Children’s literature has enriched our culture for generations. Actually for centuries; Kathryn Walton argues convincingly that there was a rich seam of children’s literature in the middle ages, albeit much of it oral. https://www.medievalists.net/2021/07/childrens-literature-middle-ages-read/
We read children’s books as children, obviously, but they are often enjoyed by adults. Although this has long been the case with books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows I think that books originally aimed at younger readers are more readily enjoyed by older readers than ever before. You might call this the Harry Potter effect. I am old enough to remember when The Hobbit was firmly considered a children’s book (actually, we did it at school) and Lord of the Rings was regarded with considerable disdain by the literati, at least partly because it dealt with what were seen a children’s book subjects while clearly being aimed at adults.
Fantasy has, in fact, long straddled the divide between children’s literature and books for adults with many classic fantasy writers: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula LeGuin, Alan Garner and more, writing wholly or partly for children. Perhaps because fantasy, like children’s books, were rather looked down on by the literary gatekeepers, so there was less to lose.
It seems to me that there are two aspects to children’s literature, coming at the subject as adults: the books we enjoyed as children and those we enjoy as adults. These may be the same books or they might be very different.
As a child I loved Alan Garner and I re-read, and enjoyed The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Elidor a few years back. I compulsively read Enid Blyton’s “Adventure” books and can’t imagine enjoying them now.
I have also enjoyed some children’s books for the first time as an adult. Laura Ingles Wilder’s, The Little House on the Prairie was fascinating but I really loved Diana Wyn Jones’s, Howl’s Moving Castle.
But what about you? What children’s literature did you devour when you were young and what have you enjoyed as an adult – and how much do they overlap?
Finally, which children’s and YA books should go on a list of essential reading?