Boyhood

Along with childhood and girlhood, boyhood is central to the definition of children’s literature. John Newbery’s A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744), frequently credited with igniting the children’s literature industry, addressed boys and girls separately as distinct audiences: The book was available for purchase with a ball for boys and a pincushion for girls. Filled with descriptions of games specifically for boys and referring to boy players, the 1787 edition published by Isaiah Thomas in the United States paid additional attention to boys by including a prefatory address to adults about how to raise a healthy, virtuous, and wise son, thereby connecting the “birth” of children’s literature with lessons on how to be and have a good boy.

“Boys,” wrote Philippe Ariès in his controversial Centuries of Childhood (1962), “were the first specialized children.” Sixteenth-century Europeans used clothes as markers to distinguish boys from children. As infants and toddlers, boys …

This essay may be found on page 21 of the printed volume.

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