A mother reads to her children, depicted by Jessie Willcox Smith in a cover illustration of a volume of fairy tales written in the mid to late 19th century.
Children's literature or juvenile literature includes stories, books, magazines, and poems that are enjoyed by children. Modern children's literature is classified in two different ways: genre or the intended age of the reader.
Children's literature can be traced to stories and songs, part of a wider oral tradition, that adults shared with children before publishing existed. The development of early children's literature, before printing was invented, is difficult to trace. Even after printing became widespread, many classic "children's" tales were originally created for adults and later adapted for a younger audience. Since the fifteenth century much literature has been aimed specifically at children, often with a moral or religious message. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is known as the "Golden Age of Children's Literature", because many classic children's books were published then.
Mary Martha Sherwood was a prolific and influential writer of children's literature in 19th-century Britain. She composed over 400 books, tracts, magazine articles, and chapbooks; among the most famous are The History of Little Henry and his Bearer (1814), The History of Henry Milner (1822–37), and The History of the Fairchild Family (1818–47). Many of Sherwood's books were bestsellers and she has been described as "one of the most significant authors of children's literature of the nineteenth century." Her depictions of domesticity and Britain's relationship with India likely shaped the opinions of many young British readers. However, her works fell from favor as a different style of children's literature came into fashion during the late 19th century, one exemplified by Lewis Carroll's playful and nonsensical Alice in Wonderland.
"If you please, I should like to have the flower-pot; that is, if you won't think me very silly, mamma." "Why, as to that, I can't promise you, Rosamond; but when you have to judge for yourself you should choose what would make you happy, and then it would not signify who thought you silly."