Children's Literature Criticism
Children's literature encompasses a wide range of styles and approaches. The classic Alice stories, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (a.k.a. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson); the tales of Winnie-the- Pooh and his friends on the Hundred Acre Wood by A. A. Milne; and the narratives set in the world of Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary represent just a few of the thousands of titles that have entertained young readers. Theodor Seuss Geisel, known by his pseudonym, Dr. Seuss, wrote nearly 50 books in rhyme, introducing story lovers to classic characters like the Grinch and the Lorax. Through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, children's literature became increasingly diverse with the addition of honored authors Jacqueline Woodson, Jerry Craft, Meg Medina, and Linda Sue Park. Still, the field would benefit from even more representation as publishers seek out new voices to speak to their audiences.
One of the difficulties with children's literature is determining the point at which books for kids become books for young adults (YA). Books for younger readers, often illustrated, are grouped into a category called picture books. Narratives that consist primarily of text are intended for older readers. And titles that make use of more challenging vocabulary, address more mature themes and storylines and often include middle-school or high-school characters fall into the YA category. YA literature has expanded rapidly in recent decades and has pulled in readers from the adult ranks as well. Stories from Judy Blume, Elizabeth Acevedo, John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Angie Thomas have sold thousands of copies and are among the most popular books circulated by libraries.
Children's literature criticism interprets, analyzes, and expounds on books for younger readers. Critics have the unique task of approaching these titles through the eyes of younger readers. Commentators might explore themes and character dynamics in the universes that authors have created, analyze the strength of messages of empowerment and resilience delivered through the stories, and debate the merits and effectiveness of particular narrative elements. Critics might also compare and contrast titles with other works, including adaptations of the stories for stage and screen. Delving into children's literature allows for a deeper and broader understanding of the field, helping people make connections between what children read and the world in which they live.