Praise for “Audacious Kids”


“A new edition of a classic study of American Children’s Literature”


Audacious Kids: The Classic American Children’s Story.
By Jerry Griswold.
Johns Hopkins University Press, 368 pp.
Available from Amazon or JHUP

Here is what critics and reviewers have had to say about the book:

Praise for Audacious Kids

“Lucid and persuasively argued. Indeed he manages that difficult thing in writing about children’s literature: He manages to provide the reader with an interesting new intellectual angle on these books, without condescending to his material or diminishing its elusive and potent magic.”
New York Times

“Griswold’s analysis helps us appreciate that this country’s children’s literature is not marginal but squarely within our central literary tradition.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Griswold’s analysis is coherent and persuasive.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“This is an impressive book. . . . The achievement of Audacious Kids is major. . . . It is not often that a scholarly book is so entertaining. The writing is articulate, the style lively.”
The Library Quarterly

“Griswold is successful in making the case for serious consideration of America’s children’s classics.”
Southern Review

“An insightful blend of literary and social history that ends with an interesting political perspective: these stories . . . are symbolic of our nation’s fight for independence and struggle toward maturity.”

“One of the most exciting books of the year . . . . It challenges accepted thinking and is extremely readable, likely to appeal not only to scholars but also to those with nostalgic memories of Little Women and The Wizard of Oz .”

“This engaging book will quickly become an essential authority for students of children’s literature and should reach a wide audience among librarians, parents, and scholars of American literature.”

“This study by Jerry Griswold is boldly audacious, compelling, and convincing in its argument. Griswold defines ‘The Golden Age of Children’s Books’ as the period between the Civil War and World War I . . . [and] finds a pattern that threads its way through the children’s books of this period. . . . Griswold amasses persuasive evidence from a number of disciplines . . . [in a] sophisticated analysis of twelve novels: The Wizard of OzAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, Rebecca of Sunnybrook FarmLittle Lord FauntleroyTarzan of the ApesThe Prince and the PauperThe Adventures of Tom SawyerLittle Women, Toby TylerHans BrinkerThe Secret Garden, and Pollyanna. . . . The interpretations of each book are lively, original, and persuasive. . . . This book is felicitously written and provocatively argued, truly a significant contribution to the study of American literature and culture.”
American Historical Review

“In addition to dealing with American history, Audacious Kids includes literary and psychological interpretations of the books under consideration and biographical discussions of the books’ authors. In the hands of a less capable writer, such an eclectic approach could easily result in disjointed and uneven work, but Griswold, like Rumplestiltskin, pulls all of his strands together and spins them into gold.”
Journal of American History

” Audacious Kids contributes a coherent new framework for the study of America’s formative literature, one certain to stimulate and enlighten both academic and general interest readers. An example of outstanding literary criticism, Griswold’s book illuminates the literature it analyzes and itself provides an example of lucid, pleasurable prose.”
Horn Book

“Griswold writes clearly, convincingly, and even entertainingly. This thoughtful union of the scholarly and the readable deserves a very wide audience.”
Library Journal

“The book’s virtues are clear argumentation and convincing analysis. The cultural and psychoanalytical criticism are well integrated and mutually illuminating, buttressed by relevant information about the personal histories, composing habits, and general mindsets of the authors discussed.”
American Literature

“An intriguing analysis of the dynamics of a dozen classic works published during the Golden Age of American Children’s Books (1865-1914).”
Nineteenth-Century Literature

“Griswold’s book is impressive in its close, productive readings of each of the novels and for the picture he paints of the relationship between literature and society. . . . Audacious Kids grants to children’s literature an important place on the literary and cultural scene.”
History of Education Quarterly

“In a time of unprecedented and often impenetrable critical discourse, this book is deliberately jargon free and accessible . . . to both scholarly and general audiences. It is written with clarity and humor, with inventive energy and an agile, synthesizing intelligence. . . . Audacious Kids begins a long-awaited, collective consideration of these key works of national literature.”
Children’s Literature

“Griswold’s enthusiasm for these novels is abundantly clear and is . . . the book’s most appealing feature.”
Children’s Literature Association Quarterly

“This is an excellent book.”
-Book Report

And recently . . . 

Then there is this lovely blog post from Anita Silvey in her Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac that makes me blush.

In the midst of a story about unaccompanied minors crossing the US/Mexico border, National Public Radio’s History Guys turn to the author of “Audacious Kids” for some background about the recurring story of the orphan in American children’s books (mins. 36:45 to 43:00):


Should adults read Young-Adult‬ books? Folks are complaining. Jerry Griswold weighs in on this controversy.

An encouraging review by Taraneh Matloob for the International Research Society for Children’s Literature (2015) which begins:

Audacious Kids, by Jerry Griswold, is a compelling study of twelve classic children’s books from the Golden Age of American children’s literature (1865-1914). The book first appeared in 1992 and was published later in 1996 as The Classic American Children’s Story: Novels of the Golden Age. In addition to being praised by a wide audience including scholars, teachers, critics, students, as well as general readers, Audacious Kids was recognised as a landmark in children’s literature and childhood studies when the Children’s Literature Association honored the book as an outstanding contribution to children’s literature scholarship and criticism in 1992. Over the course of twenty-two years, from the first publication in 1992 to the revised edition in 2014, Audacious Kids has been acclaimed nationally and internationally and has found a permanent place in scholarship on American children’s literature. . . .

And in February (2015), there was a book launch at Warwicks (in La Jolla, California). Read an hilarious account of that hilarious event by Meg Mardian right here.


Nobody was able to explain the sudden appearance of tiny sailboats behind me, once I began to read.

Audacious Kids: The Classic American Children’s Book. By Jerry Griswold. 368 pp. Johns Hopkins University Press. Available from Amazon or Johns Hopkins University Press


08. June 2015 by Jerry Griswold
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