In spite of competition from video games and ebooks, print publishing continues to thrive, especially with books for children. In 2014, US sales reached $1.89 billion, and continue to grow.
But children’s literature is a relatively new phenomenon in book publishing. Books written specifically for children began to be printed in the 18th Century, and by the 19th Century, children’s literature – and a concept of childhood that supported the market – had become commonplace for those families that could afford it. Now, there are books for toddlers, babies and preschoolers – everyone in the family.
But these books were severely moralistic in tone and instilled the idea that the perfect child was respectful, innocent and unspoiled. Such children did not behave in any manner that a parent or nanny would have recognized.
They were role models rather than realistic characters. That changed with the times, and children’s literature today covers a vast range of styles, from gritty reality to enchanting flights of fancy. Of all the children’s authors that have helped to reinvent the genre over the years, five remarkable talents stand out.