Smith offers an in-depth discussion of British fantasy literature from its origins in the 18th century through 1990, juxtaposing its evolution against the background of social, cultural, and educational developments in Great Britain. She categorizes the fantasy form in terms of four stages of development: the Didactic (the earliest period, including Dorothy Kilner and Sarah Trimmer); the Enlightenment (including John Ruskin, George MacDonald, and Lewis Carroll); the Diversionary (including Edith Nesbit, J.M. Barrie, and Kenneth Grahame), and the Dynamic (including C.S. Lewis and Susan Cooper). In the 18th and early 19th centuries, writers produced an inherently conservative form of fantasy. During the 19th and 20th centuries, they became far more adventurous in allowing their youthful protagonists free imaginative rein. Correspondingly, the geograhical text became more complex, as heroes and heroines participated in fantasy excursions far less conventional than previously experienced. The author also discusses Australian and New Zealand fantasy, which show the influence of British fantasy.
She highlights such authors as Ruth Park, Patricia Wrightson, Carolyn MacDonald, and Margaret Mahy. Over two hundred British, Australian, and New Zealand works are included; bibliography and indexes.
Karen Patricia Smith is Assistant Professor, Queens College GSLIS, Flushing, NY. Her articles and essays have appeared in many journals, including Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Wilson Library Journal, School Library Journal, Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, and Library Trends, and she has published chapters in two previous Scarecrow Press books, Library Education and Leadership: Essays in Honor of Jane Anne Hannigan, ed. Sheila S. Intner and Kay E. Vandergraft (1990) and Library Lit. 20-The Best of 1989, ed. Jane Anne Hannigan (1990).