- Note from the Bibliography Editor
I too find arriving at a definition of children's literature difficult, and I am grateful for Perry's suggestion about "three competing theories": in brief, 1) what adults believe children should like; 2) what children at some period have read and possibly enjoyed; 3) what has actually been labeled children's literature. I have given the matter a good deal of thought through the years, beginning with my struggle toward a definition in my article on Sumerian children's literature in Children's Literature 14 (1986). I have tried to stipulate at the beginning of the bibliographies the principles behind my selection: in the case of the bibliography to which Michael Steig refers, however, I was operating with the definition given in the introduction to the previous bibliography in the Summer 1990 Quarterly: "works for which there is compelling evidence that they have been read and enjoyed by a substantial number of children over a period of years" (15.2: 58). I there briefly discuss the theoretical basis, based on Reception Aesthetics (the European version of Reader Response theory), for my use of that definition in constructing the bibliography. Because of our present budget restrictions, the most recent bibliography was far less inclusive.
I might add that, in the case of the authors whom Steig mentions as surprising, I have included any work for which a claim has been made by a critic of children's literature, however debatable that claim may be. I also include in the bibliography, as an aid to researchers, books and articles on the history and culture of children that I think important. Finally, I agree with Steig that the boundary between children's and adult literature is indeterminate, and my choices for inclusion in the bibliography, although informed by principles, are indeed ultimately subjective. [End Page 44]