A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature, by Rebecca J. Lukens, AUTHOR RESOURCE



Designed to facilitate the use of children’s books from all genres, this exceptional text helps teachers, librarians, and media specialists select the best children’s literature for the classroom, library, or home. Unlike an anthology of children’s literature, which includes selected chapters or text summaries, the Eighth Edition of this highly regarded text teaches how to select quality children’s literature. Using the critical standards for all literature, examples of children’s books provide the basis for an explanation of critical principles and special issues in judging books for children. Taking readers through the definitions of literary terms such as plot, character, theme, setting, point of view, style, and tone, Lukens provides sound criteria for assessing the merit of children’s books. The text also includes chapters on rhymes, poetry, biography, and informational books. A new and enlarged section addresses censorship and a new chapter addresses the benefits of reading, its significance for children, and its growth in popularity among adults.

Paperback, 372 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Allyn & Bacon (first published January 1st 1976)
Original Title: A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature (7th Edition)
ISBN: 0205492185 (ISBN13: 9780205492183)
Edition Language: English


If you’re studying children literature, than this book is a fantastic addition to acquire for your resource shelf! Chalked full of so many book references, reviews, comparisons and a break-down of what makes great children literature is also included.

This book is broken up into thirteen chapters: Chapter One: Literature: What is it, Chapter Two: Genre in Children’s Literature, Chapter Three: Picture Books, Chapter Four: Character, Chapter Five: Plot, Chapter Six: Theme, Chapter Seven: Setting, Chapter Eight: Point of View, Chapter Nine: Style, Chapter Ten: Tone, Chapter 11: From Rhyme to Poetry, Chapter Twelve: Biography; and, Chapter Thirteen: Informational Books.

There’s also an Appendix A: Children’s Book Awards, Appendix B: Selected Children’s Magazines, Appendix C: Selected Reviewing Media for Children’s Books, Appendix D: Selected Websites about Children’s Literature, a Glossary of Literary Terms, and Credits.

Chapter One, covers defining what literature for children encompasses. Topics covered but not limited to in this chapter includes: The function of the writer being making sense out of life; literature is not expected to reform but help us to understand and the many different kinds of understanding that literature offers; fiction makes order from disparate events; literature helps us to identify and examine fragments of experience; literature helps us to see essentials–the meaning and unity of life; society’s institutions confusing and establishing order; how the natural world influence over us and in so many ways; what literature provides us with; how is literature both similar and different for adults and children; the pleasure and understanding that accompanies literature.

Chapter Two, covers issues about realism, formula fiction, fantasy, traditional literature, poetry, informational books, and across genre lines–including classics.

Chapter Three, discusses picture books by including topics like the illustrative element, how to design the book, how to picture figurative language, text amplifying, and changing the story. This chapter also breaks down the literary elements of picture books by reviewing character, plot, theme, setting, point of view, style and tone found in them. You’ll read about lasting favorites and wordless picture books.

Chapter Four, is all about character development, character revelation: by actions, by speech, by appearance, by other’s comments, and by the author’s comments. This chapter includes discussion on character unity and action, the types of characters: flat or round; and character change. An extra section on special issues of character as it pertains to traditional literature, animal realism, science fiction, and classics is included.

Chapter Five, focuses on plot development by broaching topics such as types of narrative order–chronological order, variations in narrative order and flashbacks. You learn about conflict through person-against-self, person-against-person, person-against-society, and, person-against-nature. You’ll read about plot affected/effected by patterns of action through suspense, cliff-hangers, foreshadowing, sensationalism, the climax, denouements, and inevitability. And finally, in this chapter you’ll read about the many types of plots.  An extra section on special issues of plot as it pertains to coincidence, sentimentality, and lack of conflict is included.

Chapter Six, discusses theme or unifying truth. You’ll read about the different types of theme including: explicit, implicit and multiple and secondary themes.  An extra section on special issues of theme as it pertains to traditional literature, didacticism, nonsense and mature themes in children stories is included.

Chapter Seven, is about setting development, discussing topics like the types available–integral and backdrop with reference to setting in Charlotte’s Web. You’ll learn about the functions of setting: one that clarifies conflict, one that is an Antagonist, one that illuminates character, one that sets the mood and one that is as a symbol.  An extra section on special issues of setting as it pertains to tradition literature and fantasy and science fiction is also included.

Chapter Eight’s focus is on point of view. The types of point of view are covered: first-person, omniscient, limited omniscient, objective (dramatic), and other variations. An extra section on special issues of POV as it relates to the maturity of the reader, animal realism, fantasy, and stories of various cultures.

Chapter Nine covers style. Here you’ll read about the devices of style: connotation, imagery, figurative language, hyperbole, understatement, allusion, symbolism, puns and wordplay. You’ll also read about the devices of sound: onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, consonance and rhythm.  An extra section on special issues of style such as trite vs. fresh style, retellings and translations, stories of other periods and places and high fantasy is included.

Chapter Ten discusses tone and uses Charlotte’s Web to show its point.  You’ll read about tone as it is affected by humor (parody), and the differing tastes in tone. Tone related to the Author’s choice of materials is approached. An extra section on special issues of tone: condescension, sentimentality, sensationalism, didacticism, changing values, and, variety of tone is included.

Chapter Eleven covers from rhyme to poetry including nursery rhymes–their literary elements and style. You’ll read about how nonsense is used, its rhythm and sound, compactness and surprise. The differences between prose and poetry are also discussed. Other topics regarding poetry that’s covered include: verse and poetry; kinds of poetry; rhythm; sound patterns; figurativeness; compactness; emotional intensity; and negative qualities in poetry.

Chapter Twelve defines biography to include the writer’s obligations, discussions of biography and fiction and tone and style.  You’ll read about concepts and didacticism.

Chapter Thirteen is about informational books which includes nonfiction. In this chapter, non fiction is defined. You’ll read about wonder as motivation. Informational books is addressed to include organization and scope, narrative form, style, and illustration. An extra section on special issues in nonfiction as it pertains to tone, didacticism and propaganda and publishing trends is included.

As you can see, this book holds a wealth of information that every author who writes children’s books. I would highly recommend that you get yourself a copy of this edition or one that’s more current.  In the front there’s a fantastic letter to the instructor from the author, as well as one to the student.  The author’s insights and experience shines through.  Take advantage of this author’s well-developed knowledge base, buy the book.

I give this book:



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