Department of English, Jadavpur University

Home » Courses » Courses: July-Dec 2013 » CHILDREN”S LITERATURE: PG1, 2




It is assumed that children’s books are different from adults’ books: they are written for a different audience, with different skills, different needs, and different ways of reading. Moreover, children experience texts in ways which are often unknowable, but are actually very rich and complex. Children’s literature is also worth reading, discussing, and thinking about for adults. On what basis, then, can a distinction (or a hierarchy) be maintained between children’s literature and literature for adults? Hugh Lofting had once commented that he would only permit his novels to appear in his publisher’s catalogue as ‘juveniles’ if the adult novels were listed as ‘seniles’. This introductory course in children’s literature will help postgraduate students to understand what children’s literature is all about, and acquaint them with some of the approaches to reading and criticizing it.


Children’s literature is now rapidly coming of age as an independent area of study. From a historical point of view, children’s books are a valuable contribution to social, literary and bibliographic history; from a contemporary point of view they are vital to literacy and culture and are at the leading edge of the trend towards image and word, rather than simply the written word. In conventional literary terms, children’s books include acknowledged ‘classics’, but they are also central in terms of popular culture. Books for children are perhaps the most interesting and experimental of texts, in that they use mixed media techniques which combine word, image, shape, and sound. In richness, diversity and vitality, children’s literature crosses all established generic, historical, academic and linguistic boundaries. Above all, children’s literature is most engaging because of the unique position it holds in between adult writers, readers, critics and practitioners, and the child readers.


Following a brief overview of the history and theory of children’s literature, this course will lead students through a text-based study of different genres of children’s literature towards formulating their own responses to some of the following questions: What is children’s literature and what is childhood? How do we read children’s literature? What assumptions do we bring to texts written for children? What assumptions do we make about the child reader of a text or about childhood in general? In what ways are these assumptions correct or incorrect or contradictory or even fictions we tell ourselves about children? How much of the labelling of children’s literature is marketing-based? Do we need different strategies for reading texts for children? Do we need different sorts of literary and cultural theories than one might need to study literature written for adults? Why should we study criticism and theory at all?


Coordinators: Prodosh Bhattacharya

Chandreyee Niyogi


Some of the genres and representative authors/texts that may be studied in this course are:


  1. Picture books and books for little children: Rudyard Kipling (Just So Stories)/Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit)/Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes/A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)/Dr. Seuss (The Cat in the Hat)/Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are)/Quentin Blake (Tell Me a Picture) [Sendak if it can be located]/Abol Tabol/Graphic novels (evolution of the form)
  2. Fairy tales, fables and oral tradition: Charles Perrault/The Brothers Grimm/Hans Andersen/Dakkhinaranjan Mitra (Thakumar Jhuli)/Aesop’s fables/ fables by La Fontaine/Panchatantra
  3. School Stories: Thomas Hughes (Tom Brown’s School Days)/P.G. Wodehouse/Enid Blyton/Richmal Crompton/Chalet school series/JK Rowling
  4. Life and coming-of-age stories: Louisa M Alcott (Little Women)/Anne Frank (The Diary of a Young Girl)/Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking Bird)/Judy Blume (Are you there God? It’s me Margaret)/JD Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye)/Sue Townshend (Adian Mole series)
  5. Mystery, Adventure, Crime: RL Stevenson/Enid Blyton/ Nancy Drew/ Hardy Boys/ Feluda (mystery)/Ghanada (adventure) stories/Bimal-Kumar (adventure) + Jayanta-Manik (detective) stories by Hemen Ray
  6. Fantasy: Tolkien (The Hobbit)/CS Lewis(Chronicles of Narnia)/ JK Rowling (Harry Potter series)/Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)/JM Barrie (Peter Pan)/L Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz)/Edith Nesbit (The Enchanted Castle)/George MacDonald (The Princess and the Goblin)/Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl)/Philip Pullman (Dark Materials Trilogy
  7. Humour: Carlo Collodi (Pinocchio)/Mark Twain(The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)/Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)/Astrid Lindgren(Pippi Longstocking)/Ann Fine (Madame Doubtfire)/Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
  8. Historical and social realism: Frederick Marryat (The Children of the New Forest)/Rosemary Sutcliff (The Lantern Bearers)/nineteenth and early twentieth century children’s classic writers (Charles Kingsley/Frances Burnett/Joanna Spyri/E Nesbit/Lucy Montgomery)/Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief)
  9. Animal tales: Anna Sewell (Black Beauty)/Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows)/Hugh Lofting(Dr. Dolittle series)/Brian Jacques (Redwall series)/Gerald Durrell/Charlotte’s Web
  10. Adaptations: a) Books to films: Mary Poppins/The Wizard of Oz/Nanny McPhee/Chitty Chitty Bang Bang/Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (any two); b) Cultural transpositions: Bengali adaptations of Poe, MR James, Dracula novels and Lewis Carroll


Selected books for reference:

Peter Hunt, Children’s literature

Peter Hunt, Criticism, Theory, and Children’s Literature

Perry Nodelman, The Pleasures of Children’s Literature

Jacqueline Rose, The Case of Peter Pan or the Impossibility of Children’s Fiction

Zohar Shavit, Poetics of Children’s Literature

J. D. Stahl, Tina L. Hanlon and Elizabeth Lennox Keyser ed., Crosscurrents of Children’s Literature: An Anthology of Texts and Criticism



Tuesday 23 July to Tuesday 30 July — Picture Books (CN)

Wednesday 31 July to Thursday 8 August — School Stories (PB)

Monday 12 August to Wednesday 14 August — Adventure: Treasure Island (CN)

Monday 19 August to Wednesday 21 August — Adventure: King Solomon’s Mines (PB)

Thursday 22 August to Tuesday 27 August — Mystery: Enid Blyton (CN)

Wednesday 28 August to Monday 2 September — Mystery: Hemendra Kumar Ray (PB)

Tuesday 3 September to Tuesday 10 September — Humour: Pinochhio and Charlie and the Chocolate  Factory  (CN)

Wednesday 11 September to Monday 16 September — Fantasy: Water Babies (CN)

Tuesday 17 September to Thursday 19 September — Fantasy: Harry Potter  and/ or  Mary Poppins (PB)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: