In the early 1900s it seems that more books started being written with girls in mind. Some famous examples include A Little Princess (this was originally published as a serial novella in 1888 but republished as a novel in 1905), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903), Anne of Green Gables (1908) and The Secret Garden (1909). Some of these still imparted fairly traditional morals, but others — like Anne of Green Gables, with its spunky, spit-fiery protagonist who constantly gets into trouble — seem to be purely entertaining.
|It looks like Britain was doing well in cover art...|
|...but Canada needed some serious help.|
More "animal books" were being published as well. Black Beauty had come out in 1877, and this was followed in the first half of the 20th century by The Wind in the Willows (1908), The Yearling (1938; incidentally this was the best-selling novel of that year in the U.S., and won the Pulitzer Prize), and My Friend Flicka (1941).
This time period was also the start of several children's series that became extremely well-known. These included the Bobbsey Twins (1904), the Hardy Boys (1926), Nancy Drew (1930), the Little House series (1932) and several series by Enid Blyton, including the Famous Five (1942). Another of Blyton's, the Naughtiest Girl in the School series (1940; I have a soft spot for this one!) reflected a trend in Britain for girls' boarding school stories, others including the Chalet School series.
|Great story, but, um, the cover could definitely be improved upon. I believe that is a picture of, unsurprisingly, a house in the woods.|
|Once again, the British have the right idea when it comes to covers. They must have some trade secrets...|
Fantasy appears to take a backseat here, with one notable exception: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937). This would pave the way for his even more extraordinary, epic Lord of the Rings.
1922 was a critical year for children's literature, as that was when the very first children's book award was created: the Newbery Medal.
However, despite all of these advances books still weren't being published with teens in mind until 1942, with a novel that some consider to be the very first "YA" book: Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly.
|The original 1942 hardcover version, and a more recent paperback (photo from an excellent Printmag article).|
...which will be the topic of the next "YA Through The Ages" post.
For now — your thoughts? Have you read any of the books mentioned?