b Children's literature consists of any fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama that children commonly enjoy, and that parents feel is appropriate. It's often written with children in mind, and has moral lessons that they can understand and appreciate. Many, but not all, are illustrated.
b Children's literature can be classified by genre or the reader's intended age. Some works, for example the Harry Potter series, are a bit harder to classify, because they're intended for children, yet adults love them too.
b Although there are many children's stories from antiquity, such as Aesop's Fables, the concept of childhood didn't really begin until the 18th century and the age of reason, where people began to study the differences between children and adults. So, this is when children's literature began to develop as a genre.
b Also, the 18th century was when printing became cheaper and people could afford more books, so writing and publishing became industries.
b Having said that, there are some examples of early children's lit, such as the 12th century Play of Daniel, written by Hilarius, an Englishman. It's based on the book of Daniel in the Bible.
b Another, still popular today is The Pilgrim's Progress, written in 1678 by John Bunyon.
b A Little Pretty Pocket Book was the first "modern" children's book, written by John Newbery in 1744. It contained a collection of rhymes, picture stories, and games, and had a space for children to record their daily behaviour. Newbery produced many more children's books, and his family continued the business for generations.
b John Newbery is considered the father of children's lit., and the Newbery Award for children's lit. was named in his honour.
b Famous 19th century children's authors include Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, and E.T.A. Hoffman, who wrote "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" in 1816.
b The golden age of children's literature started with Lewis Carroll's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1865. It's considered the first masterpiece, written for children.
b Other famous stories from this golden age include:
The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
Treasure Island, and Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank Baum
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
b The final book considered in this golden age was Winnie-the-Pooh, written by A. A. Milne in 1926.
b But that hasn't stopped children's lit. Since then, children have read:
The Lord of the Rings, by Tolkein
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, by Roald Dahl
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss
Les Adventures de Tintin, by Georges Remi
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, by Jean de Brunhoff
Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet & the Swan, by E. B. White
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
b Besides the Newbery Medal, children's books may also win a Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration.
b Critics today often complain about some of these works, especially older ones, having to do with racism, sexism, stereotypes, and ideas about imperialism and colonialism. It's up to parents to decide for themselves which stories are appropriate and provide proper moral lessons for their children.