Don't judge the book by its cover : a comparison of children's literature from the nineteenth and twentieth century
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The first children’s literature to emerge was written with a strong religious didactic purpose to educate the child in the consequences of a sinful life. When this type of literature is read today, literary critics, scholars, teachers and writers politely mock the texts due to their presentation of the child, the moral teaching, biblical scriptures and other elements that seem to represent a totally different era in literature, and attitude to the child and parenthood as well. At the same time, contemporary literature is praised for its outstanding work related to new topics such as race, sexuality, family, death, violence, as well as the author’s use of narrative voice to express emotions, and portrayal of the real child—of real childhood. The contemporary reader will see Magorian’s novel as more representative of the way we raise our children today than Sherwood’s religious method, which is experienced as something separate from that. The two novels are written in two different centuries and their narrative style reflects the time, and the audience of children and parents that they wrote for. Sherwood’s and Magorian’s novels are different in narrative style, but the child and childhood they present are the same. This proves that children’s literature has not altered as much as it appears to have done. In comparing the novels of M. M. Sherwood's The Fairchild Family (1818), and M. Magorian's Goodnight Mister Tom (1983), similarities in presentation of the child, use of the biblical Garden of Eden, presentation of othering, and focus on education of the child stand out as elements that unite children’s literature written in two different centuries.