A Critical Handbook of Children's Literature, 9th Edition

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A Critical Handbook of Children's Literature, 9th Edition

By Rebecca J. Lukens, Jacquelin J. Smith, Cynthia Miller Coffel
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Critical principles and standards are demonstrated using actual examples of quality children’s literature to help future teachers, practicing teachers, librarians, and parents select the best books for the classroom, library, or home.


Neither a typical classroom textbook nor an anthology of selected stories and book summaries, this thorough resource demonstrates how to select quality children’s literature. Specific examples from numerous children’s books illuminate each point the authors present. 


The text focuses on classic and recent children’s books that showcase positive examples of the literary elements, formats, and genres that organize the field of children’s literature. Definitions of literary terms are interwoven throughout in-depth discussions of plot, character, theme, setting, point of view, and style and tone.  Sound criteria for assessing the merit of children’s books; chapters on poetry, biography, and informational books; a section on censorship; and thinking multiculturally combine to make this an important revision. 


New to this edition are fresh examples of quality children’s literature infused with many multicultural titles; an in-depth discussion of the complex relationship between pictures and text in contemporary picturebooks; descriptions of graphic and verse novels; discussions of new issues, such as the risky topics addressed in some books for children, and suggestions of ways to use picturebooks created for older readers.  Wrapping up this edition is a discussion of ways to engage readers through read alouds and interactive discussions.


Rebecca J. Lukens graduated with honors from Concordia College in Minnesota, earned an M.A. from Syracuse University, and next worked on the editorial staff of a children's encyclopedia in New York.  After a year on the faculty of St. Olaf College followed by her marriage, she taught at New York State College, Albany, and later at Ohio University, Chillicothe. After publication of a few children's stories, Miami University Department of English hired Lukens to teach Children's Literature–not "Kiddy Lit"–as well as technical and expository writing.


Jacquelin J. Smith is a career educator whose experience spans grades 2—8 through pre-service teaching. Children’s Literature has been a passion throughout her career, from literacy learning to connections across the curriculum. She has shared many cross-curricular teaching and learning strategies for science, social studies and math with children’s books at numerous professional conferences and in publications with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. A lifelong learner and Children’s Literature instructor at the University of Northern Iowa, her studies continually confirm both her appreciation for and belief in the power of critically examining children’s literature.


Cynthia Miller Coffel is the author of Thinking Themselves Free: Research on the Literacy of Teen Mothers. Her research in children's and young adult literature has appeared in journals such as The ALAN Review, Reader, and QSE. Her work won the Jeffrey E. Smith award for nonfiction from The Missouri Review in 2007, and her literary essays have twice been listed among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays series. Her PhD in literacy education is from the University of Iowa.

  • The critical methods used in examining literature are discussed to show readers how to select appropriate children’s books. 
  • Extensive examples of literature written by authors from a variety of cultures are included. 
  • Material on reading aloud to children emphasises its importance as a key element in children’s reading. 
  • Examples from all genres of children’s literature are included throughout. 
  • Discussions of special concerns and problems that may arise when evaluating any piece of literature are included at the end of each chapter. 
  • References to Charlotte’s Web appear throughout to help readers understand critical distinctions by using the context of a familiar, much-loved book. 
  • Appendices include lists of award-winning titles, children’s magazines, and publications that review children’s literature, plus a list of suggested Web sites about children’s literature.