Children’s literature: a manual for studying its origins

Children’s literature contains an important range of styles, themes and different levels that make the genre not only vast but also not comparable with the types it contains

Books for children are those literary productions that focus on identifying the reader in order to convey the various moral or didactic messages. This is precisely the stimulus behind the birth of children’s literature.

How is it born | Children’s literature: a manual for studying its origins

The first literary genre, following the thread of moral and didactic messages, is the fable. Although its origins are controversial, there is no doubt that the declination towards young audiences is the natural location of the first moral stories.

The fable, in fact, is nothing more than a moral tale. Born in Egypt in the XII century BC, she knows the splendor with Aesop and Phaedrus. Unlike the Greek poems on tragedy or epic, the fable was immediately addressed to children. Also because of the short narratives it was easily understandable for a young audience.

The protagonists of the fairy tales were mostly animals that represented human vices and virtues and thanks to which the secrets of human nature were taught.

From fairytale to fairytale

Often the fairy tale is confused with the fairy tale, however, in reality, the fairy tale is the sum of ancient popular traditions and shows completely different characteristics from those of the fairy tale.

The fairy tale, in fact, is a well structured story and much longer than the short story that is the fairy tale. Here the moral message is much more hidden and less evident than in fairy tales and the magical element is prominent. This makes fairy tales a much more complex and strong form of entertainment.

Historically it is possible to trace the fairy tales to the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The reason was connected to the first romantic poets who prompted the authors to collect and process the emotional stories. This success, especially thanks to Perrault, the brothers Grimm and Andersen, led to the production of fairy tales not necessarily linked to tradition.

The so-called “short century” (First World War – 1914 / collapse of the Soviet Union – 1991) saw a slow death of fairy tales and the birth of real modern children’s literature.

Modern children’s literature

The distortion of the aesthetic canons of the 19th century and the birth of new avant-gardes were the main reasons for the development of some figures such as the illustrator for children. In this way we discover a new universe capable of addressing children with the language of modernity.

The change in social perspectives, which emerged since the 1960s, has placed parenthood at the center, contributing to the success of children’s literature. Starting after the war, the figure of the “mother” or “father” begins to be considered a real profession, as well as the way in which children are educated.

All this has placed the child at the center of the publishing market and has led to the genesis of new stories and new literary genres.

All the works for children, from the first in chronological order to the last, are united by the thread that defines their purpose: the education and growth of the little reader.

The children’s literature of P. Boero and C. De Luca

This volume reconstructs and contextualizes the events of children’s publishing from a political, social and economic point of view. It is divided chronologically and, chapter after chapter, various themes related to literature for children are examined.