English Children's Literature


Figure 1.--This illustration from the 1900 book "The Boys of Priory School" by Florence Coombe.. The illustrations were drawn by Harold Copping. He was an excellent artist who did many illustrations for children's books of the era. The contrast between the somewhat indifferent older boy looking on nonchantly at the sobbing younger boy in an Eton collar records what many younger boys may have experienced at boarding schools. The older boy's posture is confident and relaxed. The younger chap looks dejected as he hangs his head and sobs. School stories were very common, but almost always set at exclusive public (private) schools.

Perhaps no country is more famous for its children's literature than England. Many figures in English literature have indeed emerged as some of the most famous boy characters in English literature (William Brown, Peter Pan, Christopher Robin, Jennings, and others). The authors (including Richmal Crompton, J.M. Barie, Enid Blyton, A.A. Milne, J.R. Rollings, and others) and illustrators of some of these books are often known around. There were also many popular annuals and monthly publications with stories by lesser know authors. Much of this literature in the late and early 29th century was aimed at boys from comfortable if not affluent families. The standard was often boys attending expensive private schools. Since World War II (1939-45) the focus of English children's literature has change markedly and the target audience broadened considerably. We also note different kind of publications. There were monthly and annual as well as omnibus publications which might combine stories, comics, and activity suggestions.

Authors

A very large number of authors have written English children's literature. Some of the authors are household names. Others have long been forgotten, especially those that wrote about historical periods on which HBC is focusing. Many figures in English literature have indeed emegd as some of the most famous boy characters in English literature (William Brown, Peter Pan, Christopher Robin, Jennings, and others). The authors (including Richmal Crompton, J.M. Barie, Enid Blyton, A.A. Milne, J.R. Rollings, and others) and illustrators of some of these books are often known around. We will list here many of the best known authors as well as avariety of lesser know authors that have written stories providing interesting insights into contemporary clothing and fashions. One interesting observation is the number of women who have written books for boys, including school stories. Curiously, men writing books for girls are much less common.

Themes

English children's books are often written in fairly familar settings and the children outfitted in standard clothing of the day. The themes seem much more staid than some of the French literature that we have reviewed. One of the most popular setting was school, but interestingly they were almost always the exclusive public (private) schools attended by a frction of English children. Sports stories were also popular, but again these were the games (sports) played at the exclusive public schools. Settings often include summer visits to aunty or grandma and all kinds of ensuing adventures. Sometimes running away from home might be addressed or mysteties in the home town. There were a few fantasies such as, of course, James Barrie's Peter Pan and C.S. Lewis' Narnia Adventures. Some stories dealt with Britain's Empire, such as Kipling's Kim.

Types of Children's Literature

There were also many popular annuals and monthly publications with stories by lesser know authors. Much of this literature in the late and early 29th century was aimed at boys from comfortable if not affluent families. The standard was often boys attending expensive private schools. Since World War II (1939-45) the focus of English children's literature has change markedly and the target audience broadened considerably. We also note different kind of publications. There were monthlys and annuals and omnibus publications which might combine stories, comics, and activity suggestions. We notice publications dealing with sports and Scouts. There were also annual devoted to popular characters like Just William.

lIllustrators

A very important part of any children' books are the illustrations. Many of us adults can remember missing the declining use of illustrations in books as we grew up. There are many fine English illustrators who added emensely to the books that they illustrated. HBC has collected quite a bit of information on illustrators who have drawn images of children over the years. The earliest illustrator of children's images is probanly Kate Greenway and her classisal drawings.Some of the best known illustrators of children's books are English illustrators. This is in part because they illustrated many books which became classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Peter Rabbit, the Christoher Robin/Winnie the Poo books, Wind in the Willows, and other classics. Of course their beautiful drawings helped to make these books the classivs that they became.

International Marketing

Some children's literature is old all over the world. Other children's literature has a more limited national market. We do not yet fully understand the reasons behind this. We have begun to assess the marketing the export of French literature, especially the limited distribution in America and Britain. We hope to eventually expand this assessment.







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Created: May 20, 2002
Last updated: March 7, 2003