Frame of Reference

Lighthouses and Children's Literature

by Teya Rosenberg

Teya Rosenberg is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Texas State University-San Marcos. Her areas of research and teaching are children's literature, fantasy, and Canadian literature. She is co-editor of Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom (Lang 2002) and author of articles on magical realism in children's literature.

Sometime during the winter of 1980-81, my then boyfriend's father, a teacher, gave me a copy of the second edition of Sheila Egoff's The Republic of Childhood: A Critical Guide to Canadian Children's Literature in English (1975). I'm not sure why he gave it to me; I don't recall getting excited about studying children's literature during that year, my first as a university student, and, as far as I could tell, I was just one more girl in a large turnover of them through his house. Nonetheless, I was pleased to have the cast-off book, and I have carried it with me ever since, away from Newfoundland and across a continent. Bits of it are underlined, other bits unread. Its value for me has less to do with who gave it to me or even with the specifics within its covers and more to do with its iconic value: the idea that one could study children's literature seriously, particularly Canadian children's literature, write an entire book about it, and have that work published. The existence of this book has been and continues to be a beacon signalling the possibilities of studying and appreciating children's literature as an aesthetic form. Of course, The Republic of Childhood is well-written and informative, as are other Egoff works that have been important to my research, Thursday's Child: Trends and Patterns in Contemporary Children's Literature (1981) and Worlds Within: Children's Fantasy from the Middle Ages to Today (1988), and to my teaching, Only Connect: Readings in Children's Literature (1969, 1980, 1996). Given her beginnings in Maine and her long tenure in British Columbia, perhaps Sheila Egoff would appreciate her role, in my life at least, as a sort of lighthouse, signalling the possibility of navigating the waters and shoals of academe in the good ship Children's Literature. I suspect she played a similar role for many people, who are similarly saddened by the ceasing of her particular light but are very glad to have had her guidance.

Teya Rosenberg

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"Lighthouses and Children's Literature "
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