The most influential children's authors of all time
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As time goes on, the line between children’s books and literature intended for 'adults' is becoming more and more blurred. Increasingly, there is no longer such a stigma attached to reading outside of your age bracket - hence why books such as Harry Potter are still hugely popular with university students.
Combined with the ever-growing popularity of Young Adult fiction, the status of the ‘children’s author’ seems even less necessary. But it's still important to recognise the work of authors who have been given this label and, perhaps, to question why they were given this label in the first place.
There's no doubt that children's literature has been influential - for people of all ages. If we take a look back over the last century, some of the most popular and beloved books have been written by writers who work under this bracket.
Therefore, as The Hobbit turns 80 today, we're taking a look back at the most influential children's authors of all time.
J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien’s influence can be seen throughout fiction; he is largely thought to have created the high fantasy genre as we know it today. Without Tolkien, we wouldn’t have Game of Thrones, Dungeons and Dragons, or countless other franchises. Not only that, many authors today still credit him as being an inspiration for their work. Slowly, The Hobbit - and the Lord of the Rings trilogy that followed it - have become regarded as classics.
J. K. Rowling
When we talk about children’s literature in the 21st century, we can’t overlook the Harry Potter series. A generation of children grew up alongside Harry and these books have been responsible for many young people gaining an interest in reading in the first place.
In addition to this, the rebrand of the series that included 'adult editions', with darker, more mature covers, was introduced, allowing grown-ups to indulge in a series aimed at children. This helped to bring down the barriers between 'adult' and 'children's' fiction.
C. S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia are a mainstay in children’s literature. Though they may not be as high profile as Harry Potter or The Hobbit, the series has been incredibly influential.
For many children, this series was the first time they were directly confronted by allegory and overt themes like race and religion and, whilst this was sometimes controversial, it proved that children's literature could take on high brow themes whilst remaining accessible.
The author’s refusal to oversimplify complex ideas has elevated the genre in the ways it is perceived by outsiders. Without this approach, we may not have ended up having university modules dedicated to exploring books which aren’t considered part of the Literary Canon.
Most children have heard of at least one of Beatrix Potter’s many timeless stories, whether it be Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck or the Flopsy Bunnies. Featuring many charming critters, Potter’s books were incredibly successful in their time, earning their author a substantial independent income. The author’s influence continues to be felt today, as not only have her works been adapted many times, but much of the land in the Lake District National Park is owed to her (Potter donated all of her properties to the National Trust upon her death).
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Lauded for his wit and dark humour, Roald Dahl’s books are deemed to be classics of children’s literature. Though Welsh by birth and Norwegian by blood, many of his works have been adapted into films by American directors, including Matilda, The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, meaning that children all over the world have been influenced by his creations.
Dahl’s charitable efforts extended into the fields of neurology, haematology, and literacy. ‘Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity’ helps to provide support to seriously ill children throughout the UK, keeping the author’s legacy alive today.