Keywords for Children’s Literature

293 pages

June, 2011

ISBN: 9780814758557


Literary Studies

Part of the Keywords series


Philip Nel is Professor of English and Director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature. His most recent books are Tales for Little Rebels (NYU Press, 2008, co-edited with Julia Mickenberg), The Annotated Cat (2007), and Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004).

All books by Philip Nel

Lissa Paul is Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University. She is the author of Reading Otherways (1998), The Children’s Book Business: Lessons from the Long Eighteenth Century (2011), and Associate General Editor of The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature (2005).

All books by Lissa Paul

The study of children’s literature and culture has been experiencing a renaissance, with vital new work proliferating across many areas of interest. Mapping this vibrant scholarship, Keywords for Children’s Literature presents 49 original essays on the essential terms and concepts of the field. From Aesthetics to Young Adult, an impressive, multidisciplinary cast of scholars explores the vocabulary central to the study of children's literature.

Following the growth of his or her word, each author traces its branching uses and meanings, often into unfamiliar disciplinary territories: Award-winning novelist Philip Pullman writes about Intentionality, Education expert Margaret Meek Spencer addresses Reading, literary scholar Peter Hunt historicizes Children’s Literature, Psychologist Hugh Crago examines Story, librarian and founder of the influential Child_Lit litserv Michael Joseph investigates Liminality. The scope, clarity, and interdisciplinary play between concepts make this collection essential reading for all scholars in the field. In the spirit of Raymond Williams’ seminal Keywords, this book is a snapshot of a vocabulary of children’s literature that is changing, expanding, and ever unfinished.

Visit for online essays, teaching resources, and more. 


  • Keywords for Children's Literature demonstrates how sophisticated the critical approaches to the burgeoning field of children's literature have become. Not only do the essays on keywords, written by some of the most capable professors in the field, elaborate important concepts in the history of children's literature, but they cover significant cultural debates and discussions. This superb volume of scholarship demonstrates—definitively—that adult literature cannot be understood without grasping its roots in children's literature.”

    —Jack Zipes, University of Minnesota

  • “By distilling the complex uses of its core terms, the contributors to Keywords for Children's Literature have produced an indispensable handbook for scholars in this dynamic field.”

    —Donald E. Pease, author of Theodor SEUSS Geisel

  • "Overall, this volume succeeds quite well in focusing attention on how we discuss children's literature. The 49 essays are models of thoughtful inquiry into words we frequently use, often without considering how they have been transformed over time."

    —Myra Zarnowski, Teachers College Record

  • "This book presents 49 thoughtful essays based on various concepts pertaining to children's literature, including genres, literary theories, and the history of children's literature...This volume will be very useful, especially for colleges and universities with children's literature programs. Highly recommended."

    —J. Stevens, Choice

  • "Even the most sophisticated scholars will enjoy seeing how their colleagues achieve the feat of crafting such delicious distillations within the given space constraints. This book is a monumental achievement."

    —Claudia Mills, Children's Literature Association