This illustration is by Oscar Pletsch in Buds and Flowers of Childish Life.
(London: George Routledge and Sons, 1870.)



Professor Kay E. Vandergrift


3 Credits

Special Interest Page

Syllabi Page

Children's Literature


Illustration in Children's Books

Reader Response Criticism

Children's Literature Web Sites

Author Information


Snow White

Empowering Girls

Censorship and intellectual freedom

Children and youth websites

Children's publishing


First Lines

Japanese-American Internment




Examination and evaluation of both print and nonprint materials for children; emphasis on the picture story book.





  • User characteristics and information needs, including developmental psychology and learning theory relating to reading; cross-cultural, ethnic, and other special needs.
  • The varieties of materials for children, including publishing trends.
  • Research relating to children and materials.
  • Illustrative techniques and their effectiveness in relation to particular texts.
  • Criteria for evaluating various types of media for children.
  • Compositional elements and the use of these elements in print and nonprint compositions.
  • Professional materials about children's media.
  • Intellectual freedom: ways to meet challenges to materials, policies, programs, etc..


  • Evaluation and selection of materials
  • The use of critical abilities in the discussion (both oral and written) of various media for children.
  • Interpretation and evaluation of research relating to children and materials.


Each of these topics should include discussion of both print and nonprint materials.

List of Topics to Be Covered:

  • Literature in the Lives of Today's Children
  • Illustrated Materials for Young Children
  • Compositional Elements and Genres
  • Modern Realistic Fiction
  • Fanciful Fiction
  • Historical and Regional Fiction
  • Biography
  • Informational Materials
  • Poetry



All students are expected to complete assignments 1 through 5.


Required Assignments

1. Participation in class discussions and activities which demonstrate your knowledge of outside readings (both children's and professional materials) and thoughtful consideration of the probe questions included on the www and on distributed worksheets.

2. Journal: You are expected to read many children's books, magazines, and view motion pictures, videos, CDs, computer games, websites, and television programs popular with children. Professional materials, including selection tools, should also be included in your reading. You would be wise to maintain a personal record of items read or viewed that might be useful to you in your work with children. You are required to make at least one substantive entry in the eCompanion Journal each week to comment on the week's topic, your readings, and/or to raise questions. This is a private communication with Professor Vandergrift and allows you to comment on things you do not have the opportunity to raise during class sessions.

3. Picture Book Analysis: Select a picture book for young children that you think works extraordinarily well, preferably one that you would share with young people. Please submit the information on your book to me for approval so you don’t invest your efforts in a book that I might think is not the best choice for this amount of work. Read and study the text and the illustrations in your book, both separately and together.

You might consider reading the images first without the text as a young child might do. What do the illustrations convey to you as a reader of images? What in the artist's work causes you to respond as you do? Do you think children might respond differently? If so, how and why? What are the key characteristics of this illustrator’s work?

Then read the text. What has the most impact on you as a reader? Are there specific literary elements or features that stand out?

Then put the two together. Do the text and illustrations complement each other and create a unified compositional whole? What is the primary appeal of this book to you? How would you “sell” this book to children?

You may want to see if the author and illustrator have websites. If so, what do those sites reveal about their work? You may also check reviews, but it is best to do this after you have made your own initial critical judgments.

Now, having gone through the above thought process, write a three to five page analysis of the book. Cite all print and electronic sources used in preparation of your analysis. Use "Notes on the Analysis of a Picturebook" in the Notes section of the Picturebook Unit as a guide (NOT a formula or a checklist!) for this assignment.

4. Analysis of Book for Older Readers: Select a book for 8 to 12 year-old readers that you consider an excellent example of its genre and submit the title to me for approval. Write a critical analysis of your book, using all that you have studied about that genre. Begin with your own responses and interpretations and then attempt to clarify, explain, or justify them by referring to class readings and discussions and other secondary sources. Consider how the various literary elements contribute to the successful composition of that work. You may wish to include very brief comparisons to similar works. Write a three to five page analysis of the book, including all relevant citations.

5. Illustration Assignment: Select a contemporary illustrator of children's books whose work you admire and consider to be of significance. (You may want to concentrate on newer, innovative illustrators rather than the old standbys.)

  • Identify five key characteristics of your illustrator's work.
  • Make a five minute presentation in class. (Assigned times)
  • Prepare a one page summary paper on your illustrator to be distributed to the entire class. This should include the first item above plus some key works (full bibliographical citations) with your brief critical comments about these works. Attach an additional page with a sample illustration and your graphic analysis of that illustration. (Instructions in class)


Create a Visual Interpretative Analysis of an illustration from a picture book for display on the www. See the Visual Interpretive Analysis web site and study Notes on Creating a Visual Interpretative Analysis. This assignment should be uploaded to your personal directory. Also, please indicate whether or not you give permission for your work to be posted on the VIA web site.

6. Power Point Presentations: Parent/Teacher Assignment: Select a current topic of concern [terrorism, bullying, violence, abuse, homelessness, etc.] and locate appropriate materials on that topic. Prepare a Power Point Presentation on the use of these materials for parents or teachers. Include resources and your notes in the Power Point bottom segment identified for Notes. This presentation should be uploaded to your personal directory. Included with your presentation should be the following information: Title and Topic (if not clear from Title), Audience (If children: age, grade, context), Number of slides, Permission granted/not granted to post on SCILS web site.)


Select a scientific topic that young people (8-12 yrs old) most likely will have heard of in the media. Prepare a Power Point presentation of age-appropriate information on that topic. Include complete citations and brief annotations for all sources consulted. The following is a beginning list of topics that might be used: cloning, genetic engineering, AI (artificial intelligence), Human Genome Project, GPS (Global Positioning Systems) DVD (Digital Versatile Disk), Implantable Microchips, Lasers, SIDS.

Follow instructions listed above.

You will find the following sites provocative:

This illustration is by Oscar Pletsch in Buds and Flowers of Childish Life.
(London: George Routledge and Sons, 1870.)

Children Playing in Snow




You are expected to become familiar with a wide variety of resources about children's media. Many of these resources are contained within eCompanion, the electronic learning environment that supports this course by organizing most of the required materials in one place for ease of access and use. In order to enter this electronic course space, you are pre-registered  in Rutgersonline [],  using your email account available to us. Once you are registered, the course(s) in which you are enrolled will appear when you log into Rutgersonline. There are a number of places within your course space that contain resources essential for your work. Please be aware that this course is a living and growing entity; new resources may be added during the semester, and you will need to visit eCompanion on a regular basis

This is an extremely resource-rich course. As graduate professional students with many different work and life experiences related to youth literature, you are expected to scan the materials collected here and select those that are most appropriate for your own professional growth. There is a limit on the number of pages you may print from the SCILS computer labs, so you will need to make such decisions wisely. In fact, many of these resources are brief and meant to be pursued online. Any materials all students are expected to read will be identified and /or distributed in class.

As busy professionals, time management and quick, yet appropriate, decision-making is our stock in trade. We all must develop strategies to locate, evaluate, and select appropriate resources to do our work, using some of the same skills required to build library/media center collections for young people. In this instance, I have pre-selected many of the resources for you, but that does not preclude the need to seek out situation-specific resources that meet your own needs.

The nature of the resources included here varies greatly. They range from scholarly articles and websites that demand concentrated reading and thought to examples of “best practices” to brief bibliographies that simply alert you to materials available at a particular moment in time. The intent is to assure that you are aware of this range and of some of the key sources for professional materials that you will return to for current resources throughout your careers. As you locate additional resources you wish to share with colleagues in this class, you may load them to the Webliography or Document Sharing segments of eCompanion.

This illustration is from a photograph entitled "Too Lazy to Learn" in My Pet's Picture Book.
(New York: T. Nelson and Sons, n.d.)

  little girl


The following books most clearly match the content of this course and will give you some insight into the priorities and prejudices of the professor.

Vandergrift, Kay E. (1980). Child and Story: The Literary Connection. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc. (reprinted in paperback 1986).

Vandergrift, Kay E. (1990). Children's Literature: Theory, Research, and Teaching. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Vandergrift, Kay E. (1994). Power Teaching. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Vandergrift, Kay E. (1996). Ed. Ways of Knowing: Literature and the Intellectual Life of Children. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

It would also be useful to read the following:

Bang, Molly. Picture This: How Pictures Work. Boston, MA: Seastar Books, 2000.

Dresang, Eliza T. Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age. NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1999.

Horning, Kathleen T. From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books. NY: HarperCollins, 1997.

Kiefer, Barbara Z., The Potential of Picturebooks: From Visual Literacy to Aesthetic Understanding. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Lacy, Lyn.E. Art and Design in Children's Picture Books: An Analysis of Caldecott Award-Winning Illustrations. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1986.

Myth, Magic, and Mystery: One Hundred Years of American Children's Book Illustration. Introductory Essay by Michael Patrick Hearn. Essays by Trinkett Clark and H. Nichols B. Clark. Boulder, CO: Robert Rinehart in Cooperation with the Chrysler Museum of Art, 1996.

Nodelman, Perry. Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1988.

Nodelman, Perry and Mavis Reimer.  The Pleasures of Children's Literature. 3rd Edition. NY: Allyn/Bacon/Longman, 2002.

Smith, Karen Patricia, Ed. "Imagination and Scholarship: The Contributions of Women to American Youth Services and Literature," Library Trends. Vol. 44, No. 4 (April 1996):679-874.


Students may find it helpful to examine more lengthy critical studies of a particular children's book, author, or illustrator, such as:

Griffith, John. (1993). Charlotte's Web: A Pig's Salvation. New York: Twayne.

Hallinan, Camilla. (2002). The Ultimate Peter Rabbit: A Visual Guide to the World of Beatrix Potter. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley.

Neumeyer, Peter, F. (1994). The Annotated Charlotte's Web. New York: HarperCollins.

Lanes, Selma G. (1980). The Art of Maurice Sendak. New York: Abrams.

Cech, John. (1995). Angels and Wild Things: The Archetypal Poetics of Maurice Sendak. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Roger Duvoisin: 1904-1980; The Art of Children's Books. Essay by Ellin Greene. New Brunswick, NJ: Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum/Rutgers University, 1989.

The Art of Eric Carle. (1996). New York: Philomel Books.

Students are expected to examine the wide variety of book selection aides available in Alexander Library and in local public libraries.

Each student will need to purchase or access a copy of Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang [Boston, MA: Seastar Books, 2000] and select, with other team members, a specific folktale you wish to illustrate with the principles Bang suggests. This assignment will be a group activity in the early weeks of the course. You will have time to read Bang's book and discuss with your team members what you envision as the product.




You will find numerous resources and experiences related to this course on the www. It is important to visit the various links so that you have a sense of what is available on the www. You will find links throughout the pages of my site as well as in those of others you visit.


Grades will be determined on the following basis:

  • Journal and Class Participation, demonstrating knowledge of class readings and thoughtful consideration of the content of this course: 20%
  • Illustrator Assignment: 20%
  • Picturebook Review: 20%
  • Review of Book for 8-12 Year Olds: 20%
  • PowerPoint Presentation: 20%

Policy on Academic Integrity Summary

By Rutgers University

“Academic freedom is a fundamental right in any institution of higher learning. Honesty and integrity are necessary preconditions to this freedom. Academic integrity requires that all academic work be wholly the product of an identified individual or individuals. Joint efforts are legitimate only when the assistance of others is explicitly acknowledged. Ethical conduct is the obligation of every member of the university community and breaches of academic integrity constitute serious offenses” (Academic Integrity Policy, p. 1).

The principles of academic integrity entail simple standards of honesty and truth. Each member of the university has a responsibility to uphold the standards of the community and to take action when others violate them.

Faculty members have an obligation to educate students to the standards of academic integrity and to report violations of these standards to the appropriate deans.

Students are responsible for knowing what the standards are and for adhering to them. Students should also bring any violations of which they are aware to the attention of their instructors.

Violations of Academic Integrity

Any involvement with cheating, the fabrication or invention of information used in an academic exercise, plagiarism, facilitating academic dishonesty, or denying others access to information or material may result in disciplinary action being taken at either the college or university level. Breaches of academic integrity can result in serious consequences ranging from reprimand to expulsion.

Violations of academic integrity are classified into four categories based on the level of seriousness of the behaviors. Brief descriptions are provided below. This is a general description and is not to be considered as all-inclusive.

Level One Violations

These violations may occur because of ignorance or inexperience on the part of the person(s) committing the violation and ordinarily involve a very minor portion of the course work. These violations are considered on academic merit and not as disciplinary offenses.

Examples: Improper footnoting or unauthorized assistance on academic work.

Recommended Sanctions: Makeup assignment.

Level Two Violations

Level two violations involve incidents of a more serious nature and affect a more significant aspect or portion of the course.

Examples: Quoting directly or paraphrasing without proper acknowledgement on a moderate portion of the assignment; failure to acknowledge all sources of information and contributors who helped with an assignment.

Recommended Sanctions: Probation, a failing grade on the assignment, or a failing grade in the course.

Level Three Violations

Level three offenses involve dishonesty on a significant portion of course work, such as a major paper, hourly, or final examination. Violations that are premeditated or involve repeat offenses of level one or level two are considered level three violations.

Examples: Copying from or giving others assistance on an hourly or final examination, plagiarizing major portions of an assignment, using forbidden material on an hourly or final, using a purchased term paper, presenting the work of another as one’s own, altering a graded examination for the purposes of re-grading.

Recommended Sanctions: Suspension from the university of one or more terms, with a notation of "academic disciplinary suspension" placed on a student's transcript for the period of suspension, and a failing grade in the course.

Level Four Violations

Level four violations are the most serious breaches of academic integrity. They include repeat offenses of level three violations.

Examples: Forgery of grade change forms, theft of examinations, having a substitute take an examination, dishonesty relating to senior thesis, master’s thesis, or doctoral dissertation, sabotaging another’s work, the violation of the ethical code of a profession, or all infractions committed after return from suspension for a previous violation.

Recommended Sanctions: Expulsion from the university and a permanent notation on the student’s transcript.

Faculty who believe that violations have occurred should immediately contact the Office of the Dean. Students who suspect that other students are involved in actions of academic dishonesty should speak to the instructor of the course. Questions on reporting procedures may be directed to the Office of the Dean.


SCILS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey