Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas P. Walsh


In 1969 Lloyd Alexander received the Newberry Award for The High King, fifth and last in the series of children's books he had undertaken concerning the land of Prydain and its final deliverance from evil magic. The Newberry Award brought to national and international claim an author whose work is of such quality, substance and character that it will remain firmly entrenched not only in the annals of children's literature, but in the hearts and minds of its readers as well. It is unfortunate that with a very few exceptions, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows, Children's literature has escaped serious scholarly criticism. Because it must hold the child's attention or be useless, its primary objective is to tell a good story in the most entertaining manner possible—an objective which often seems to be lacking in adult fiction, the series writer running from the word “entertainment” as if it carried some nameless disease with which he might become infected and considering the frivolous pastime of enjoying worthy only of the perpetrators of a class of pulp fiction deplorably lacking in literary merit or intellectual consequence. The children's author cannot take the High Road of literary superiority and neglect the eternal human craving for amusement ; instead, he must try to straddle both paths and produce a work which is absorbing to read and yet contains the careful craftsmanship and zeal for grammatical construction necessary to parents and teachers. That a great number of children's authors achieve this difficult position, some even managing to make the paths mingle until any obvious predilection from one or the other becomes invisible and the finished product exhibits a balance of form and a light which nominates it for the title “classic,” should be a spur to the more impressive writer of adult fiction, even as it is a complete justification for considering the children's author worthy of serious criticism.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of English and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1981 Melinda S. Murdock.

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