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Between Generations - Collaborative Authorship in the Golden Age of Children's Literature

Between Generations

Collaborative Authorship in the Golden Age of Children's Literature

By Victoria Ford Smith
Series: Children's Literature Association Series

Hardcover : 9781496813374, 331 pages, 13 b&w illustrations, August 2017
Paperback : 9781496828248, 344 pages, 13 b&w illustrations, June 2020

How children and adults collaborated to create some of the most beloved works in literature


Winner of the Children’s Literature Association’s 2019 Book Award

Between Generations is a multidisciplinary volume that reframes children as powerful forces in the production of their own literature and culture by uncovering a tradition of creative, collaborative partnerships between adults and children in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England. The intergenerational collaborations documented here provide the foundations for some of the most popular Victorian literature for children, from Margaret Gatty's Aunt Judy's Tales to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Examining the publication histories of both canonical and lesser-known Golden Age texts reveals that children collaborated with adult authors as active listeners, coauthors, critics, illustrators, and even small-scale publishers.

These literary collaborations were part of a growing interest in child agency evident in cultural, social, and scientific discourses of the time. Between Generations puts these creative partnerships in conversation with collaborations in other fields, including child study, educational policy, library history, and toy culture. Taken together, these collaborations illuminate how Victorians used new critical approaches to childhood to theorize young people as viable social actors. Smith's work not only recognizes Victorian children as literary collaborators but also interrogates how those creative partnerships reflect and influence adult-child relationships in the world beyond books. Between Generations breaks the critical impasse that understands children's literature and children themselves as products of adult desire and revises common constructions of childhood that frequently and often errantly resign the young to passivity or powerlessness.


"The greatest strength of Between Generations is Smith's extensive historical research. She delved deeply in order to reconstruct the composition narratives that she examines and to provide historical context for them. Her scholarship is impressive and wide ranging, incorporating issues relevant to literature, linguistics, art, history, education, and child culture."

- Donna R. White, Children's Literature Association Quarterly

"Between Generations: Collaborative Authorship in the Golden Age of Children's Literature provides a necessary corrective to scholarship that has tended to tip the balance of power almost entirely toward adult authors."

- Christopher Parkes, Lakehead University, ELT

"This makes me confident that Between Generations will inspire many scholars to unearth further traces of creative collaboration between adults and children, both in the past and the present, and to reflect further on the challenges and limitations, but also opportunities and insights of this kind of work."

- Vanessa Joosen, University of Antwerp, Journal of Children's Literature Research, Vol. 41, 2018

"Wide-ranging, well informed, and replete with fascinating detail, Between Generations considers Victorian and Edwardian children as active listeners and speakers, illustrators, writing partners, and critics of literary productions. Victoria Ford Smith's study is a valuable contribution to the growing number of studies demonstrating that far from maintaining a decorous silence in the presence of their elders, children in the long nineteenth century were both seen and heard—and the publications that they helped to shape profited in ways that we are still learning to appreciate."

- Claudia Nelson, professor of English and Claudius M. Easley, Jr., Faculty Fellow of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University

"Between Generations is deeply revelatory, transforming our sense of the Golden Age of children's literature and the interdisciplinary field that the Victorians called 'child study.' Uncovering an amazingly rich tradition of intergenerational collaborations that run the gamut from factual to fictional, Victoria Ford Smith shows us how adult-child partnerships animated the work of a wide range of writers and researchers, paying close attention not just to prose, but also to poetry, illustration, and the material culture of children's play. Everyone working in the interlinked fields of children's literature and childhood studies should read this beautifully written, meticulously researched, and methodologically innovative book."

- Marah Gubar, associate professor of literature at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children's Literature