Readings in American Juvenile Literature

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This book is a study of popular children’s series books of the past century. It examines many facets of the field including prominent authors, sociological attitudes in popular children’s literature and recent research into the publishing patterns of early series books. It looks at two early story papers edited and published by Edward Stratemeyer, the publishing history of his early books and his attitude towards youthful heroism and villainy. It also includes recent research on such writers as Annie Fellows Johnston, Howard Garis and Percy Keese Fitzhugh. The study also explores the true origins of Boys Life, official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. The research is a culmination of over forty years’ investigation into popular juvenile literature.


“The study of children’s literature has grown dramatically over the last twenty years, and it has claimed its place in the arena of scholarly dialogue and serious research … People like Dr. John Dizer are living history. They represent a generation of avid readers who read these series books when they were young and were significantly affected by the themes and the characters presented … The work in this book will be considered, one day, foundational. It is not the result of extensive research in the formal sense. Instead, this book is a collection of essays that future researchers will find as a valuable starting place for further critical inquiry. It is a resource for popular literature and children’s literature that helps establish firm footing in serious scholarship and that preserves a record of American literature than can be easily lost. It is a source of contemporary American history.” – (from the Critical Introduction) Professor Karl J. Terryberry, Daemen College

“What is a hero? Who are your heroes? Athletes? Politicians? Movie stars? Other celebrities? The question of what makes a hero is redefined by almost every generation. In recent years it’s even been suggested that ours is an age devoid of heroes ? A glance at the table of contents of this collection of essays reveals their author has no problem in identifying heroes ? if research into the minutia of the publishing history of early juvenile fiction isn’t heroic, I don’t know the meaning of the word. The chapter on “Eight Mysterious Mershons” is a sterling example and his detective work is particularly astute as he unravels the mystery of the series that didn’t really exist except in advertising. As a companion piece, the story of the real beginnings of Boys Life investigates dark corners of the history of that magazine, bringing the intricacies of its origins into the light. Any of these heroes is worth your making their acquaintance and there is no more gifted guide through the shelves of juvenile fiction than the author ...” – (from the Foreword) J. Randolph Cox, Editor, Dime Novel Round-Up

“ ... an entire book could be written on the history of series book collecting ... and the author could probably do it ... So much has been lost…But the author is still here, and he has done something his compatriots did not: he has collected his writings into hardcover books, and in doing so he has done us a favor - he has done his generation a favor - and he has done his heroes a favor. Nostalgia aside, the author digs into the past and finds out what Edward Stratemeyer wrote, why he wrote it, what name he wrote it under, to whom he sold it, and what became of it afterwards ?What would we have ever done without this work? Read this book and try to answer that yourself.” – Gil O’Gara, Yellowback Press

Table of Contents

Foreword by J. Randolph Cox
Critical Introduction by Karl J. Terryberry
1. Kid’s Books I Read as a Kid
2. The Little Colonel and the World She Lived In: The Fiction of Annie Fellows Johnston
3. Back to the Farm Or The Rural Life in Juvenile Literature
4. Young People of America, Bright Days and Edward Stratemeyer
5. Malcolm the Waterboy and D. T. Henty
6. Edward Stratemeyer and His Juvenile Villains
7. Howard R. Garis and His Juvenile Villains
8. Where in the World is Putnam Hall? Or Who in the World Cares?
9. Eight Mysterious Mershons Or The Boys’ Own Series
10. Merriam, Allison and a Little Alger
11. Boys’ Life: The Real Beginnings
12. The Early Days of Youthful Motoring
13. The Juvenile Writings of Percy Keese Fitzhugh
14. From Appomattox to Germany: Percy Keese Fitzhugh and American History
15. Boy’s books and the American Dream
16. Land of the Heroes

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