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Audacious Kids

, 368 pages

17 halftones

September 2014



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Audacious Kids

The Classic American Children's Story

revised edition


Outstanding Book of the Year Award, Children’s Literature Association

Often called the Golden Age of Children’s Books, the years stretching from the Civil War to World War I were a remarkable epoch in juvenile literature, an era when the best authors on both sides of the Atlantic wrote some of their finest work primarily for children. In Audacious Kids, Jerry Griswold provides a groundbreaking and lucid study of twelve of these classic American children’s tales, including such time-honored stories as Little Women, Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden, and The Wizard of Oz.

Griswold’s most remarkable insight is that, fundamentally, these twelve books all tell essentially the same story: a child is orphaned, makes a journey, is adopted and harassed by adults, and eventually triumphs over them and comes into his or her own. Griswold, a leading figure in the study of children’s literature, also reveals that these tales emphasize motifs that are distinctly American, such as positive thinking, concern with health, and the concealment of sex and violence, and he shows how these secular parables replaced religion with psychology and preached gospels of emotional self-control and optimism.

In this revised edition, which is aimed at students, scholars, and general readers, Griswold has updated the text throughout and added a new preface, introduction, and select bibliography.

Jerry Griswold is professor emeritus of literature at San Diego State University and former director of the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. He is the author of seven books, including Feeling Like a Kid: Childhood and Children’s Literature, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"Griswold manages that difficult thing in writing about children’s literature: He manages to provide the reader with an interesting new intellectual angle on these books, without condescending to his material or diminishing its elusive and potent magic."

" Audacious Kids is a trailblazing historical account of American children’s literature. Jerry Griswold’s analyses of individual works are astute, and his writing is witty and accessible."

" Audacious Kids has foregrounded innovative ways of analysing childhood in American classics and has paved the way for scholars interested in the field... One of the real delights afforded by Audacious Kids is that it is scholarly, convincing and highly accessible to a range of academic and nonacademic readers. Griswold is able to captivate his readers with simple yet insightful text. The content is concise, ambitious, informative, provocative, and of course still audacious."

"I am so grateful for all Jerry Griswold has given the field in his columns and books. Our great books and writers for children deserve the thoughtful and lucid analysis that he has always provided."

"Audacious Kids places children's literature in conversation with the critical treatises about the constitution of the American mind, and, by extension, the American story."

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