Paperback / softback
January 2, 2005
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
0.73 Inches (US)
.8 Pounds (US)
$30.00 USD, £22.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Kiddie Lit

The Cultural Construction of Children's Literature in America

Honor Book for the 2005 Book Award given by the Children's Literature Association

The popularity of the Harry Potter books among adults and the critical acclaim these young adult fantasies have received may seem like a novel literary phenomenon. In the nineteenth century, however, readers considered both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as works of literature equally for children and adults; only later was the former relegated to the category of "boys' books" while the latter, even as it was canonized, came frequently to be regarded as unsuitable for young readers. Adults—women and men—wept over Little Women. And America's most prestigious literary journals regularly reviewed books written for both children and their parents. This egalitarian approach to children's literature changed with the emergence of literary studies as a scholarly discipline at the turn of the twentieth century. Academics considered children's books an inferior literature and beneath serious consideration.

In Kiddie Lit, Beverly Lyon Clark explores the marginalization of children's literature in America—and its recent possible reintegration—both within the academy and by the mainstream critical establishment. Tracing the reception of works by Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson Burnett, L. Frank Baum, Walt Disney, and J. K. Rowling, Clark reveals fundamental shifts in the assessment of the literary worth of books beloved by both children and adults, whether written for boys or girls. While uncovering the institutional underpinnings of this transition, Clark also attributes it to changing American attitudes toward childhood itself, a cultural resistance to the intrinsic value of childhood expressed through sentimentality, condescension, and moralizing.

Clark's engaging and enlightening study of the critical disregard for children's books since the end of the nineteenth century—which draws on recent scholarship in gender, cultural, and literary studies— offers provocative new insights into the history of both children's literature and American literature in general, and forcefully argues that the books our children read and love demand greater respect.

About the Author

Beverly Lyon Clark is the A. Howard Meneely Professor of English at Wheaton College and coeditor (with Margaret Higonnet) of Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children's Literature and Culture, also available from Johns Hopkins.


"This exemplary contribution to children's literature studies engages both general readers—those interested in Little Women or Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Wizard of Oz, Lewis Carroll, Huck Finn, even J. K. Rowling and Walt Disney—and children's literature specialists."

- Cathryn M. Mercier - Horn Book Magazine

"This engaging book is particularly absorbing in light of the current adult fascination with the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings titles... Highly recommended."

- Choice

"Terrific and important... Clark tracks the various moves by which 'Kiddie Lit' has been diminished and kept in its place, and she does this by tracing the historical reception of a half dozen or so representative works... A 'must read' for scholars in children's literature."

- Children's Literature Association Quarterly

"[Clark's] thorough documentation of the vagaries of the reception of 'kiddie lit' proves that our negative valuations of youth culture deserve rethinking."

- Ilana Nash - Women's Review of Books

"Offers a convincing plea for taking kiddie lit seriously, and for accepting the imaginative delight and serious literary pleasures such literature can offer."

- Michael Newton - Times Literary Supplement


"Beverly Lyon Clark has succeeded admirably in portraying children's literature as a contested cultural field and revealing changes in the meanings and relevance in children's books over the course of 150 years. Her research is impeccable; her general perspective, sound; her arguments, provocative. This is a major work in the field."

- Jack Zipes, University of Minnesota
Johns Hopkins University Press
From 17


9780801881701 : kiddie-lit-clark
Paperback / softback
280 Pages
$30.00 USD

Other Titles by Beverly Lyon Clark

The Afterlife of "Little Women"

Beverly Lyon Clark
Jan 2015 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$44.95 USD - Hardback
$44.95 USD - Electronic book text

Girls, Boys, Books, Toys

edited by Beverly Lyon Clark and Margaret R. Higonnet
Oct 2000 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$32.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General

Bergson, Eliot, and American Literature

Paul Douglass
Mar 2025 - University Press of Kentucky
$30.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$12.95 USD - Electronic book text

Craft Class

Christopher Kempf
Mar 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$99.95 USD - Hardback
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$34.95 USD - Electronic book text

Black Male Fiction and the Legacy of Caliban

James W. Coleman
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$35.00 USD - Hardback
$60.00 USD - Electronic book text

Other Titles in Literature: history & criticism

Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Volume 51

edited by David A. Brewer and Crystal B. Lake
May 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$50.00 USD - Hardback

Craft Class

Christopher Kempf
Mar 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$99.95 USD - Hardback
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$34.95 USD - Electronic book text

The Guide to James Joyce's Ulysses

Patrick Hastings
Feb 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$21.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$21.95 USD - Electronic book text