Literature and the Young Adult Reader 
by Ernie Bond


Chapter II:  The History of Young Adult Literature and the Role of the Classics

Young Adults and the Classics

Audio Books: Historical and Classic Connections

Literary Theory:  New Criticism


In Literature and the Young Adult Reader each chapter starts with a set of books that would work well to extend discussions about young adult literature (these are certainly not the only books that would work and some great new books will be added from time to time).

History of Young Adult Literature Text Set:
This set of books includes some works that might be considered milestones of YA literature

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The Contender by Robert Lipsyte

The Day They Came to Arrest the Book by Nat Hentoff

Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! by M. E. Kerr

Dragonwings by Laurence Yep

The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

North Town by Lorenz Graham

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Dateline Troy
by Paul Fleischman

Classics Revisited Text Set
The books in this set each revisits a "classic"

Dating Hamlet: Ophelia’s Story by Lisa Fiedler

Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness illustrated by Gris Grimly
A Mystery for Thoreau by Kim Platt
Ophelia by Lisa Klein

by Cynthia Voigt
Othello by Julius Lester

The Playmaker by C. B. Cheaney

Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by Michael Rosen

Troy by Adele Geras

Your Own Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill  

Investigating Historical Texts and Trends:

Although many historical works are not as immediately accessible to young adult readers because of outdated language, rhetoric, and social norms there is certainly value in reading literature that has withstood the test of time, have had an impact on literary tradition, popular culture, or that simply reflect the time in which they were written.

Hundreds of public domain children's books are now available free of cost on the World Wide Web. Numerous sites now serve as depositories of public domain literature, some with simply the text, others elaborately designed utilizing hypertext and including original illustrations.

Some of these texts are more appropriate for scholarly research purposes, as they no longer have an immediate appeal to children of the new millenium. Other books such as Alice in Wonderland, and Peter and Wendy (Peter Pan) are still being enjoyed by young readers today. So how might teachers take advantage of the fact that these classics of youth literature are readily available?

Selection and Censorship
Even those books that we consider to be the seminal literary precursors of today's YA literature, and the classics are often challenged in school settings.

Author Spotlights:

Four authors are highlighted in the second chapter of Literature and the Young Adult Reader. For more information about these authors you can visit their websites:


Young Adults and the Classics

There are certainly many reasons to read and explore classic works and literary masterpieces with young adults.  One of the main ways this is linked to young adult literature is to either use the YA books to bridge the classics, or to pair a classic with a YA book to make the exploration more meaningful, accessible, and relevant for teens and tweens. 

Classics like Jane Eyre can often become more accessible and moreinteresting when paired with novels such as Jane by April Lindner

Audio Books: Historical and Classic Connections

Audio books can be an exciting media for story and for the teacher worrried that listening to books will not have the same literacy benefits as reading... well it won't have the same benefits but it does have others.  Many literary elements can be explored quite effectively with audio books (plot, voice, character...) and wonderful comparisons can be made between the formats. Certainly one of the greatest benefits is the modeling of effective oral reading.

The website Sync and its publisher partners have done an amazing job of providing free audio of classics paired with comtemporary YA titles. ( The program will start back up in the summer of 2011 partnered with Curious City ( Many historical works have been revisted as audio books including:

Literary Theory: New Criticism

Northup Frye has asserted that "It is impossible to teach or learn literature: what one teaches or learns is criticism." Different theoretical lenses for approaching literature are explored in each chapter of Literature and the Young Adult Reader. These are only brief introductions to the theoretical lenses, in the hopes that those interested in a particular approach would explore further. The second chapter takes a look at New Criticism.  Some online sources for more information include:


There are numerous Young Adult literature related websites, videos, blogs... on the internet. For each chapter of Literature and the Young Adult Reader this site will provide some related online resources that might extend your investigations.

Booktalks and book trailers: 

Booktalks and book trailers both serve as advertisements for books:


Among the many authors with a web presence who you might want to visit:


Books online:

Depositories of public domain literature:

Individual works online include:


Other Resources:

The materials on this site are intended to enhance your experience with Literature and the Young Adult Reader

These materials are presented for educational purposes by the author and are not connected to the publisher.