The world of children’s literature in the 1960s and 1970s clearly enjoyed the sense of a new golden age in the making. This was generated not only by the appearance of exciting new writing and the increased social and educational interest in children’s reading outlined in the Introduction, but also in the degree to which these factors coalesced to form a coherent cultural phenomenon. The first half of the twentieth century had seen some important developments in British children’s literature, including the appearance of landmark titles such as Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes (1936) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937), the establishment of the Carnegie Medal (1936), and the launch of Puffin, the first major children’s paperback imprint (1939).1 A lack of serious critical attention for children’s literature, however, meant that such developments happened in isolation: Geoffrey Trease, who started his career as a children’s writer in 1934, recollects, ‘I myself knew nothing of Emil [and the Detectives]. Nor did I know that in 1930 a man named Arthur Ransome had blazed a new trail with a book called Swallows and Amazons’.2 By contrast, the 1960s saw an onslaught of new initiatives which served to fuel progression in a whole range of areas. Some of these developments were interdependent for practical reasons – the social and economic factors explored in the Introduction funded the expansion of children’s publishing – but the sense of interconnection extended beyond these practical exigencies. In the rapidly changing social context of the 1960s and 1970s, childhood became a central focus of British culture, garnering attention both in academia and in popular culture. Due to this broader discourse about children and childhood, developments in separate fields such as education, librarianship and publishing did not take place in isolation but in direct response to one another. Many practitioners in the field of children’s literature operated in several different spheres, carrying ideas and expertise from one to another. Librarians such as Sheila Ray and Elaine Moss became active and influential critics and reviewers, drawing on their experiences with child readers to develop new ideologies about the purpose and nature of children’s literature. Geoffrey Trease and Jill Paton Walsh were among the many children’s authors who also contributed to the field as critics and reviewers; John Rowe Townsend

was children’s book editor for the Guardian and published several influential works of criticism in addition to his prolific output of fiction for children and young adults. The activities of children’s editors also extended beyond the world of publishing, and several wrote as well as published children’s books; for example, Philippa Pearce, most famous for her fiction – notably Carnegie Medal winner Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958) – also edited the children’s list at Andre Deutsch.3 Many authors and critics emerged from the world of education: authors Bernard Ashley, Farrukh Dhondy and Jan Mark, and critic Margaret Meek all began their careers as teachers, and in many cases were motivated by a desire for children’s literature which would serve the kind of children they were teaching. Aidan Chambers, who is explored in depth in Chapter 3, is the epitome of this trend for inter-disciplinarity: his career spanned almost every aspect of children’s literature. The endeavour of defining and producing ‘quality’ children’s literature, therefore, was not fragmented or confined to a single discipline, but was part of the dominant social discourse. In order to understand the context within which children’s publishers positioned their books as the ‘best’ in children’s reading, therefore, it is essential to examine the contributions of practitioners from across a range of disciplines. This chapter explores the ways in which writers, critics, librarians and other children’s literature practitioners defined the qualities of this ‘golden age’ of children’s literature.