Melissa M. Terra’s, The Professor in Children’s Literature: An Anthology, is a companion piece to her book, Picture-Book Professors: Academia and Children’s Literature, which was an in-depth look at how the children’s book industry has portrayed academia in literature over the years. The Professor in Children’s Literature begins with a short recap of her main work, and while this book isn’t likely to stand on its own, the refresher will be handy to any reader who doesn’t read these two works back-to-back. Melissa explains this collection best: “The excerpts featured here are twenty-six of my favourite from fifty or so out of copyright books that feature an illustrated professor within my corpus.”
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As Melissa said, these are excerpts of larger works, at least most of them are. Some of the excerpts included are illustration only. All of the included works are well-sourced so anyone interested in further reading have an idea of where to look. The book includes plenty of images – as most children’s books are illustrated to some degree – and getting to see the various depictions are quite helpful with regards to some of Melissa’s points. In particular, I found the great many variations of illustrations from the scene where the professor finds and then drops the water baby in The Water Babies, a Fairy Tale for a Land Baby, by Charles Kingsley, to be particularly fascinating. Each entry begins with a short introduction where Melissa tells readers the author and title from which the excerpt is taken, as well as a bit about the work’s history, how it fits into her corpus, and any other relevant information (such as an explanation that a poem was included “as published, to retain the layout of text and illustration on the page.”).
Due to the nature of this work, this is a book that will have a very select and limited audience. However, The Professor in Children’s Literature serves its function as a companion piece to Picture-Book Professors perfectly. The book is presented clearly, is easy to search through, and well worth the time to investigate a little deeper into publishing history for those so inclined.
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