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A Look At Childrens Literature English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 4101 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Childrens Literature plays a vital role in determining the society to its sublimity. Children are no more called or considered the savages, but as solid pillars of the world. There lies an imperative in nurturing the young minds with healthy thoughts and disciplined behaviors. Words have immense power to build or destroy the souls of a nation. Children’s literature continues to be seen as a crucial resource in nurturing the child’s progress from basic literacy to a level of critical and cultural literacy necessary for effective adult life (Hollindale, 18). As Lens Unsworth has pointed out Margaret Meek’s notion, it is the kinds of texts that children have access to and the kinds of interactions they experience around those texts that influence the kind of readers they become (5). Literature written for them offers enjoyment, stirs their imagination and inspiration, gives them a vicarious experience by viewing situations from perspectives other than their own. Literature helps children to gain an appreciation of the universality of human beings, and understand that all human beings are alike, though bounded with multicultural way of living. Literature with moral reasoning gives an experience for young people to formulate their own concepts of right and wrong and build a morally actuated life.

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Research in Children’s literature offers the opportunity for a meticulous examination of the literature of the child and it links the child, the author, the text, and the world outside literature. Researchers have made up their mind to study the rhetoric or form by accepting the self contained world of the text. Analysis of euphony, rhythm, or meter, style and stylistics, symbol, image, metaphor, and mythic elements are common in such type of studies. There are also a group of linguistic scholars who might define their work as examining what is said and how it is said (Vandergrift, 26, 37).As the work of every scholar varies in their way of approach to the literary text, this research views the famous works of Ruskin Bond with a psychological point of view, analyzing the Psychosocial factors in Ruskin Bond’s selected short stories and therefore a logical way of beginning the research is by defining children’s literature.

The Definition of Children’s Literature

Children’s literature forms the soul of a nation. Children’s literature is good quality trade books (primarily for the purpose of entertainment and information) for children from birth to adolescence, covering topics of relevance and interest to Children of those ages, through prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction. (Carol lynch brown, 2) Children’s literature is precisely written for readers categorized under the age of thirteen. As defined by the Britannica Junior Encyclopedia For Boys and Girls, “Children’s literature is that body of writing and accompanying illustrations, primarily composed for young people(249)” A common definition of Children’s Literature can be defined in two ways, literature that is written for children and chosen by or for children. Separating it for a particular group alone will never give the clear definition, valuing their content and quality will make the definition stronger.

The Content

Contents are important in defining Children’s Literature. Children’s books are about the experiences of both good and bad. The subject matter of the Children’s Literature can either be in prose or poetry. Experiences of past, present, or future; whether enjoying a birthday party, getting a new pet, losing a tooth for the first time or even dealing with the family problems are common experiences faced by the children today. Contents of various topics such as monsters, dinosaurs, dragons, fighter planes, natural disasters, which may not be a part of the childhood lessons, are still included for their interest. Fantasy or reality, the interest and dreams of Children never decrease. The more they learn about the world, the more they realize about themselves. Paul Hazard says that in his book about those children appealing to the adults: “Give us books, give us wings… Show us fairies strolling about in the moonlight. We are willing to learn everything that we are taught at school, but, please, let us keep our dream (Hazard, 4).” As posted by David in Author and Artists, every child’s story should present images of the world they are to venture, and David supports this with the words of C.S. Lewis,

“Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, a pathological fear against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil. If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense…Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. . .Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any kind or degree of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. For, of course, it wants to be a little frightened”

The Quality

All Literature that is published is not worth to be called as Children’s Literature. Qualitative literature(Literature with quality) has to do with creativity, significance of the ideas, artistic use of the language, and beauty of literary and artistic style which keeps the work fresh and meaningful forever in the minds of young readers. There are some exceptions; books which have never won any literary prizes are still the best Children’s books that offer readers enjoyment as well as memorable characters and valuable insights into the human condition. Until the 20th century, Children’s Literature was the medium through which children had a privilege to learn the culture of different nations and people groups. Today children have the access to digital media, “so children’s books are now only of several sources of socializing material, of education, information, commentary, and entertainment – albeit an important one” (Emer O’Sullivan, 5)

The History and Development of Children’s Literature

Children’s literature has got its name from the mid half of the nineteenth century and still there is a doubt on the history of its origin. The earliest History of Children’s literature began with the oral tradition. The older people narrated their experiences with several imaginations of entertainment to the younger ones, though the language and dialects varied according to the location, the written form of those stories took ample amount of time but had a good beginning. The History of Children’s Literature crossed various major milestones including the oral tradition, there was a scarce for the printed books for the children to write because of the expense to print a book was much. Before the Puritan’s influence William Caxton the first English printer published Recuyell of the History of Troy (1474), and was also responsible for the first editions of The Fables of Aesop, Reynard the Fox and Le Morte Darthur. Though these editions were made for the adult audience, children were interested and attracted in reading them. (Gillespie, 13).

The instructional books opened with the letters of the alphabet, as well as a short catechism. Around 1538 in London, Thomas Petyt published a primer which included the alphabet, a table of vowels and syllables, prayers and a grace for meals. Horn books, letter boards shaped like the paddles later known as battledores, included the Lord’s Prayer, an invocation to the trinity, the vowels, a table of syllables, and nine digits. Other forms of teaching the alphabet included needle samplers and gingerbread, which was printed with the designs of the letters. The home page of Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society briefs more on the history of this literature. The first picture book in 1659 was especially designed for children by Charles Hoole. .By the end of Eighteenth century some cheap booklets known as the Chapbooks were sold, this included the popular folktales like the Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, and the Arabian Nights became available for both adult and children.

 Prolific writers like Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway and Ralph Caldecott contributed the best during their period. Walter crane the most prolific writer and influential Children’s book creator of his generation worked in developing designs and picture books for children with Edmund Evans, a famous publisher in London and also for the house of George Routledge & Sons (Walter Crane). The age of Puritans was the earliest to create a bulk of children’s books. Children’s literature in this age covered religious and moral education. James Janeway’s A Token for Children: Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several young Children (1672) shows the physical weakness of children but their strength in their spiritual life. John Bunyan’s A Book for Boys and Girls (1686), Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, John Locke and others were great contributions of Children’s literature during the consecutive years. John Newberry “The Father of Children’s Literature” was the first to introduce the printed books to the literary market. A Little Pretty Pocket -Book and Little Goodly Two-Shoes by Newberry was the first to be published in London. Nineteenth century monthly magazines were serialized with alphabets and words or a rhyming verse accompanied by an image for each letter. Harry Potter (1997) by J.K. Rowling gained immense popularity and in the end of 2011 about 450 million copies were sold.

Children’s Literature in India

India is referred as the cradle of Children’s literature because of its rich oral tradition and the Panchatantra. In India Children’s literature has been there from ancient times. Oral fiction started with ‘Panchatantra’, a compilation of Vishnu Sharma to innocent young princes, but covetous. Panchatantra an ancient collection have served as the core for the growth of many Indian writers and story tellers in English. This is the first piece of literature and a moral literature for youngsters. Folktales and folklores were available in different languages and dialects. They were proposed on the culture and traditional values of that particular society and were orally transmitted from one generation to the next generation. Another type of oral fiction was the lullabies, short songs sung during the bed times for infants and children. They were composed with rhyming words and pleasant music for the infants to hear. Later, not all but some are transformed in written forms. The literatures written in Sanskrit, the historical Indo- Aryan language contains works of poetry, drama, dharma texts and also the scientific, technical, philosophical texts. The ancient religious literatures are found in Sanskrit. Stories like the Jataka tales and Panchatantra had great impacts and inspiration for the successive writers.

Though Children’s Literature was found in abundance in this large nation with its rich culture and heritage, only after the British colonial rule it was separated as a different genre for Children. Missionaries from England were the first to introduce teaching in a foreign language and it was a new eye opening to the Indians. Many religious literature and famous books of great men were translated in English. Translations of Children’s literature to the Indian children were mostly from the popular western literature. The colonizers language had given a great imprint in the minds of the Indians and works of the English writers became popular after the British rule in India. Literature from both the West and India were accepted though contradictory representations of realisms were there the Indian Child took the western as Modern and Indian as traditional.

The western writers who had once influenced the minds of children lost their sway when the works of Indian writers were published meeting the intellectual needs of children. The child’s perception of changing values has an impact on its reading interest. They look for more realistic and self centered themes. As Prema Srinivasan in her book ‘Children’s fiction in English in India -Trends and Motifs’ writes “generally progressive views on self fulfillment have displaced conventional conceptions of heroism and the fleeting comfort afforded by the happily ever after tags is discarded in favor of a more realistic rounding off (3)”. Around 1930 onwards story books were especially written for children.

Shankar Pillai worked admirably for the development of Children’s literature and he founded ‘the Association of Writer and Illustrators for Children (1981). AWIC has published stories poems plays and other library projects wholly for Children. The foreign organizations like “International Book Fair and The Asian Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) provided a great exposure for the growth of Children’s literature in India. Children’s literature in English in India had its good set up brought up by the eminent writers like R.K. Narayan, Anita Desai, Manoj Das, Sigrun Srivastava, Manorama Jafa, Arun Kumar Dutta, Shashi Deshpande, Jacqueline Singh and many others. Writers in regional language like Amir Khusro, Mirza Ghalib, Dr Zakir Hussain and Qudsia Zaidi in Urdu, Prem Chand in Hindi, Rabindranath Tagore, Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury, Sukumar Ray, Satyajit Ray, Ashapurna Debi and Mahasweta Devi in Bengali, K.P. Kesava Menon, M. T. Vasudevan Nair in Malayalam, T. P. Kailasam in Kannada and a host of others (Radhika Menon).

Presently children’s literature has acquired an important place in India, several books trusts, and organizations are established to increase the literature for the young learners. National Book Trust (NBT), National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Children’s Book Trust (CBT) and other organizations produces new books that benefit the children of this generation. Recent Children’s Literature development projects were strengthened by publishers like Tara publishing’s, Tulika Publishers, DC Books, and Children’s Books Trust. Non-profit organizations like Pratham and Katha books have contributed in producing books of good content and also books in affordable prizes for everyone to buy.

The Genre of Children’s Literature

Genre is category of literary composition. It is a specific Category of artistic or literary accomplishment by form, technique and subject matter. Children’s literature has deserved its own genre to show a difference between the adult literatures in other terms the young adolescent literature (YA lit). The variety of books with different content created for Children on their interest are classified into separate categories. Children’s books are generally classified by the following genre illustrated in the table.

Genres of Children’s Literature



Nursery rhymes

Lyric poems

Narrative poems


Non fiction



Concept books(including counting books)

Information books


Folk Literature

Modern fantasy

Realistic Fiction





Fairy tales

Literary fairy tales

Animal fantasy

Magical fantasy

Heroic fantasy

Science fiction

Family stories


Adventure/survival stories


Animal stories

Sports stories

Historical stories

The selected short stories “The Blue Umbrella, the Angry River, the Dust on the Mountain” falls under the category of Realistic Fiction .Realistic Stories are didactic in nature, they teach morality and manners as well as entertain and educate. Experiences of Children are dual in nature, days of happiness and nights of sorrows. The younger generation of this world expects the protagonists to be real heroes and over comers of different entanglements. Real life situations are ready to be ventured by the children. These Realistic fictions refer to stories that could happen to mankind or would happen to people in the future. Marshall (1998) considers various components of realism in Literature:

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Factual realism- descriptions of facts about actual people, class, and places are recorded accurately in a book. Situational realism- realism provided by situation that is not only possible but also likely to happen with identifiable characters making the events believable. Survival stories of life threatening situations are examples that are included in situational realism. Emotional realism- stories that deals with feelings and relationships. Social Realism- fictions that portray the society in both healthy and adverse conditions. Contemporary Realism-stories that describes the present condition focusing on social hazards such as alcoholism, racism, poverty, calamities and homelessness, mental disabilities, alienation from the main stream of society. In general, realistic fictions deal with topics drawn from all aspects of life, either adverse or favorable.

The works of Ruskin Bond are from his unconditional love for India, the beauty in nature, choice of simple subjects and simplicity in expression are unique. Though most of his works are with simple subject with simple expressions, approaching his works with a psychological perspective gives a new meaning for the hidden truths. The selected short stories of Ruskin Bond portray adverse and discouraging social situations, such as homelessness, loss of objects, lack of parental care, death and others, yet these stories permit some cause for optimism. Ruskin Bond portrays Children as suffering protagonists and the conclusion is designed showing ways to trust and understand that problems are part and parcels of life and easy to overcome.

Realistic fiction stories are relevant for children at all grades levels. The earliest realistic stories such as ‘Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe,’ books by John Newberry, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are classical examples of Realistic fiction stories. A new period of realistic fiction arouse after 1950’s .Stories of unhappy endings, unpleasant constructions, inclusive of antisocial and controversial topics became permissible in children books. These brands of selections changed the world of Children’s books. The theme of realistic stories provides ways of getting matured by facing and overcoming fears. These fears may be caused by external forces as well as internal dangers. In some of the short stories of Ruskin Bond young protagonists’ are valiant fighters made to overcome a physical or mental danger which is proportionately a measure to the maturing process. These realistic fictions often with life threatening events, displacements, abandonment and others which reflect contemporary life will encourage, inspire and challenge students as they grow towards adulthood (Emer O Sullivan 130-135).


Ruskin Bond an honoured contemporary author holds the best place among the modern writers of India. Owen Ruskin Bond the eldest son of Aubrey Alexander Bond was born on May 19th, 1934 at kasauli, a hill station near Sanawar, Himachal Pradesh. Bond’s life was miserable; his Sister Ellen who was a little handicapped lived with her grandmother, his younger brother William lived in Calcutta. Bond stayed for a few months in all the cities where his father as a British Officer in Royal Air Forces moved from one station to another. The paternal grandfather of Ruskin Bond, Herbert Williams (1863) came to India as a foot soldier, married Gloriana Elizabeth Enever (1870), a German orphan. Five children were born in different cantonment towns in India. Herbert William’ died at the age of fifty leaving their children at a very young age. Gloriana (1902) the sister of Aubrey died at a young age and younger sister Alma Eveline (1903) died in an air crash just before the World War II. Later Bond’s Father took his career in teaching.

When Bond was almost eight his mother Agnet Clark remarried another man from Dehradun, Mr.Hari. In some of his works like “The Funeral” and “Once Upon a Monsoon Time” he blames his mother for leaving his father during the days of his sickness and leaving Bond alone. All of Ruskin Bond’s youth was terror stricken days. His parents’ unhappy married life, the sufferings and death of his father, and loneliness had a great effect in his life. All these experiences are expressed in his works. At a young age being deserted by his mother was traumatic. The scrambled family life became worse as his loving Father A. Alexander died when Bond was ten. (Amita Aggarwal, 1). Bond was ill-fated to miss his father’s funeral. His only inheritance was the final letter from his father anticipating the arrival of Bond for the summer vacation. Bond felt insecure and neglected when he visited Agnet Clark the first time after the death of his loving father. His unhappy days and quarrelling with his mother gave him shelter in the train platforms and park benches. Then Bond made his way to London and began his career (Knorana 12).

Bond started his career as a junior clerk in a solicitor’s office at Jersey, then in a travel agency without any proper experience took over the third job in carrying pay packets to the workers in the Channel Island. The Room on the Roof, helped him to be awarded with “The John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize” (1957) and lighted bond’ career into a self esteemed position. It was the right beginning with all trivial experiences that made Bond to portray and express his thoughts in various genres of Literature (Amita Aggarwal, 3).

Ruskin Bond the pioneer of Children’s literature in India remains a tremendous writer and his contributions are several. Bond’s first novel “The Room on the Roof” (1956) won him ‘John Llewellyn Rhy’s Prize,’ a major British Literary prize in 1957 and ‘Sahitya Academy Award’ for his novel “Our Trees Still Grow in Delhi” (1991). After his first award bond decided to stay in India and began his writing career successfully spanned it for more than five decades. The government of India awarded him the ‘Padmabhushan’ title for his English Literature for children in 1999.one of Bond’s famous work The Angry River was published in India, France, Germany, Denmark and Italy. Bond’s works are of great interest to children, the protagonists are none other than the children themselves. For instance in The Blue Umbrella, the little girl Binya thinks that her beautiful Umbrella is a treasured possession and thinks very proud that she has got the best umbrella in her village. In the Hidden Pool winning a beetle race is as great as winning a big tournament. The animal stories are also of great interest, the Grandfathers’ Private Zoo , Tiger Tiger Burning Bright , and others stories are pleasure giving to children and factual.


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