from Thomas Yoseloff's The Further Adventures of Till Eulenspiegel
(1957). Fanciful illustrations are a prominent feature of children's books, especially those for younger children.
Children's literature is a literary genre whose primary audience is children, although many books within the genre are also enjoyed by adults.
 Basic characteristics
There is some debate as to what constitutes children's literature. In general, the term comprises both those books which are selected and read by children themselves, as well as those vetted as 'appropriate for children' by authorities, e.g. teachers, reviewers, scholars, parents, publishers, librarians, bookstores, and award committees.
Some would have it that children's literature is literature written specially for children; however, many books that were originally intended for adults are now commonly thought of as works for children, such as Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The opposite has also been known to occur, where works of fiction originally written or marketed for children are given recognition as adult books; Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass, and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, for example, both won Whitbread Awards, which are typically awarded to novels for adults. The Nobel prize for literature has also been given to authors who made great contributions to children's literature, such as Selma Lagerlöf and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Often no consensus is reached whether a given work is best categorized as adult or children's literature, and many books are multiply marketed in adult, children's, and young adult editions; a prominent example of this is the Harry Potter series, which was published in separate editions for children and adults.
There are a number of problems inherent in children’s literature: For example
Much of what is commonly regarded as "classic" children's literature speaks on multiple levels, and as such is able to be enjoyed by both adults and children. For example, many people will reread Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or The Wind in the Willows as adults and appreciate aspects of each that they failed to notice when they read the books as children. Many critics regard such multiplicity as having drawbacks, however; an adult may see the darker themes of a book and deem it unsuitable for children, despite the fact that such themes will likely be lost on younger readers.
One example of this is Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, throughout which the word "nigger" is used liberally. Many people feel that the word's racist and discriminatory connotations make it unacceptable to use anywhere, and particularly in a book aimed at children. Others, however, claim that to call the book racist because of this usage is to miss its point; Huckleberry Finn was after all one of the first American books in which a black character is portrayed as someone to be emulated, in this case serving as the voice of reason for a cast-off urchin and a middle class white boy.
Parents wishing to protect their children from the unhappier aspects of life often find the traditional fairy tales, nursery rhymes and other voyages of discovery problematical, because often the first thing a story does is remove the adult influence, leaving the central character to learn to cope on his or her own: prominent examples of this include Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Bambi and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Many regard this as necessary to the story; after all, in most cases the whole point of the story is the characters' transition into adulthood.
Many authors specialize in books for children. Other authors are more known for their writing for adults, but have also written books for children, such as Alexey Tolstoy's The Adventures of Burratino, and Carl Sandburg's "Rootabaga Stories". In some cases, books intended for adults, such as Swift's Gulliver's Travels have been edited (or bowdlerized) somewhat, to make them more appropriate for children.
Another type of children's literature is work written by children, such as The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford (aged 9) or the juvenalia of Jane Austen, written to amuse her brothers and sisters.
An attempt to identify the characteristics shared by works called 'children's literature' leads to some good general guidelines that are generally accepted by experts in the field. No one rule is perfect, however, and for every identifying feature there are many exceptions, as well as many adult books that share the characteristic. (For further discussion, see Hunt 1991: 42-64, Lesnik-Oberstein 1996, Huck 2001: 4-5.)
||Children's book counter example(s)
||Adults' book that fits the profile
|Marketed to or written for children
||To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was not written for or marketed to children originally.
||The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka is extremely popular among adults, possibly more so than among children.
|Has children as protagonists
||My Friend Mr. Leaky by J.B.S. Haldane is a children's book with an adult protagonist.
||All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy is an adult book with a child protagonist. Many of the short stories of Thomas Ligotti have child protagonists. Note that many adult books with child protagonists become de facto young adult books when they are assigned as classroom reading.
|Does not contain adult themes and is 'appropriate for children' -- a problematic criterion, as many specialists argue that an issue that children confront (eg. eating disorders, rape, sexual abuse, prison, war) is appropriate by default.
||Junk by Melvin Burgess is about heroin use, No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia is about female genital cutting.
||A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro has no 'inappropriate themes', nor does much adult genre fiction.
||Summerland by Michael Chabon
||Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
|Contains illustrations, in particular books intended for younger children
||The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine is an unillustrated book for younger children.
||Maus by Art Spiegelman is a graphic novel for adults.
|Written in simple language
||Skellig by David Almond
||The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
|Plot-oriented with more dialogue and events, fewer descriptions and ruminations
||The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
||Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
|Deals with themes of growing up, coming to age and maturation
||Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox
||James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, though see the note above about adult books with child protagonists.
|Didactic, educational, or attempts to educate children about societal and behavioral issues; otherwise, contains tales of fantasy and adventure
||Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
||The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
|Happy ending, in which good triumphs over evil
||Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, Lauren Myracle's Rhymes with Witches
||Catherine R. Coulter's The Nightingale Legacy
Publishers have attempted to further break down children's literature into subdivisions appropriate for different ages. In the United States, current practice within the field of children's books publishing is to break children's literature into pre-readers, early readers, chapter books, and young adults. This is roughly equivalent to the age groups 0-5, 5-7, 7-11 (sometimes broken down further into 7-9 and pre-teens), and books for teenagers. However, the criteria for these divisions are just as vague and problematic as the criteria for defining children's books as a whole. One obvious distinction is that books for younger children tend to contain illustrations, but picture books which feature art as an integral part of the overall work also cross all genres and age levels (as can be seen with the Caldecott Honor Book Tibet: Through the Red Box, by Peter Sis, which has an adult implied reader). As a general rule the implied reader of a children's or young adult book is 1-3 years younger than the protagonist. (counter example: Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, not necessarily written for children, but co-opted by a child and young adult audience)
 Authors and artists
Children's books are often illustrated, sometimes lavishly, in a way that is rarely used for adult literature. As a rule of thumb, the younger the intended reader (or commonly pre-literate children), the more attention is paid to the artwork. Many authors work with a preferred artist who illustrates their words; others create books together, achieving "a marriage of words and pictures."
Many authors and illustrators belong to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
 Popular Contributions to Children's Literature
Enid Blyton: British author, Enid Blyton, is thought by many to be the bestselling author in the history of children's literature. Blyton is the author of much-loved children's books, such as The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Magic Faraway Tree series. Her books have exceeded sales of 400 million copies worldwide and are translated into 90 different languages.
J.K. Rowling: British author, J.K. Rowling is probably the best-known children's author today and also the most successful. Being the author of the extremely successful, Harry Potter series, her books have been sold in more than 300 million copies worldwide and are translated into more than 63 languages. She is also the first billionaire-author.
Jacqueline Wilson: author of the much-loved Tracy Beaker series, Jacqueline Wilson is one of the best-known children's authors in the UK. In 2004 she replaced Catherine Cookson as the most borrowed author in Britain's libraries, a position she retained the following year. Her books have won a range of prestigious awards and have been sold in nearly 20 million copies.
Jane Yolen: A respected and well-known American author, Jane Yolen is one of the most prolific children's writers today. Her books are frequently translated and have won many awards.
Because of the difficulty in defining children's literature, it is also difficult to trace its history to a precise starting point. In 1658 Jan Ámos Komenský published the illustrated informational book Orbis Pictus; it's considered to be the first picture book published specifically for children. John Newbery's 1744 publication of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, sold with a ball for boys or a pincushion for girls, is considered a landmark for the beginning of pleasure reading marketed specifically to children. Previous to Newbery, literature marketed for children was intended to instruct the young, though there was a rich oral tradition of storytelling for children and adults; and many tales later considered to be inappropriate for children, such as the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, may have been considered family fare. Additionally, some literature not written with children in mind was given to children by adults. Among the earliest examples found in English of this co-opted adult fiction are Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur and the Robin Hood tales.
See also Children's Literature Timeline and Children's Literature Canon.
 Series and genres
The success of a book for children often prompts the author to continue the story in a sequel, or even to launch into an entire series of books. Some works are originally conceived as series: J. K. Rowling has always stated in interviews that her original plan was to write no fewer than seven books about Harry Potter, and some authors, such as the prolific Enid Blyton and R. L. Stine, seem incapable of writing a stand-alone book. In several cases, series have outlived their authors, whether publishers openly hired new authors to continue after the death of the original creator of the series (such was the case when Reilly and Lee hired Ruth Plumly Thompson to continue The Oz series after L. Frank Baum's death), or whether the pen name of the original author was retained as a brand-nom-de-plume for the series (as with Franklin W. Dixon and the Hardy Boys series, Harry G. Allard's Miss Nelson series, Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew series, and V. C. Andrews and the Flowers in the Attic series). Sequels and series are of course also popular in adult writing, where they are most common in genre novels such as crime fiction, thrillers, and so on. Genres in children's literature include pony stories (e.g. the Pullein-Thompson sisters and Pat Smythe) and school stories (e.g. Rudyard Kipling's Stalky and Co. and Angela Brazil's oeuvre).
In recent years, scholarship in children's literature has gained in respectability. There are an increasing number of literary criticism analyses in the field of children's literature criticism. Additionally, there are a number of scholarly associations in the field, including the Children's Literature Association, the International Research Society for Children's Literature, and Centre for International Research in Childhood: Literature, Culture, Media (CIRCL), and National Centre for Research in Children's Literature.
 Popular attention
In addition to formal scholarship, other forms of cultural focus have been turned on children's literature. For example, some museums and galleries now host exhibitions on the subject. Seven Stories is a centre for children's literature, for the public, rather than for scholars.
 Humorous Quotes about Children's Books
Some noted awards for children's literature are:
- Chapleau, Sebastien (2004). New Voices in Children's Literature Criticism. Lichfield: Pied Piper Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9546384-4-3.
- Huck, Charlotte (2001). Children's Literature in the Elementary School, 7th ed.. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-232228-4.
- Hunt, Peter (1991). Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-16231-3.
- Hunt, Peter (1996). International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-08856-9.
- Lesnik-Oberstein, Karin (1996). "Defining Children's Literature and Childhood", in Hunt, Peter (ed.): International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. London: Routledge, pp. 17-31. ISBN 0-415-08856-9.
- Lesnik-Oberstein, Karin (1994). Children's Literature: Criticism and the Fictional Child. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-811998-4.
- Lesnik-Oberstein, Karin (2004). Children's Literature: New Approaches. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ISBN 1-4039-1738-8.
- Rose, Jacqueline (1993, orig. pub. 1984). The Case of Peter Pan or the Impossibility of Children's Fiction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1435-8.
 See also
 External links