Coats, Karen. The Bloomsbury Introduction to Children's and Young Adult Literature. Bloomsbury, 2018.
I want to start off the new year and new semester with a review of this book, largely because I happily spent a good portion of the winter break reading it. After a frustrating search last Spring for a good, comprehensive, and user-friendly children's literature textbook suitable for teaching children's literature at the undergraduate level, I was thrilled to hear that this book was in the works, and even more thrilled when it finally became available.
This textbook is both exhaustive and accessible, and I heartily wish it had been available when I was still a student. The volume is split into twelve sections, each covering a different aspect of the study of children's literature, from picture-books to speculative fiction, poetry, child development, and a history of children's literature, theory and publishing, to name just a few. Each section give an overview of the key concepts and lines of thought associated with that area of study, as well as providing suggested reading lists of both children's texts and research texts. Key names in each area are highlighted, and key terms and vocabulary are in bold, supported by a glossary, giving students the expressive toolkit needed to talk and write fluently about the field.
Valuable as this is (and not just to students - I can see myself making extensive use of these lists in future), even more valuable are the more interactive elements of each chapter, such as discussion questions, writing prompts, suggestions for on-line exploration, and a section in each chapter where children's and YA authors talk back to the literary theory being presented. My brain is already buzzing with ideas for how these elements of the text might support independent and group projects, research papers, and class activities - I can't wait to try them out on students! This element of the textbook, in particular, is well-matched to the multi-modal nature of HE today.
What I value most about this textbook, however, is the fact that it caters to the wide variety of different needs and goals that undergraduate students will bring to the classroom. Coats acknowledges the practicum-based interest of future teachers and librarians, and the passing interest of students simply taking one of a number of possible literature electives, for example, and strives to emphasize the relevance of this field of study, and of a rigorous theoretical approach to it, for those who are not already specialists in the field. Her robust insistence on literary and cultural theory throughout the volume means that this is not only an excellent primer for children's and YA studies, but might also serve useful for teaching literary studies more generally.
A testament to (and support for) the growing importance of children's and YA literature and cultural studies in HE, this textbook is a welcome addition to the wonderful introductory texts already available, and one that I will definitely be assigning to students at the first opportunity. Thank you, Dr. Coats!
Jen is an Instructor of English at East Stroudsburg University. Views and opinions expressed here are her own, and not those of the University or any other organization.