11.8 The Reading Girl (after 1860)

Her Half of History

The 1860s blew new life into children’s literature, especially for girls. Alice in Wonderland (1865) has been called the first modern children’s book, and one in which moral didacticism was replaced by a fantastic and total disregard for the laws of physics. Little Women (1868) pioneered the intimate home life story and is still one of the best examples. On the trashier side, dime novels were also first published in the 1860s (and they were read by girls as well as boys). Children’s picture books became real works of art, and periodicals for girls exploded in popularity. By the early 20th century, libraries were welcoming children into their own special sections, and countries all over the world were producing their own native literature about girls. And by the early 21st century, children’s lit was split into children’s, middle grade, and young adult categories, with mixed results.

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