Background and status of knowledge

Raymond Williams (1976: 184) pointed out that nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language, since nature is not only a physical entity but also a cultural concept. Few ideas in Western culture appear as intimately connected and intertwined as ‘nature’ and ‘child’, but despite the seemingly overwhelming connections, these two concepts have almost been protected from analyses and change (Lesnik-Oberstein 1998: 210). This is surprising, as children’s literature offers one of the most extensive sources for the study of ideas about nature, the environment and the role of humans in relation to these (Lesnik-Oberstein 1998: 216, Cutter-Makenzie 2011).

The complexity of the concept of ‘nature’ is elaborated by Hollindale (2011: 161), who identifies three main perspectives on nature within children’s literature: It may be conceived of as a deity, as the material world, or as ‘human nature’. Familiarity with an extensive text corpus within children’s and YA literature places NaChiLit in a privileged position in terms of analyzing the varied and disparate conceptions and representations of nature found within such texts.