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 Post subject: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 18 Feb 2017, 04:21 
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I went into a charity shop where "this week's display" was "classic children's literature".

Included was,Rupert - originally a device to sell newspapers to adults, Treasure Island - an early YA novel but in an abridged version and Robinson Crusoe - an adult novel.

I'm just interested in what people think of books originally intended for adults (like Gulliver's Travels) that have ended up being regarded as children's books.


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 18 Feb 2017, 09:25 
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I think Jonathan Swift would be rather put out that Gulliver's Travels, which was intended as a political satire, had been reclassified as a cross between a Boys' Own adventure book and a fairy tale :lol:. With Rupert etc, I suppose it's just nice that they've kept going so long, even if not in the way they were intended.

I think the trouble with Robinson Crusoe, in particular, was that it was so long and waffly that abridged versions were produced to try to make it more readable, and those versions then appealed more to children. The children's versions are much better :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 18 Feb 2017, 12:06 
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Interesting topic, Victoria. I've been reading quite a lot about the 'making of children's literature' for my degree and people definitely grapple with definitions - does something become children's literature because it is read by children, or written for children (or by them, in rare cases!). And what makes a classic? Is it a good story that has endured? Does it have to be well-written and, in that case, do abridgements/retellings count?

Or is it simply what a publisher has decided is children's literature and has branded it as such?

Looking at 'my' sort of books, what makes Little Women and Jo to the Rescue 'children's' books while Emma and Jane Eyre are generally considered to be adult books?


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 19 Feb 2017, 14:28 
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JS wrote:
Interesting topic, Victoria. I've been reading quite a lot about the 'making of children's literature' for my degree and people definitely grapple with definitions - does something become children's literature because it is read by children, or written for children (or by them, in rare cases!). And what makes a classic? Is it a good story that has endured? Does it have to be well-written and, in that case, do abridgements/retellings count?

Or is it simply what a publisher has decided is children's literature and has branded it as such?

Looking at 'my' sort of books, what makes Little Women and Jo to the Rescue 'children's' books while Emma and Jane Eyre are generally considered to be adult books?



I don't consider Little Women, especially its later sequels as being children's lit.

You've also got to look at the book covers - Little Women has definitely been published with the Penguin black and white spine. Harry Potter has both more children's covers and then you have the "adult" ones too.

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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 19 Feb 2017, 15:53 
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I tend to think of Little Woman and Good Wives, at least, as being suitable for both children and adults, although perhaps that's a generational thing, as my board name betrays my age group! Certainly I was given my first copy for my 8th birthday, although I don't recall whether it contained both stories. I agree that the ideas behind Little Men and especially Jo's Boys are more adult in concept though. As it happens, I read Jane Eyre which certainly can't count as children's literature, for the first time before I was 10, much to the horror of a local head-master, who couldn't see how I could possibly understand it - until he questioned me on it!! It remains a favourite re-read all these years later.


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 02:44 
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Given the way the author addressed her readers, e.g.
Quote:
Don't laugh at the spinsters, dear girls....
and
Quote:
Gentlemen, which means boys,...
I'd say that Alcott thought she was addressing younger readers. (Both of these are from Little Women Chapter 43, so in Part II, which you all would probably consider Good Wives.) Of course, that hasn't stopped me from just finishing the umpteenth reread since I devoured my mother's childhood 7-volume set back in the dark ages. Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, An Old Fashioned Girl, Under the Lilacs, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom. We had to borrow Jack and Jill elsewhere, as it had mysteriously disappeared. Of these, the one I remember thinking "too young" at the ripe old age of 9 or 10 was Under the Lilacs, but none of them seemed "too old." Jane Eyre, on the other hand, was of no interest to me as a child once she left school.

But I wonder how many kids read Alcott for fun these days, given that two of my university students just asked me what "erroneous" meant on an exam. I am wondering what they'd make of "philoprogenitiveness." :lol: (LW chapter 45)

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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 12:05 
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Little Women is definitely classed as children's literature as it was commissioned for girls. I suppose today it would be 'YA'. There's a wikipedia entry that's quite interesting:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Wo ... on_history
(I now work in publishing following a career change)


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 12:26 
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That is interesting. I find it quite sad that people decry Little Women and Good Wives as turning women's fiction into "hearth and home" literature. Jo lives in New York on her own and pursues a career, and Amy gets to travel round Europe. Even Meg's life is hardly domestic bliss: she has to cope with the real world problems of managing on a budget. And this was written at the same time as, for example, the first of the infamous Elsie books! The girls all actually achieve a lot more than Laurie, who, being rich and male, has every opportunity, but just dosses about wasting time and money until Amy tells him to get his act together!

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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 16:03 
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Kathy_S wrote:
Given the way the author addressed her readers, e.g.
Quote:
Don't laugh at the spinsters, dear girls....
and
Quote:
Gentlemen, which means boys,...

But I wonder how many kids read Alcott for fun these days, given that two of my university students just asked me what "erroneous" meant on an exam. I am wondering what they'd make of "philoprogenitiveness." :lol: (LW chapter 45)


I am happy to be able to report that a quick look around year 6 (age 10/11) this morning showed two girls reading Little Women at this very moment!


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 20:46 
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For me the best children's literature has been enjoyed and loved and re-read as a child, then as an adult and from more than six decades of reading, given me insights to character and Life ever since. So Chalet, Anne, Traveller in Time, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice just get better with age. However Blyton can bring back childhood but not much adult interest.


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 10:54 
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I think part of what makes a book a classic, is that it gets better upon re-reading. I suppose that contributes to the confusion about children's classics as well, you might start them when younger and then get different things out of them when you are older. Gullivers travels can read as completely different books as mentioned earlier- adventure story or as originally intended. Again, Little Women was pure enjoyment when younger, but as an adult I can appreciate Alcott's feminism coming through. In School at, I now marvel at Madge's independence.

I have read Anne of the Island (at the very least, often the full series minus the retrospectives) at least once a year since I first tracked down the series in primary 6 after we read Anne of Green Gables in class. It is the book I keep in my bag if I'm nervous before an interview or a meeting , or have sitting beside me buried under tissues if I have been ill. I'm sure it's classed as a children's book, and perhaps not even as a classic one (although surely Green Gables at least is?!) but I'm planning on continuing to keep reading it for a very long time.

ETA: I completely agree with NanaG's post.

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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 15:45 
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Interesting isn't it, how some are seen as classics. The Anne books would be on my list too along with Little Women etc I think sometimes the genre was not considered 'proper' literature because of the old gender/cultural/ethnic bias that seemed to think only white men wrote anything of value. Women authors were only considered as childrens/female writers. Personally I love kids books as I find they present the mores of their period better than the others.(We wouldn't want all our nice middle class children getting the wrong ideas would we). I did my project at university on childrens books. Dickins is always interesting too as, I think, he wrote for a family audience.

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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 14 May 2017, 01:04 
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As plenty of scholars try to point out to dim-bulb modern people, the fact that in Little Women, "Father" is treated as some sort of God-like being, indicates that Alcott wasn't a "21st century feminist in the 19th century". I also doubt she agreed with the true equality of the races either. Believing black people should not be slaves is not the same thing as believing black people should be equal.

It happens in other supposed "proto-feminist" classics. Take The Secret Garden where the author takes a quick time out to justify male domestic violence against women.


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 14 May 2017, 09:32 
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Most authors are people of their time, and even if they are far-sighted and powerful writers, like Ursula K Le Guin or Mervyn Peake, there will often be attitudes and implications in their work that subsequent generations of readers will find hard to stomach. Nor is it at all easy to identify what those 'hard to stomach' things will be. And it seems to me that many authors are either hugely popular in their lifetime (Hammond Innes, for example) or are only moderately successful in writing books but turn out to have written classics (Winifred Holtby).

I'd nominate Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows and Eleanor Farjeon's Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard as two books that are regarded as children's books but were not written for them. After all, Madge has the latter of those as a Christmas present in Jo of!


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 15 May 2017, 13:56 
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Apparently Herbert Asquith loved Anne of Green Gables but I think it was always principally aimed at children?

The important thing is to remove the stigma of reading children's books as an adult :wink: and I think Harry Potter ahs helped a lot with that :D


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 15 May 2017, 22:23 
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E. Nesbit is an interesting example. She wrote for children, but there were often jokes that children wouldn't get but adults would.

She wasn't quite of her time, as she had a very unconventional private life and progressive ideas - she was an early member of the Fabian Society. And she was the breadwinner in her household at times.

She established new styles and genres in children's literature, and I think does stand up to re-reading.

I think it's a pity that since the original film with Jenny Agutter as Bobbie, The Railway Children has come to be her best known work, when it's not necessarily the most original.


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 16 May 2017, 02:48 
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I'm pretty sure that even Jane Austen would have shared some of her era's bigoted views on some subjects but it hurts a lot less for modern women to focus on a few modern-ish views in the past than to accept that their largely were no modern equal rightists in the past. Even Jane Austen would have had no place in her feminism for real-life black and brown people.


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 16 May 2017, 11:31 
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My (Collins Classics) edition of Pride and Prejudice has an advert for Little Women and Good Wives on the back, along with - among others - Vanity Fair. So they obviously regarded LW/GW as an adult book.


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 Post subject: Re: Classic "Children"'s Literature
PostPosted: 16 May 2017, 11:53 
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HopeBeale wrote:
I'm pretty sure that even Jane Austen would have shared some of her era's bigoted views on some subjects but it hurts a lot less for modern women to focus on a few modern-ish views in the past than to accept that their largely were no modern equal rightists in the past. Even Jane Austen would have had no place in her feminism for real-life black and brown people.
Why would anyone ever have realistically expected it? It's impossible to tell what will upset readers in two hundred or even one hundred years time - I'd bet many Victorians would be astonished that most people these days are horrified at the idea of older men finding young girls attractive.

If it hurts some academics less to focus on selected aspects of various women writers, perhaps it's time the rose-tinted lenses came off.

Edited for clarity


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