Genres of Children’s Literature

Sample Syllabus Six for teaching with Crosscurrents of Children's Literature, Oxford University Press

An introductory level class, this course focuses on recognizing, identifying and understanding the issues in the primary genres of children’s literature. 


Bang, Molly. Picture This: How Pictures Work. San Francisco: Seastar Books, 2000.

Beckett, Sandra L. Reflections of Change: Children's Literature Since 1945. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Doonan, Jane. Looking at Pictures in Picture Books. Stroud: Thimble Press, 1993.

Hunt, Peter and Millicent Lenz. Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction. London: Continuum, 2001.

Livingston, Myra Cohn. Climb into the Bell Tower: Essays on Poetry. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

Moebius, William. “Introduction to Picturebook Codes.” Children’s Literature: The Development of Criticism. Ed. Peter Hunt. London: Routledge, 1990. 137-147.

Nikolajeva, Maria and Carole Scott. How Picturebooks Work. New York: Garland, 2001.

Sale, Roger. Fairy Tales and After: From Snow White to E. B. White. Harvard UP: Cambridge, 1978.


Book to Movie. For this paper, the students will read one book and watch one movie based on that book. For the first part of the project, the students will compare changes: what is different between the two? For the second part, they will look at the cultural implications of these adaptations: what does it mean that these things have been changed? Film theory could be helpful here, as well as cultural theory.

Annotated Bibliography. Each student will find 10 picture books on one topic or by one author or illustrator. They will then compile an Annotated Bibliography, with annotations that not only summarize the text, but discuss the visual aspects of the books, as well.

Fairy Tale Project: Students will choose one fairy tale, and find three to five versions of it. They will then write a paper with three parts: first, they will introduce the time and place in which each version was produced. Then they will write about changes that have occurred across time and culture. Finally, the students will spend time analyzing the cultural implications of the variations.  The students don’t need sources other than the variants of the fairy tales, but if they want to use them, that is fine. Be sure to spend time in class discussing dangers of hasty generalizations about the cultural significance of fairy tale images.

Historical Novel: Have each student read a different historical novel that presents a non-European culture. The students may give a presentation of that novel, first giving an outline that lasts no more than one minute, followed by an evaluation of the novel in light of  the article “Is that Book Politically Correct? Truth and Trends in Historical Literature for Young People” by Hazel Rochman, Masha Kabakow, and Diane Stanley. You may, on the other hand, allow the students to write this as a two-to-three-page paper.


Week 1: Introduction 


Introduction to Part one

Week 2: Oral Traditions

Introduction to Part two

From The World of Storytelling Anne Pellowski

“How Spider Obtained the Sky-God’s Stories” Ashanti Tale

“How Tortoise Cracked his Shell” Chinua Achebe

From Spiderman Anancy James Berry

Aesop’s Fables Translated by George Fyler Townsend

Week 3: Oral Traditions, continued

“The Oral Tradition: Alive, Alive-oh” John Langstaff

“Oral Narration in Contemporary North America” Kay F. Stone

From A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls Nathaniel Hawthorne

“The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale” Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross 

“Dancing Drum: A Cherokee Legend” Terri Cohlene

 “Munsmeg” Richard Chase

“Mutsmag” R. Rex Stephenson

Week 4: Fairy Tales

“Reading Fairy Tales” Maria Tatar

“Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment” Bruno Bettelheim

 “The Frog King, or Iron Henry,” “Hansel and Gretel,” Mother Holle,” Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves,” “Rapunzel,” “The Water of Life” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

“Beauty and the Beast” Marie Le Prince de Beaumont

“Jack and the Beanstalk” Joseph Jacobs

“Snow White in New York” Fiona French

Week 5: Fairy Tales, continued

“Brothers Grimm and Sister Jane” Jane Yolen

 “Cinderella: Saturday Afternoon at the Movies” Louise Bernikow

“Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper” Charles Perrault

“Ashputtle” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

“The Indian Cinderella” Cyrus MacMillan

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” Hans Christian Andersen

“The Little Mermaid” Hans Christian Andersen

Week 6: Poetry

“John Henry” African American Ballad

“Kemp Owyne” Ballad

“The Tree in the Wood” Folk Song

“A Frog Went A-Courtin’” Folk Song

From Navajo Visions and Voices Across the Mesa Shonto Begay

From Divine Songs for Children Isaac Watts

From A Child’s Garden of Verses Robert Louis Stevenson

“The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them” Robert Southey

“The Spider and the Fly” Mary Botham Howitt

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” Jane Taylor

From the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes Iona and Peter Opie

From An Appalachian Mother Goose James Still

Week 7: Poetry, continued

From Struwwelpeter OR Happy Tales and Funny Pictures, Freely Translated Heinrich Hoffman

 “The Owl and the Pussy Cat”…”There was a Young Lady Whose Nose” Edward Lear

A Apple Pie Kate Greenaway

From Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic Shel Silverstein

“Aunt Sue’s Stories,” “Mother to Son” Langston Hughes

“knoxville, tennessee” Nikki Giovanni

“I Love the Look of Words” Maya Angelou

From The Dragons are Singing Tonight Jack Prelutsky

From A Wreath for Emmett Till Marilyn Nelson

“Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf” Roald Dahl

Week 8: Picture Books

Part six: “Words and Pictures”

Week 9: Fantasy

“Fantasy” C. W. Sullivan

“Liking and Not Liking Fantasy” Perry Nodelman

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll

From The Adventures of Pinocchio Carlo Collodi

From Father Goose, His Book L. Frank Baum

From The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum

From The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

“The Last of the Dragons” E. Nesbit

From Tom’s Midnight Garden Philippa Pearce

“Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” Ursula K. LeGuin

From A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle

Week 10: Realism

“‘Realism and Children’s Literature: Notes from a Historical Perspective” Elizabeth Segel

“Didacticism in Modern Dress” John Rowe Townsend

“The Purple Jar,” “The Birthday Present” Maria Edgeworth

From Ramona the Pest Beverly Cleary

From Tom Brown’s School Days Thomas Hughes

From Jacob Have I Loved Katherine Paterson

From The Great Gilly Hopkins Katherine Paterson

From Forever… A Novel Judy Blume

Week 11: Realism, continued

“Insiders, Outsiders, and the Question of Authenticity: Who Shall Write for African American Children?” Nina Mikkelsen

From The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963 Christopher Paul Curtis

New Boy in School May Justus

The Slave Dancer Paula Fox

From Nobody’s Family is Going to Change Louise Fitzhugh

Week 12: Realism, continued

“’As the Twig is Bent…’ Gender and Childhood Reading” Elizabeth Segel

“Boys Will be Boys: The Making of the Male” Marina Warner

“Review of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” William Dean Howells

“Huck, Continued” E. L. Doctorow and David Bradley

From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 12, “Tom Shows His Generosity” Mark Twain

From Little Women “Jo Meets Apollyon” Louisa May Alcott

From Anne of Green Gables Chapter 10 “Anne’s Apology” Lucy Maude Montgomery

Week 13: Mystery

“A Little Ghostly History” Leslie McFarlane

“Keeping Nancy Drew Alive” Sara Paretsky

From The Tower Treasure Franklin W. Dixon

From The Secret of the Old Clock Carolyn Keene

From Be Careful What You Wish For… R. L. Stine

Week 14: Nonfiction

From the Colloquy Aelfric

From Orbis Sensualim Pictus Johan Amos Comenius

“Of the Danger of Pleasure” John Huddlestone Wynne

Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes Floyd Cooper

Week 15: Film

“Toy-Based Videos for Girls: My Little Pony”  Ellen Seiter

“The Little Mermaid” Hans Christian Andersen

“Moral Simplification in The Little Mermaid” A. Walter Hastings

“American Film Adaptations of The Secret Garden: Reflections of Historical and Social Change” Juliane Gillispie

From The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett

Return to list of sample syllabi

Sample syllabus prepared by Melody Green

Contact Tina L. Hanlon with questions or comments on this site.

Updated: August 16, 2010   |   Return to Home Page: Crosscurrents of Children's Literature