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Publishing, postage, and prizes : classic Australian children’s literature in the public eye

By Erica Hateley


2012 saw the publication of competing and complementary lines of Australian “classics”: “A&R Australian Classics” (HarperCollins) and “Text Classics” (Text Publishing). While Angus and Robertson were key in establishing a canon of Australian children’s classics in the twentieth century, it was the Text Classics line which included a selection of young people’s titles in their 2013. In turn, Penguin Australia launched a selection of “Australian Children’s Classics”. In so doing, these publishers were drawing on particular literary and visual cultural traditions in Australian children’s literature.\ud \ud Public assertions of a particular selection of children’s books reveals not only contemporary assumptions about desirable childhood experiences but about the operation of nostalgia therein. In encouraging Australian adults to judge books by their covers, such gestures imply that Australian children may be similarly understood. Importantly, the illusion of unity, sameness, and legibility which is promised by circumscribed canons of “classic” children’s literature may well imply a desire for similarly illusory, unified, legible, “classic” childhood.\ud \ud This paper attends to public attempts to materialise (and legitimise) a canon of classic Australian children’s literature. In particular, it considers the ways in which publishing, postage stamps, and book awards make visible a range of children’s books, but do so in order to either fix or efface the content or meaning of the books themselves. Moving between assertions of the best books for children from the 1980s to today, and of the social values circulated within those books, this paper considers the possibilities and problematics of an Australian children’s canon

Topics: 200502 Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature), 200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified, children's literature, publishing, classics
Year: 2014
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