English 317 Children’s Literature

Course Description

Students in this course explore a variety of examples of children’s literature through various genres, including fairy tales; picture books; “classics”; contemporary realist novels; and graphic novels and historical fiction. Together we examine various ideas conveyed in the texts, the historical development and context of children’s fiction, how novels for young readers have changed and/or stayed the same, and the intersections among language, theory, politics, ideology, and children’s fiction.

The schedule pairs classic and contemporary works of fiction with literary-historical and critical material. Class discussions are guided by the following questions: What IS children’s literature? How does writing for children negotiate the boundaries between instruction and entertainment? How does it engage with controversial social issues? How does children’s literature reflect and respond to changing notions of children and of childhood? How do the texts construct class, gender, race, ethnicity, and able-bodiedness? How does children’s literature respond to children as marginalized “others”? How does writing for children address the power differentials upon which this marginalization rests? How can children’s literature function as both a “window” and a “mirror” for child readers?


Picture This, Molly Bang

Frederick, Leo Lionni

Julian is a Mermaid, Jessica Love

Molly Rogers, Pirate Girl, Cornelia Funke

Treasure Island, R. L. Stevenson

Charlotte’s Web, E. G. White

Melissa, Alex Gino

Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, Dusti Bowling

American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

New Kid, Jerry Craft

March, Book One, John Lewis et al.