Seth Lerer


On his book Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter

Cover Interview of May 16, 2010

In a nutshell

My book is about the making of the literate imagination in the history of children’s literature.  More than just a survey of books and authors, Children’s Literature is a critical narrative of how education, the family, and social life come together in the many different kinds of things that children read.

I look at literature that was not only written for children, but all books read by children: thus, at different points in history, Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Swift, Defoe, and Twain were all “children’s writers” in that their works were adapted for and read by young people. My book therefore also looks at the wide traditions of children’s literature in the West—quite literally, from Aesop to Harry Potter—to see the different ways in which cultures and societies defined childhood, understood acts of reading and writing, and taught social values and ideals.

Finally, my work looks at the history of the book and children’s literature: how the physical artifact of the written, printed, illustrated, and even digital book bears meaning and has a social impact on the imagination of the reading child.