real world, characters seem real; contemporary setting.|
|Historical Fiction||Set in the past, could have happened. Story reconstructs events of past age, things that could have or did occur.|
|Biography||Plot and theme based on person’s life. An account of a person’s life, or part of a life history; letters, memoirs, diaries, journals, autobiographies.|
|Nonfiction||Facts about the real world. Informational books that explain a subject or concept.|
children’s literature, the body of written works and accompanying illustrations produced in order to entertain or instruct young people. The genre encompasses a wide range of works, including acknowledged classics of world literature, picture books and easy-to-read stories written exclusively for children, and fairy tales, lullabies, fables, folk songs, and other primarily orally transmitted materials.
Children’s literature first clearly emerged as a distinct and independent form of literature in the second half of the 18th century, before which it had been at best only in an embryonic stage. During the 20th century, however, its growth has been so luxuriant as to make defensible its claim to be regarded with the respect—though perhaps not the solemnity—that is due any other recognized branch of literature.
Definition of terms
All potential or actual young literates, from the instant they can with joy leaf through a picture book or listen to a story read aloud, to the age of perhaps 14 or 15, may be called children. Thus “children” includes “young people.” Two considerations blur the definition. Today’s young teenager is an anomaly: his environment pushes him toward a precocious maturity. Thus, though he may read children’s books, he also, and increasingly, reads adult books. Second, the child survives in many adults. As a result, some children’s books (e.g., Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, and, at one time, Munro Leaf’s Story of Ferdinand) are also read widely by adults.
In the term children’s literature, the more important word is literature. For the most part, the adjective imaginative is to be felt as preceding it. It comprises that vast, expanding territory recognizably staked out for a junior audience, which does not mean that it is not also intended for seniors. Adults admittedly make up part of its population: children’s books are written, selected for publication, sold, bought, reviewed, and often read aloud by grown-ups. Sometimes they seem also to be written with adults in mind, as for example the popular French Astérix series of comics parodying history. Nevertheless, by and large there is a sovereign republic of children’s literature. To it may be added five colonies or dependencies: first, “appropriated” adult books satisfying two conditions—they must generally be read by children and they must have sharply affected the course of children’s literature (Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the collection of folktales by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the folk-verse anthology Des Knaben Wunderhorn [“The Boy’s Magic Horn”], edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, and William Blake’s Songs of Innocence); second, books the audiences of which seem not to have been clearly conceived by their creators (or their creators may have ignored, as irrelevant, such a consideration) but that are now fixed stars in the child’s literary firmament (Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Charles Perrault’s fairy tales; third, picture books and easy-to-read stories commonly subsumed under the label of literature but qualifying as such only by relaxed standards (though Beatrix Potter and several other writers do nonetheless qualify); fourth, first quality children’s versions of adult classics (Walter de la Mare’s Stories from the Bible, perhaps Howard Pyle’s retellings of the Robin Hood ballads and tales; finally, the domain of once oral “folk” material that children have kept alive—folktales and fairy tales; fables, sayings, riddles, charms, tongue twisters; folksongs, lullabies, hymns, carols, and other simple poetry; rhymes of the street, the playground, the nursery; and, supremely, Mother Goose and nonsense verse.
Five categories that are often considered children’s literature are excluded from this section. The broadest of the excluded categories is that of unblushingly commercial and harmlessly transient writing, including comic books, much of which, though it may please young readers, and often for good reasons, is for the purposes of this article notable only for its sociohistorical, rather than literary, importance. Second, all books of systematic instruction are barred except those sparse examples (e.g., the work of John Amos Comenius) that illuminate the history of the subject. Third, excluded from discussion is much high literature that was not originally intended for children: from the past, Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables, James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim; from the modern period, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Yearling, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, The Diary of Anne Frank, Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki, Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet. A fourth, rather minor, category comprises books about the young where the content but not the style or point of view is relevant (Sir James Barrie’s Sentimental Tommy, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, F. Anstey’s [Thomas Anstey Guthrie] Vice Versa). Finally, barred from central, though not all, consideration is the “nonfiction,” or fact, book. Except for a handful of such books, the bright pages of which still rain influence or which possess artistic merit, this literature should be viewed from its socioeducational-commercial aspect.
Children’s literature is any literature that is enjoyed by children. More specifically, children’s literature comprises those books written and published for young people who are not yet interested in adult literature or who may not possess the reading skills or developmental understandings necessary for its perusal. In addition to books, children’s literature also includes magazines intended for pre-adult audiences.
The age range for children’s literature is from infancy through the stage of early adolescence, which roughly coincides with the chronological ages of twelve through fourteen. Between that literature most appropriate for children and that most appropriate for adults lies young adult literature. Usually young adult literature is more mature in content and more complex in literary structure than children’s literature.
Most of the literary genres of adult literature appear in children’s literature as well. Fiction in its various forms–contemporary realism, fantasy and historical fiction, poetry, folk tales, legends, myths, and epics–all have their counterparts in children’s literature. Nonfiction for children includes books about the arts and humanities; the social, physical, biological, and earth sciences; and biography and autobiography. In addition, children’s books may take the form of picture books in which visual and verbal texts form an interconnected whole. Picture books for children include storybooks, alphabet books, counting books, wordless books, and concept books.
Literature written specifically for an audience of children began to be published on a wide scale in the seventeenth century. Most of the early books for children were didactic rather than artistic, meant to teach letter sounds and words or to improve the child’s moral and spiritual life. In the mid-1700s, however, British publisher John Newbery (1713–1767), influenced by John Locke’s ideas that children should enjoy reading, began publishing books for children’s amusement. Since that time there has been a gradual transition from the deliberate use of purely didactic literature to inculcate moral, spiritual, and ethical values in children to the provision of literature to entertain and inform. This does not imply that suitable literature for children is either immoral or amoral. On the contrary, suitable literature for today’s children is influenced by the cultural and ethical values of its authors. These values are frequently revealed as the literary work unfolds, but they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Authors assume a degree of intelligence on the part of their audience that was not assumed in the past. In this respect, children’s literature has changed dramatically since its earliest days.
Another dramatic development in children’s literature in the twentieth century has been the picture book. Presenting an idea or story in which pictures and words work together to create an aesthetic whole, the picture book traces its origin to the nineteenth century, when such outstanding artists as Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, and Walter Crane were at work. In the 1930s and 1940s such great illustrators as Wanda Gag, Marguerite de Angeli, James Daugherty, Robert Lawson, Dorothy Lathrop, Ludwig Bemelmans, Maud and Miska Petersham, and Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire began their work. Many of these and other equally illustrious artists helped to bring picture books to their present position of prominence. Since 1945 many highly talented illustrators have entered this field.
With the advent of computer-based reproduction techniques in the latter part of the twentieth century, the once tedious and expensive process of full color reproduction was revolutionized, and now almost any original media can be successfully translated into picture book form. Although many artists continue to work with traditional media such as printmaking, pen and ink, photography, and paint, they have been joined by artists who work with paper sculpture, mixed media constructions, and computer graphics.
The changes in literature for older children have been equally important. Among the early and lasting contributions to literature for children were works by Jack London, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Hans Christian Andersen. These writers, however, considered adults their major audience; therefore, they directed only some of their literary efforts toward young readers. Today, large numbers of highly talented authors have turned to younger readers for an audience and direct most, if not all, of their writings to them.
Another major change in publishing for children has been the rise in multicultural children’s literature. Prior to the mid-twentieth century the world depicted in children’s books was largely a white world. If characters from a nonwhite culture appeared in children’s books they were almost always badly stereotyped. The civil rights movement alerted publishers and the reading public to the need for books that depicted the America of all children, not just a white majority. Although the percentage of children’s books by and about people of color does not equate with their actual population numbers, authors of color such as Virginia Hamilton, Mildred Taylor, Alma Flor Ada, Walter Dean Myers, Gary Soto, and Laurence Yep, and illustrators such as Allen Say, Ed Young, John Steptoe, Jerry Pinkney, and Brian Pinkney have made major contributions to a more multiculturally balanced world of children’s books.
Not only are there larger numbers of talented writers and artists from many cultures at work for children, but the range of subject matter discussed in children’s fiction has also been extended remarkably. Topics that were considered taboo only a short time ago are being presented in good taste. Young readers from ten to fourteen can read well-written fiction that deals with death, child abuse, economic deprivation, alternative life styles, illegitimate pregnancy, juvenile gang warfare, and rejected children. By the early twenty-first century it had become more nearly true than ever before that children may explore life through literature.
Early writing for children
This was new. At the beginning of the century very few such enjoyable books for children had existed. Children read, certainly, but the books that they probably enjoyed reading (or hearing) most, were not designed especially for them. Fables were available, and fairy stories, lengthy chivalric romances, and short, affordable pamphlet tales and ballads called chapbooks, but these were published for children and adults alike. Take Nathaniel Crouch’s Winter-Evenings Entertainments (1687). It contains riddles, pictures, and ‘pleasant and delightful relations of many rare and notable accidents and occurrences’ which has suggested to some that it should be thought of as an early children’s book. However, its title-page insists that it is ‘excellently accommodated to the fancies of old or young’.
Meanwhile, the books that were published especially for children before the mid-18th century were almost always remorselessly instructional (spelling books, school books, conduct books) or deeply pious. Yet just because books seem dull or disciplinary to us today, this doesn’t mean that children at the time didn’t enjoy them. Godly books of the sort produced from the 1670s by Puritans like John Bunyan are a case in point. James Janeway’s A Token for Children (1671-72) gives what its subtitle describes as ‘an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children’. These children lie on their deathbeds, giving accounts of the sins too often committed by children – idleness, disobedience, inattention to lessons, boisterousness, neglecting the Sabbath – but tell those assembled round them that salvation awaits all who renounce such wickedness, and they explain how happy they are to be going to their eternal reward. Hardly fun, we might think, yet memoirs and letters, as well as continuing sales over more than a century, testify to young readers’ genuine enjoyment of these descriptions of heroic and confident, if doomed, children.
Winter-Evening Entertainments by Nathaniel Crouch, writing under the name Robert Burton. This edition is from 1737.
Usage: Public Domain
A Token for Children by James Janeway. This edition was published in 1709.
Usage: Public Domain
The right pleasant and diverting history of Fortunatus, and his two Sons, author unknown, estimated 1740.
Usage: Public Domain
The 18th century
In the first half of the 18th century a few books that didn’t have an obviously instructional or religious agenda were published especially for children, such as A Little Book for Little Children (c.1712), which included riddles and rhymes ; and a copiously illustrated bestiary, A Description of Three Hundred Animals (1730), the second part of which was published ‘particularly for the entertainment of youth’. But the turning point came in the 1740s, when a cluster of London publishers began to produce new books designed to instruct and delight young readers. Thomas Boreman was one, who followed his Description of Three Hundred Animals with a series of illustrated histories of London landmarks jokily (because they were actually very tiny) called the Gigantick Histories (1740-43). Another was Mary Cooper, whose two-volume Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (1744) is the first known nursery rhyme collection, featuring early versions of well-known classics like ‘Bah, bah, a black sheep’, ‘Hickory dickory dock’, ‘London Bridge is falling down’ and ‘Sing a song of sixpence’.
‘Directions for Spelling’ and illustrated alphabet from A Little Book for Little Children, 1702.
Usage: Public Domain
A Description of Three Hundred Animals by Thomas Boreman, 1730.
Usage: Public Domain
Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book by Mary Cooper, 1744.
Usage: Public Domain
The father of children’s literature
But the most celebrated of these pioneers is John Newbery, whose first book for the entertainment of children was A Little Pretty Pocket-Book Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly (c.1744). It was indeed a pretty book, small, neat and bound in brightly coloured paper, and Newbery advertised it as being sold with a ball (for a boy) and a pincushion (for a girl) – these toys were to be used to record the owner’s good and bad deeds (by means of pins stuck either to the black side of the ball or pincushion, or the red). Newbery’s books perfectly embodied the educational ideas of John Locke, who had advocated teaching through amusement. But Newbery has become known as the ‘father of children’s literature’ chiefly because he was able to show that publishing children’s books could be a commercial success. This may have been because he made most of his money from selling patent medicines, and by publishing for adults
Nevertheless, his children’s book business flourished, and, following his death in 1767, it was taken over by his descendants, surviving into the 19th century. Newbery was a great innovator too. He produced the first children’s periodical for example, called The Lilliputian Magazine (1751-52), a miscellany of stories, verse, riddles and chatty editorials. And his most famous work, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765) has a good claim to be called the first children’s novel. It tells the story of a poor orphan, Margery, who makes a career for herself as a teacher before, like a less glamorous Cinderella (with no fairy godmother, balls to attend, or glass slipper), she marries the local landowner who she has impressed by her honesty, hard work and good sense.
A Little Pretty Pocket-Book by John Newbery. This edition is from 1770.
Usage: Public Domain
The Lilliputian Magazine, estimated 1752.
Usage: Public Domain
Frontispiece and title page from The History of Little Goody-Two Shoes, 1765, one of the earliest popular children’s story that also features an orphan heroine.
Usage: Public Domain
A rapid expansion of children’s literature
The reasons for this sudden rise of children’s literature have never been fully explained. The entrepreneurial genius of figures like Newbery undoubtedly played a part, but equally significant were structural factors, including the growth of a sizeable middle class, technical developments in book production, the influence of new educational theories, and changing attitudes to childhood. Whatever the causes, the result was a fairly rapid expansion of children’s literature through the second half of the 18th century, so that by the early 1800s, the children’s book business was booming. For the first time it was possible for authors to make a living out of writing solely for children, and to become famous for it. Children’s literature, as we know it today, had begun.
Literature in the Lives of Children
Literature serves children in four major ways: it helps them to better understand themselves, others, their world, and the aesthetic values of written language. When children read fiction, narrative poetry, or biography, they often assume the role of one of the characters. Through that character’s thoughts, words, and actions the child develops insight into his or her own character and values. Frequently, because of experiences with literature, the child’s modes of behavior and value structures are changed, modified, or extended.
When children assume the role of a book’s character as they read, they interact vicariously with the other characters portrayed in that particular selection. In the process they learn something about the nature of behavior and the consequences of personal interaction. In one sense they become aware of the similarities and differences among people.
Because literature is not subject to temporal or spatial limitations, books can figuratively transport readers across time and space. Other places in times past, present, or future invite children’s exploration. Because of that exploration, children come to better understand the world in which they live and their own relationship to it.
Written language in its literary uses is an instrument of artistic expression. Through prose and poetry children explore the versatility of the written word and learn to master its depth of meaning. Through literature, too, children can move beyond the outer edges of reality and place themselves in worlds of make-believe, unfettered by the constraints of everyday life.
The three principal settings in which children’s literature functions are the home, the public library, and the school. In each of these settings, the functions of literature are somewhat different, but each function supports the others and interacts with them.
Home. Irrefutable evidence indicates that those children who have had an early and continuing chance to interact with good literature are more apt to succeed in school than those who have not. Parents who begin to read aloud to their children, often from birth, are communicating the importance of literature by providing an enjoyable experience. The young child makes a lasting connection between books, which provide pleasure, and the undisputed attention from the parent who takes time to do the reading. During the preschool years, books contribute to children’s language structures and to their vocabulary. Children acquire a sense of language pattern and rhythm from the literary usage of language that is not found in everyday conversational speech. Then, too, children discover that print has meaning, and as they acquire the ability to read print as well as understand pictures, children find further pleasure in books. In finding that reading has its own intrinsic reward, children acquire the most important motivation for learning to master reading skills.
Public library. Public libraries have taken on an increasingly important role in serving children. Children’s rooms, which were once the domain of a few select children, are inviting places for all children, whether or not they are inveterate readers. Libraries organize story hours, present films, and provide computers and quiet places to do homework as well as present special book-related events and sponsor book clubs and summer reading programs. Children’s librarians guide the reading interests of children and act as consultants to parents. Full exploitation of the public library in the broader education of children has not yet been achieved, but growing acceptance by the public of the library as a community necessity rather than a luxury will help it to continue to play an increasingly important role in the lives of children.
School. Literature did not begin to make broad inroads into the reading curriculum until the 1950s. Before that time many schools had no library, and a good number of these schools did not even feel the need for one. Many schools relied almost exclusively on textbooks for instruction. By the end of the twentieth century, however, nearly every curriculum authority had come to recognize the importance of trade books (books other than textbooks) in the in-school education of children. In the early twenty-first century most schools have central libraries staffed by trained librarians and some schools provide financial support for classroom libraries as well. When this is not the case, teachers, recognizing the value of good literature, often reach into their own pockets to provide trade books for their classrooms. A 1998 survey of school library media programs by the Center of Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education found a mean of twenty-eight volumes per elementary school child in both public and private schools.
Function in the school curriculum. Literature plays an increasingly large role in the formal education of children in three related but rather discrete areas: the instructional reading program, the subject matter areas, and the literature program.
Most instructional reading programs recognize the importance of literature. Basal reading textbook programs generally recommend that trade books be used from the beginning of formal reading instruction in order to motivate readers through the long, and sometimes frustrating, efforts that learning to read usually demands. Through trade books the reader finds those efforts are rewarded by the pleasure gained from reading. In many schools the teaching of reading has been centered on trade books rather than textbooks. But in literature-based programs, teachers plan instruction around experiences with “real” books, experiences that include helping students make their own reading choices and giving children time to share responses to reading with their peer group. Schools with such literature-based programs recognize the importance of creating a classroom community of readers that will not only help children learn how to read but will also encourage them to become lifelong readers.
Subject matter areas, such as social studies and the sciences, have depended to a large extent upon textbooks to provide common learning for entire classes. However, there are limitations inherent in the nature of textbooks that require supplementation by trade books. Because textbooks survey broad areas of knowledge, space limitations prevent in-depth explorations of particular topics. Recent discoveries and events cannot always be included because textbook series require long periods of preparation. Content area textbooks are often subject to review by state committees that limit potentially controversial material. Trade books are widely used to offset these limitations. Nonfiction books provide opportunities for in-depth consideration of particular topics. Furthermore, the comparatively short time needed for the preparation and publication of trade books makes recent discoveries and occurrences available to the reader.
Elementary school literature programs vary widely. As state and national standards and testing drive curriculum some schools reflect the attitude that literature is a luxury, if not an undesirable frill.
In such schools little, if any, in-school time is devoted either to reading for pleasure or to the formal study of literature. Most schools, however, recognize children’s need for some pleasurable experiences with literature that enable them to return to books to think more deeply about the characters, themes, and other literary elements. In such schools the study of literature is grounded in reader response theory that grew out of Louise Rosenblatt’s contention in Literature as Exploration that “the literary work exists in a live circuit set up between reader and text” (p. 25). Thus the reader is seen as a coconstructor of meaning with the author. Any plan for the direct study of literary form, structure, and content as a means of heightening the pleasure of reading includes, at a minimum, teachers reading aloud from works of literature, and the formation of book circles where small groups of students regularly meet together to discuss books. In addition teachers should plan time for children to respond to books through writing, creative dramatics, and other art forms.
There are a number of awards made to authors and illustrators of children’s books, and these awards frequently aid readers in the selection of books. The most prestigious American awards are the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal. The Newbery Medal is presented each year to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” published in the previous year. To be eligible for the award, the author must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the United States. The winner is chosen by a committee of the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) of the American Library Association (ALA). The Caldecott Medal is given each year to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” The winner is selected by the same committee that chooses the Newbery winner. In addition to the Newbery and Caldecott medals, other prominent awards given under the auspices of the ALSC include the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which is given to an author or illustrator who has “made a substantial contribution to literature for children” over a period of years; the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, which honors the author whose work of nonfiction has made a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature in a given year; and the Batchelder Award, given to the publisher of the most outstanding book of the year that is a translation, published in the United States, of a book that was first published in another country. Other notable American book awards include the Coretta Scott King Awards given by the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association to an African-American author and an African-American illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions to literature for children, and the Pura Belpré Award, which is sponsored by ALSC and REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library Service to the Spanish Speaking). This award is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding book for children. The Hans Christian Andersen prize, the first international children’s book award, was established in 1956 by the International Board on Books for Young People. Given every two years, the award was expanded in 1966 to honor an illustrator as well as an author. A committee composed of members from different countries judges the selections recommended by the board or library associations in each country.
The following list of outstanding children’s books was selected from award winners of the twentieth century and is meant to mark important milestones in children’s literature.
Aardema, Verna. 1975. Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears. Illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. New York: Dial.
Alexander, Lloyd. 1968. The High King. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Atwater, Richard, and Florence Atwater. 1938. Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Boston: Little, Brown.
Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin. 1946. Miss Hickory. Illustrated by Ruth Gannett. New York: Viking.
Bang, Molly. 1999. When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry. New York: Scholastic.
Bemelmans, Ludwig. 1939. Madeline. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Bontemps, Arna. 1948. Story of the Negro. New York: Knopf.
Brink, Carol Ryrie. 1935. Caddie Woodlawn. Illustrated by Kate Seredy. New York: Macmillan.
Brown, Marcia. 1947. Stone Soup. New York: Scribner’s.
Brown, Marcia. 1961. Once a Mouse. New York: Scribner’s.
Burton, Virginia Lee. 1942. The Little House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Clark, Ann Nolan. 1952. Secret of the Andes. Illustrated by Jean Charlot. New York: Viking.
Cleary, Beverly. 1977. Ramona and Her Father. New York: Morrow.
Cleary, Beverly. 1984. Dear Mr. Henshaw. New York: Morrow.
Collier, James, and Collier, Christopher. 1974. My Brother Sam Is Dead. New York: Four Winds.
Cooney, Barbara, ed. and illus. 1958. The Chanticleer and the Fox, by Geoffrey Chaucer. New York: Crowell.
Cooper, Susan. 1973. The Dark Is Rising. New York: Atheneum.
Cooper, Susan. 1975. The Grey King. New York: Atheneum.
Creech, Sharon. 1994. Walk Two Moons. New York: Harper Collins.
Crews, Donald. 1978. Freight Train. New York: Greenwillow.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. 1999. Bud, Not Budd. New York: Delacorte.
Cushman, Karen. 1995. The Midwife’s Apprentice. New York: Clarion.
de Angeli, Marguerite. 1949. The Door in the Wall. New York: Doubleday.
de Paola, Tomie. 1975. Strega Nona. New York: Simon and Schuster.
de Regniers, Beatrice Schenk. 1964. May I Bring a Friend? New York: Atheneum.
Emberley, Barbara. 1967. Drummer Hoff. Illustrated by Ed Emberley. New York: Prentice Hall.
Estes, Eleanor. 1944. The Hundred Dresses. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
Feelings, Muriel. 1971. Moja Means One: A Swahili Counting Book. Illustrated by Tom Feelings. New York: Dial.
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