by Clémentine Beauvais

About Clémentine Beauvais

Clémentine Beauvais is Senior Lecturer in English in Education at the University of York. She has worked on children’s literature theory and the history and cultural sociology of child giftedness and is now working on literary translation in education, looking at the uses of literary translation in the classroom for purposes of language learning and literary education. She is the author of The Mighty Child: Time and Power in Children’s Literature (2015) and the co-editor, with Maria Nikolajeva, of The Edinburgh Companion to Children’s Literature (2017). She is also a writer and a literary translator of children’s and young adult literature.


All that didactic means, etymologically, is “instructive” or “skilled at teaching” (OED: διδακτικός). That meaning has persisted, neutrally, in some languages, where a departamento de didáctica or département de didactique simply refers to an education faculty, or Didaktik labels the theory of teaching. But the term, today, in English, is generally used polemically. To call a children’s book didactic is to accuse it of trying to impart a “message”—generally of a moral nature. Didactic, in children’s literature criticism and reviewing, is often synonymous with moralizing, authoritarian, totalitarian, propagandist. The term is also its own superlative: rarely is a book deemed “too didactic”; didactic generally suffices to condemn it.