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They all seem to pass through the very same stages of development without exception. Moreover, the same cultural factors and institutions are involved in their creation. (Shavit 1986: 133f) Models like these are problematic from the point of view of comparative literary studies because, above and beyond a useful systematic view of the development of children’s literature in specific (usually Northern European) cultures, they develop a theory of cultural conditions which claim to be universally valid.

The proportion of translations in children’s literatures varies greatly, ranging from 1 per cent to around 80 per cent. The countries that ‘give’ (export) the most also ‘receive’ (import) the least: they are Great Britain (approximately 3 per cent imports) and the USA (approximately 1 per cent imports), the mighty leaders in the production tables of children’s literature. In the developed children’s literatures the Scandinavian countries top the list as those who are most welcoming to literature produced outside their linguistic areas, with Finland leading at around 80 per cent.

If children’s fiction builds an image of the child inside the book, it does so in order to secure the child who is outside the book, the one who does not come so easily within its grasp. (Rose 1984: 1) 10 Introduction There are ways of countering this view, but none the less it has to be considered. Later, Rose offers a less controvertible utterance, probably the reason so many adult readers find solace in children’s literature: Reading is magic (if it has never been experienced by the child as magic then the child will be unable to read); it is also an experience which allows the child to master the vagaries of living, to strengthen and fortify the ego, and to integrate the personality – a process ideally to be elicited by the aesthetic coherence of the book.

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