Children’s Literature

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Dr. Carrie Sickmann Han
E-mail: Canvas (preferred) or
Office hours: CA 501Q Tuesdays and Thursday 3-4:30pm

You may message me at any time with your questions, correspondence and concerns. While I may not respond immediately, you can generally expect me to respond to an e-mail within 24 hours (and usually before). I will answer messages sent during evenings or weekends on the next weekday, if not sooner. I am available to talk with you in person, via Canvas chat or Google Hangout, or on the phone as necessary. Please send me a message to schedule an appointment.

This syllabus is the basis for the contract between me, the professor, and you, the students in this class. You are responsible for all information about course policies contained within this syllabus.

I strongly suggest you read hard copies of our course texts. Please purchase or obtain the following texts, available new or used at IUPUI Bookstore, online retailers or libraries. Novels marked with an [*] are available as free e-texts (kindle, pdf, and html), linked here and in the “Readings” section of each module.

[*] William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1597)
[*]Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)  
[*]Frances H. Burnett, The Secret Garden (1910)
[*] J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan (1911)*
R.L. Stevenson, Treasure Island (1883)
[*] Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894)
Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976)
Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia (1977)
Lois Lowry, The Giver (1993)[*]
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (2000)
Gene L. Yang, American Born Chinese (2006)
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (2008)
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book (2008)                                                                             

* The edition of Peter Pan available in the bookstore includes Peter and Wendy and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and we will be reading both.

Additional readings will be provided on Canvas.

Overview and Goals
This course will focus on children’s stories, ranging from fairy tales, to novels, to contemporary fiction and film. We will explore the forms, functions, and pleasures of children’s fiction, addressing such questions as: What constitutes children’s fiction? What are the origins and history of children’s literature? Why is children’s literature such an integral component of today’s entertainment industry? What themes or issues characterize the genre? What criteria are used to evaluate children’s literature? As we investigate the complex history of the genre, we will gain a better appreciation for and understanding of its inner workings.


  • To become familiar with a range of children’s literature from the 18th-21st century
  • To understand the historical origins and development of children’s literature
  • To analyze how changing constructions of childhood shape children’s literature
  • To query the characteristics used to categorize children’s literature
  • To explore the impact of material and narrative forms on the functions and content of children’s literature
  • To investigate the criteria used to evaluate children’s literature
  • To apply techniques of literary analysis to children’s literature
  • To  improve critical thinking skills

A Note on Participation: THIS IS A READING- AND WRITING-INTENSIVE COURSE. Class attendance in the form of disciplined reading habits and regular, short response writings keeps you engaged with the material and is the single most accurate predictor of success in this course. I do not expect you to do more work in this class than you would in a normal class, but you will need to work consistently and complete all of your written assignments on time in order to succeed. Keep in mind that although you don’t have to come to campus and spend three hours a week in class, this course will demand at least the same amount of time as its face-to-face equivalent does.

English L390 and the Principles of Undergraduate Learning
As you continue your academic career, it is important to understand how your learning in various courses helps you make progress toward your professional and personal goals.  IUPUI has developed a set of expectations for the undergraduate educational experience, defining the higher-order abilities and skills that all our undergraduates are expected to master. These expectations are called the Principles of Undergraduate Learning (PULs). To a certain extent, our L390 curriculum supports all of the PULs. However, the principles related to Critical Thinking are especially relevant to L390.

Critical Thinking is defined as the ability of students to “engage in a process of disciplined thinking that informs beliefs and actions. A student who demonstrates critical thinking applies the process of disciplined thinking by remaining open-minded, reconsidering previous beliefs and actions, and adjusting his or her thinking, beliefs and actions based on new information.”

Because effective interpretation and writing depend upon effective thinking, your critical thinking skills will be enhanced through this course. For example, you will develop the ability “to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create knowledge; to discern bias, challenge assumptions, identify consequences, arrive at reasoned conclusions, generate and explore new questions, solve challenging and complex problems, and make informed decisions.” ( These critical thinking skills are evidenced in the writing you produce in L390. Overall, you will gain abilities this semester in L390 that you will use throughout your college career and take with you into the workplace.

Course Structure, Assignments and Assessment
This online course is divided into one orientation unit and seven additional units built on a regular two-week schedule. The normal structure for the two-week units is as follows:

  • The first week of each unit is a reading week. During this week, you will complete the assigned readings and read the lecture notes on those readings. After completing the reading, you will then take a quiz to reinforce significant sections of the text. Be sure to manage your time carefully during reading week; the reading load is heavy and managed best with daily reading time.
  • The second week of each unit is a writing and reflection week, during which you will complete two writing and participation assignments. These assignments are as follows:
    • No later than Sunday (the first day of the writing week) you will complete a quiz about the module’s readings.
    • By Monday, you will complete the module’s Activity (often a “Collaboration” doc)
    • By Tuesday, you will post a 250+ word Discussion Posting according to the assignment posted in Discussions. You will also post 100+ word responses to at least two other students’ discussion writings.
  • On Thursday, I will post Feedback, a class newsletter in which I compile comments, questions, and ideas generated from your Discussion Postings. Feedback will contain the questions for your Debate Posting assignment.
  • By Saturday, you will post a 250+ word Debate Posting and 100+ word responses to at least two other students’ debate writings.

In addition to these regular assignments you will complete a midterm exam and two critical projects.

Outline of Assignments

**All assignments are due by the end of the day (i.e. 11:59 p.m.) on their due dates.

Miscellaneous Assignments: Your first assignment will be to complete a Scavenger Hunt, or a series of tasks which walk you through the course structure and introduce you to our central theme via your first lectures and other readings. You will also earn a few points for participating in a conference and for completing a course evaluation survey at the end of the semester.

7 Quizzes: You will complete each module’s at the beginning of the writing week on Sunday. These quizzes are open-book, open-note, and are designed to help ensure that you are reading carefully and grasping key concepts, characters, and story lines in our readings.

7 Activity Postings: You will complete your Activity Posting by Monday of each writing week. These activities will often ask you to collaborate with your peers to produce Google Docs or Wiki pages that can benefit the whole class. They replicate the group work or classroom activities that we would do in a face-to-face course. In order to contribute to the collaborative Google Docs, you will need to register for a free Google account if you don’t already have one. Go to the following site to register:

7 Discussion Postings: You will complete your Discussion Posting by Tuesday of each writing week. You will write a 300+ word response to one of several questions the professor will post in the Canvas Discussion group to which you will be assigned. For each Discussion, you will also post a brief response of 100+ words to at least two other students’ Discussion Posts, a process which encourages deeper exploration of the texts and encourages you to engage with each other as you would in a classroom setting.

7 Debate Postings: Before completing this assignment, you will read Feedback, our class newsletter (posted by professor on Thursday of writing week). Feedback will contain comments from the professor on your quizzes and responses to our readings. I will also include selections from students’ insightful Discussion Postings and develop our debate questions from your Discussions. You will pick one of these debates, choose a side, and post a 300+ word statement defending your position in a short debate posting in Canvas Discussions by Saturday of writing week. For each Debate Posting, you will also post 100+ word responses to at least two of your classmates’ postings.

One Midterm Exam consisting of several short answer questions and an essay.

Adapting Shakespeare Project: You will either choose a children’s edition of Romeo and Juliet that we haven’t discussed or create your own. You will then write an analysis of the adaptation, putting it into conversation with the other versions we have studied, and explaining how it uses or adapts concepts from Nodelman or Bang.

Final Paper: This paper serves as a final for this course. It can take several different forms, including a critical analysis paper, a detailed unit plan, or a creative piece with explanation. It must engage at least 2 texts from the second half of the semester.




Point Value


Total Points

Unit 1 / Scavenger Hunt

Office Hours Conference



30 (3%)

20 (2%)

7 Quizzes

7 Activity Postings

15 each

10 each

105 (10.5%)

70 (7%)

7 Discussion Postings 15 each 105 (10.5%)
7 Debate Postings

Adapting Shakespeare Paper

Midterm Exam

15 each



105 (10.5%)

100 (10%)

200 (20%)

Final Paper

Course Evaluation



250 (25%)

15 (1.5%)


At semester’s end your point total will be converted to a final grade as follows:

930-1000         =   A

900-929           =   A-

880-899           =   B+

830-879           =   B

800-829           =   B- … and so on.


I reserve the right to round borderline grades up when students earn the higher grade through outstanding effort and participation.

Grading Standards:

“C” work (11 points on Discussion postings) meets the basic requirements of the assignment.  It uses sources as required, has an analytical purpose, and meets the minimum required length. It has a central thesis, though this thesis may be loose or undeveloped. The writer may rely on plot summary rather than on analysis; ideas need developing, and/or relationships between interpretive ideas and textual evidence need more explicit connections. The contribution this essay wants to make to the discussion of the text needs to be clearer. May have errors of punctuation, spelling, diction, and/or syntax. Often a first, unrevised draft.

 “A” work (14-15 points on Discussion postings) makes a complex contribution to the problem it proposes to analyze. It does not simply summarize the problem or illustrate the topic, but shows why thinking about the issues it raises is important. It has a clearly defined analytical thesis which relates to central issues in a text. It uses quotations from the text in support of its argument in a compelling and persuasive way: it explains clearly how chosen textual support relates to the complex ideas of its thesis. It introduces quotations from the text gracefully and often goes out on a limb. It generally surprises and convinces the reader. It has been flawlessly proofread for errors of spelling, grammar, etc.

 “B” work (12-13 points on Discussion postings) has a coherent, analytical thesis and argument. References to the text are effective and enhance the persuasiveness of the thesis statement. The contribution this essay makes to an issue about a text is clear, although some of the complexities and implications of the writer’s position may not be fully worked out. It may surprise the reader, but not entirely convince the reader. Alternately, it may convince the reader without any stunning revelations. The organization of the essay is logical and basically unified; transitions provide places for the reader to “catch up” with the argument. The paper has been proofread for typos, spelling, and grammar.

 “D” work (9-10 points on Discussion postings) does not meet the basic requirements of the assignment, including paper length, analytical purpose, or use of evidence from the text.  This paper lacks a unifying topic and may be composed entirely of plot summary rather than analytical argument. The key difference between a “C” and a “D” paper is that a “C” paper has a thesis of some kind while a “D” paper does not. May have errors of punctuation, spelling, diction, and/or syntax. Such papers are often written in a hurry and raise questions as to whether the writer has carefully read the text in question.

 “F” work (below 9 points on Discussion postings) fails to meet the requirements of the assignment. This is often an incomplete draft that suggests the writer has not read the text in question or put any time or thought into the paper.

Course Policies
You are responsible for understanding the campus-wide policies governing the conduct of courses at IUPUI and how they apply to you. These include policies on Administrative Withdrawal, Disabilities, Emergency Withdrawal, Military Service, Official Enrollment, Religious Holidays, Academic Policies, and issues of Academic Integrity. These policies can be found at

If you encounter life stressors during the semester that challenge your ability to complete your coursework successfully, contact student advocates Confidential employees on the IUPUI campus also include licensed, professional mental health counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), 317-274-2548, the Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Specialist, 317-274-2503, and health center employees at the Student Health Center, 317-274-2274.

Attendance: Regular class attendance is the single best predictor of success in an online course. You attend class in the online environment by reading the assigned texts and course lectures, consistently turning in your work, and reading Feedback, the class newsletter comprised of professor thoughts and student insights which will be posted during each unit. Remember that if you are diligent about reading carefully and posting your regular writing assignments on time, you will basically earn automatic credit and also position yourself to maximize your learning experience and produce better written work.

Deadlines: All assignments are due by the end of the day (i.e. 11:59 p.m.) on their due dates. In general, you will lose a specific number of points on any assignment that you turn in late. Missed postings and quizzes may be completed at any time, though for reduced credit. Missed exams must be made up within three days, and each day will be penalized.  If you need to request an extension, please contact me before the assignment is due. You may avoid penalties for late assignments by providing a note from the Dean verifying a medical or family emergency.

Academic Integrity: The purpose of this course is to help you learn to formulate and express your own ideas; it therefore goes without saying that all work you turn in should be your own. Over the course of the semester, we will discuss the correct ways in which you may incorporate other people’s ideas into your writing. However, knowingly passing off someone else’s words as your own is a violation of Indiana University’s Code of Conduct. Depending on the nature of the offense, the penalty for plagiarism may include receiving an F on a paper, failing this course and being referred to the Dean, or being expelled from the university.

Stop here. Please send me a message through Canvas Inbox, sharing the title of your all-time favorite book and your favorite movie/tv show. I’m always looking for recommendations! Also let me know if there’s anything I need to know in order to work better with you this semester. Just checking to be sure you’re paying attention. J Thanks ~ and now you may continue reading the syllabus.

The University Writing Center: For additional help with your coursework, I strongly encourage you to visit the Writing Center, an outstanding free resource provided by the University. A tutor can help you at any stage of progress, from brainstorming to final revisions. The Writing Center has two locations: Cavanaugh 427 (274-2049) and the University Library (278-8171).  Appointments are recommended. Go to for details.

Technological Problems: If you experience technological problems with your own computer or with your use of Canvas, immediately call 274-HELP. If calling the help line does not resolve the issue, contact me and we will work together to find a solution.


Course Schedule
IMPORTANT: For exact dates and links to all assignments, follow the Modules on our Canvas Homepage.


Module 1: Course Introduction

Week 1 (8/24-8/29)
Introduction and Syllabus
– What is Childhood’s Literature?

– Nodelman, “The Pleasures of Picture Books”
– Why We Tell Stories to Children [pwrpnt]
– Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963)
– Gray and Sharp (eds. Grosset and Dunlap), Fun with Dick and Jane (orig. 1930, 2004)
– Reading Rainbow, “The Tortoise and the Hare”

– Heinrich Hoffman, Der Struwwelpeter (1844)
– Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense (1894)
 – ABC for Baby Patriots (1899)

Module 2: Fairy Tales

Week 2: Reading (8/31-9/5) [all available on Canvas]
– Brothers Grimm, “Cinderella” (1884)
– [Disney, Cinderella clip (1950)]
– Anna Sexton, “Cinderella” (1971)
– Maitland, “The Wicked Stepmother’s Lament” (1987)
– Hans Christen Andersen, “The Little Mermaid”
– Disney, The Little Mermaid [clip]
– Charles Perrault, “Little Red Riding Hood” (1697)
– Grimm, “Little Red Cap”
– Carter, “The Werewolf”
– Michael Emberley, Ruby
 – Roald Dahl, Revolting Rhymes
 – Molly Bang, Picture This (2000)

Week 3: Writing (9/6-9/12)

Module 3: Adapting Literature for Children

Week 4: Reading (9/14-9/19)
–  William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1597)
– Nesbit, The Children’s Shakespeare (1895) [selections]
– Patrick Stewart, Shakespeare Tribute on Sesame Street (2012)

Week 5: Writing (9/20-9/26)

 Paper 1 Due



Module 4: Childhood Fantasies

Week 6 Reading (9/28-10/3)
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
– J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) [selections]
– Barrie, Peter and Wendy (1911)

Week 7 Writing Week (10/4-10/10)

Module 5: Nature and Adventure

Week 8/9 Reading Week (10/12-10/24) (combined to account for fall break)
– Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894) [selections]
– Stevenson, Treasure Island (1882)
– Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) [selections]
– Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911)

Week 10: Writing Week (10/25-10/31)

Midterm Exam



Module 6: Awarding and Rewarding Literature

Week 11: Reading Week (11/2-11/7)
– Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia (1977)
– Lowry, The Giver (1993)
– Gaiman, The Graveyard Book (2008)

Week 12: Writing Week (11/8-11/14)

Module 7: Multicultural Fiction and Social Issues

Week 13: Reading Week (11/16-11/21)
– Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976)
– Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (2003)
–  Luen Yang, American Born Chinese (2006)

Week 14: Writing Week (11/22-11/28) [Thanksgiving]

Module 8: Banned Books

Week 15: Reading Week (11/30-12/5)
– Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) [short excerpts]
– Haan and Nijland, King & King (2002)
– Collins, The Hunger Games (2008)

Week 16: Writing Week (12/6-12/12)

Final Project Due