The astonishing success of J.K. Rowling and other contemporary children's authors has demonstrated how passionately children can commit to the books they love. But this kind of devotion is not new. This timely volume takes up the challenge of assessing the complex interplay of forces that have created the popularity of children's books both today and in the past. The essays collected here ask about the meanings and values that have been ascribed to the term 'popular'. They consider whether popularity can be imposed, or if it must always emerge from children's preferences. And they investigate how the Harry Potter phenomenon fits into a repeated cycle of success and decline within the publishing industry. Whether examining eighteenth-century chapbooks, fairy tales, science schoolbooks, Victorian adventures, waif novels or school stories, these essays show how historical and publishing contexts are vital in determining which books will succeed and which will fail, which bestsellers will endure and which will fade quickly into obscurity. As they considering the fiction of Angela Brazil, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling, the contributors carefully analyse how authorial talent and cultural contexts combine, in often unpredictable ways, to generate - and sometimes even sustain - literary success.
'Popular children's literature has shaped our culture for around 400 years, and this book - scholarly, accessible, and wide-ranging - does full justice to a vitally important and yet curiously elusive literary form. Written by world-class specialists, it could well become the standard work'. Peter Hunt, Cardiff University, UK ’… cogent, helpful general introduction…A wide-ranging, richly informative treatment that does not limit or restrict the concept of ’popularity’ in children’s literature…Recommended.’ Choice ’Historians of children's literature will welcome this book of essays, which reflects an expanded purview of scholars inside the discipline who look beyond the traditional boundaries of children's literature and suggests why scholars outside the discipline are beginning to find children's literature a rewarding primary source for social history.’ Sharp News ’This book fulfils the expectations its range of distinguished contributors raises. It provides a lively and scholarly historical study that spans British children's literature from its beginning to Harry Potter, and is informative, challenging, and most enjoyable to read. … the book amply rewards the careful reader with a greater breadth of analysis than popular children's literature in Britain has yet enjoyed.’ The Library ’… a fascinating addition to the study of popular children's fiction. It is entertaining, scholarly, and enlightening, and to be commended.’ Children's Books History Society ’Ashgate have carved out an interesting niche for themselves in this specialized area and readers may wish to explore their online catalogue for items on early childhood, women and education, Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling. The book under review is destined for the academic library and for the scholarly shelf - there are specialists enough around the world. But above all, it is aimed at anyone who wants a good working list of critical and bibliographical works on early
Contents: General introduction, M.O. Grenby; Part 1 Old Tales Retold: Introduction, M.O. Grenby; Before children's literature: children, chapbooks and popular culture in early modern Britain, M.O. Grenby; Robin Hood in boys' weeklies to 1914, Kevin Carpenter; From Madame d'Aulnoy to Mother Bunch: popularity and the fairy tale, David Blamires; From chapbooks to pantomime, George Speaight with Brian Alderson. Part 2 Forgotten Favourites: Introduction, Julia Briggs; Finding and sustaining a popular appeal: the case of Barbara Hofland, Dennis Butts; Telling the other side: Hesba Stretton's 'outcast' stories, Elaine Lomax; Exploiting a formula: the adventure stories of G.A. Henty (1832-1902), Dennis Butts; Angela Brazil and the making of the girls' school story, Judy Simons. Part 3 Popular Instruction, Popularity Imposed: Introduction, M.O. Grenby; Rewarding reads? Giving, receiving and resisting evangelical reward and prize books, Kimberley Reynolds; Tracts, classic and brands: science for children in the 19th century, Aileen Fyfe; Popular education and big money: Mee, Hammerton and Northcliffe, Gillian Avery. Part 4 The Famous Three - Blyton, Dahl and Rowling: Introduction, Julia Briggs; From Froebel teacher to English Disney: the phenomenal success of Enid Blyton, David Rudd; 'And children swarmed to him like settlers. He became a land'. The outrageous success of Roald Dahl, Peter Hollindale; 'The most popular ever': the launching of Harry Potter, Julia Eccleshare; The brand, the intertext and the reader: reading desires in the 'Harry Potter' series, Stacy Gillis; Further reading; Index.