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The children's literature of the Victorian era is characterized by increasingly sophisticated book design, a growing perception of the child market as made up of distinct subgroups, a boom in both mass-market forms such as periodicals aimed at young workers and high-end forms such as the gift book, and the gradual privileging of subtlety above transparency and entertainment above didacticism. During Victoria's reign, children's literature flourished not merely in an economic sense but also as a mature literary mode participating in the distinctive creative achievements of the day, inasmuch as, by the mid-nineteenth century, texts for children often employed the same psychological complexity, interpretive openness, and balancing of individual autonomy with an awareness of the social web that distinguish the great works of Victorian realism for adults. All these developments point to a renegotiation of British understandings of childhood, a willingness to cater to (and profit from) children's desire for leisure and for agency. While the Victorians did not invent children's literature, they dramatically expanded not only the number but also the scope of published works whose primary target was the young.
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Felluga, D. F., Gilbert, P. K., & Hughes, L. K.
The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature, 4 Volume Set