The Family in English Children’s Literature: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Family in English Children’s Literature

1st Edition

By Ann Alston


176 pages

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From the trials of families experiencing divorce, as in Anne Fine’s Madame Doubtfire, to the childcare problems highlighted in Jacqueline Wilson’s Tracy Beaker, it might seem that the traditional family and the ideals that accompany it have long vanished. However, in The Family in English Children’s Literature, Ann Alston argues that this is far from the case. She suggests that despite the tales of family woe portrayed in children’s literature, the desire for the happy, contented nuclear family remains inherent within the ideological subtexts of children’s literature. Using 1818 as a starting point, Alston investigates families in children’s literature at their most intimate, focusing on how they share their spaces, their ideals of home, and even on what they eat for dinner. What emerges from Alston’s study are not so much the contrasts that exist between periods, but rather the startling similarities of the ideology of family intrinsic to children’s literature. The Family in English Children’s Literature sheds light on who maintains control, who behaves, and how significant children’s literature is in shaping our ideas about what makes a family "good."


"Well-researched and thorough, Ann Alston's The Family in English Children's Literature is an ambitious attempt to chart ideological assumptions about the family in the children's literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centures."

--Elizabeth Gargano, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Table of Contents

Series Editor’s Foreword



Section 1

Chapter One: History of Family

The Growth of a Cherished Institution

Chapter Two: 1818-1914 Depictions of the Nineteenth and Turn of the Century Family

From a Good Beating to the Flight to Neverland

Chapter Three: 1920-2003 Depictions of the Twentieth-Century Family

From Just William to Harry Potter

Section 2

Chapter Foure: There’s No Place like Home

Home and Family in Children’s Literature

Chapter Five: A Room of One’s Own?

Spaces, Families and Power

Chapter Six: Edible Fictions: Fictional Food

The Family Meal in Children’s Literature


Notes Bibliography


About the Author

Ann Alston lectures at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, with a focus in Welsh Children’s Literature and nineteenth-century constructions of the child. She received her Ph.D in Children’s Literature at Cardiff University, Wales, in 2005.

About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

Founding Editor and Series Editor 1994-2011: Jack Zipes

Series Editor, 2011-2018: Philip Nel


Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature