The Eternal Question: What is Literature?? Armchair BEA, Day 1

What do you think of when you think of literature? Classics, contemporary, genre, or something else entirely? We are leaving this one up to you to come up with and share the literature that you want to chat about the most. Feel free to share a list of your favorites, break down your favorite genre, feature your favorite authors, and be creative about all things literature in general.


What is Literature??

It’s a question that generates so much interesting discussion–I ask it on the first day of any literature class I teach at the college level. And I think it’s a good question to ask for almost any level of English class, actually.

Rather than get into the nitty gritty of what I think is of “literary quality” and what’s not, this post is going to be about….

Children’s Literature!

This might be considered cheating, but when I studied for an M.A. in children’s literature, there was young adult fiction involved. So, I was lucky enough to study books for readers age 0 all the way up to 18. That was brilliant.

When I consider children’s literature, I think of picturebooks, fairy tales, middle grade fiction, and young adult novels. I think of fantasy, realism, historical fiction, and nonfiction.

Some of my favorite genres?

Fantasy and historical fiction. The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen is fantastic, because it’s actually a blending of the two genres. The story begins in the present time period, but the protagonist is transported back to the Holocaust in Europe. In this way, there a fantasy element at work within a historical novel. It’s incredibly powerful!



A few thoughts about fantasy for children:

I love fantasy by Cornelia Funke, a German author whose books have done very well in the UK and America. She wrote the Inkheart trilogy, The Thief Lord, Dragon Rider, The Princess Knight, and Reckless. She’s written other titles, but these are a handful of her fantasy novels (except for the picturebook, The Princess Knight). She creates colorful characters and intriguing plots. I was glued to the Inkheart books and was actually quite surprised at how much I enjoyed Dragon Rider. Her books were popular with my 6th graders last year, and I think Funke is a fantastic example of how a translated author can be just as successful as a native English speaker in the world of children’s publishing in America.

inkheartSome other fantasy favorites:


  A Tangle of Knots

cover when you reach me

  When You Reach Me


 A Wrinkle in Time 


The Children of Green Knowe


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The Magician's Elephant

The Magician’s Elephant


A Snicker of Magic

Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce

  Tom’s Midnight Garden

Those are some of my thoughts on literature for now, and some of my favorites. Certainly, more thoughts and more books to come in the days ahead!


2 thoughts on “The Eternal Question: What is Literature?? Armchair BEA, Day 1

  1. When I hear the word “literature,” I think of the whole kit and kaboodle—all books for every age group. Of course, “children’s literature” narrows the field, and it’s the field I love to run and play in the most 😀

    You’ve listed some great titles here. SO glad I was made aware of Tom’s Midnight Garden (trying html here, hoping it works lol) last year and enjoyed it SO much. Anything by Kate DiCamillo is worth reading, and I have to say that the Harry Potter series will probably always top my list when it comes to literature, in general. Stunning, amazing piece of work!

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