Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

American Literature in Special Collections: Children's Literature

An overview highlighting 19th, 20th, and 21st American literature and poetry held in Pepperdine's Special Collections. Compilation includes first editions and copies with inscriptions from writers.

Children's Literature in America

The genre of children’s literature has been established and reshaped over the past few centuries, beginning with stories which were primarily didactic in nature, preaching a certain moral standard through characters’ good deeds and wrongdoings. Overtime, elements of fantasy, absurdism, silliness, and realism became more prominent in the genre, and the underlying intents and themes moved away from solely ethics and morality and toward adventure, imagination, transformation, and individuality. Highlighted below are a myriad of children’s literature selections written by the following American authors: George P. Webster (& Washington Irving), Jacob Abbott, Horatio Alger, Martha Finley, Clement Clarke Moore, Boy Scouts of America, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Sidney, Ernest Thompson Seton, and Louisa May Alcott.

George P. Webster

Rip Van Winkle by George P. Webster (original story by Washington Irving)
Call Number: Children's 811.4 W379rundefined
Webster, George P, et al. Rip Van Winkle. Copyright 1889 by McLoughlin Bro's. New York, 1889
19th century American short story and legend, originally written by Washington Irving in 1819. The satiric, ironic story of Rip Van Winkle is named for its main character who wanders off to the woods, sleeps for twenty years straight, and awakens to a vastly different society post-American Revolution. 
In 1880, American writer George P. Webster re-configured Irving’s tale into a rhyming poem and published it as a children’s book. Featured here is an early edition of Webster’s adaptation.

Jacob Abbott

Jacob Abbott
As a congregationalist minister, Jacob Abbot strove to highlight religious morals in his juvenile work instead of simply writing stories for entertainment purposes. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote over 200 books which circulated extensively throughout Christian communities. Featured in Special Collections are two early editions of  Abbot’s juvenile work— one book from the Rollo series and one from the Cousin Lucy series.

Rollo in Holland by Jacob Abbott

Call Number: Children's 813.39 A132rh
Abbott, Jacob, and W.B. Conkey Company. Rollo in Holland. W.B. Conkey Company, 1900.

Juvenile book written by Jacob Abbott, mid-19th century children’s literature writer. The Rollo books were Abbott’s first successful series, featuring the adventures, challenges, and lessons of a 19th-century boy named Rollo. Rollo in Holland is the eighth book in the Rollo’s Tour in Europe series. The collection was didactic in nature, aiming to provide moral lessons for its youthful audience.

Cousin Lucy at Study by Jacob Abbot 

Call Number: Children's 813.39 A132co
MLA Citation: Abbott, Jacob. Cousin Lucy at Study. B.B. Mussey, 1845.

Early edition by mid-19th century writer Jacob Abbott. Cousin Lucy at Study is the first in Abbott’s six-book Cousin Lucy series. Abbot’s first successful series, the Rollo books, features a young 19th-century boy named Rollo navigating through daily life encounters and adversities. Lucy in the Lucy series is introduced as Rollo’s cousin, and the books follow a similar pattern to Rollo but with Lucy and her brother Royal as the central figures. With the primary audience for Rollo being male youth, Abbot wrote Lucy to appeal to a youthful female audience.

Horatio Alger

The Train Boy by Horatio Alger 

Call Number: 813.49 A395t

Alger, Horatio, and A. L Burt. The Train Boy. A.L. Burt, 1883.

Early edition of a youth novel by Horatio Alger, American writer and professor known for his stories featuring youthful male protagonists seeking social ascent from poverty through a good deed of courage or kindness. As noted in the library catalog description, this story features “sixteen-year-old Paul Palmer, who sells newspapers and magazines on the train to support his widowed mother and younger sister” and “achieves financial prosperity after spoiling the unsavory schemes of several swindlers.”
Though many assume that Alger based these stories on his own circumstances, the writer actually grew up with better-off financial circumstances. After attending Harvard, he pursued careers in writing, editing, and education. His work rehabilitating the lower-class male youth of New York inspired much of the content in his stories.


Martha Finley

Martha Finley undefined
Martha Finely was a 19th century teacher and writer from Chillicothe, Ohio where she grew up in a traditional Presbyterian home. Some of the narrow-mindedness and racial generalizing  associated with these traditions are illustrated in her work and reflect the social climate of her time and setting. Finley worked as a teacher in both Indiana and Pennsylvania and began writing as a supplementary form of income, a pursuit which brought her substantial success and wealth by the time of her death.

Mildred's New Daughter by Martha Finley 
Call Number: 813.499 F513m
Finley, Martha. Mildred's New Daughter. A.L. Burt, 1894.

Early edition children’s novel by 19th century writer Martha Finley. Mildred’s New Daughter is the seventh book in the Mildred Keith series. Some scholars suggest that this series is autobiographical in nature, reflecting Finley’s familial relationships, views on romantic relationships, and transition from adolescence to adulthood. Mildred’s New Daughter follows the progressions of the orphaned Eldon children as they become adults and pursue job opportunities and romantic relationships.

Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley 

Call Number: Children's 813.499 F513els
Finley, Martha. Elsie Dinsmore. Saalfield Pub, 1900.

Early edition novel written by children’s writer Martha Finley. This book is the first of the Elsie Dinsmore series, a Christian novel series following the childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of heroine Elsie Dinsmore. As in many children’s novels of the time, Elsie embodies purity and piety to its greatest extent, struggling when her own morality and principles are placed against the world’s apathy and evil. In the first book of the series, Elsie struggles to establish a relationship with her father due to her perceived discrepancy in religious belief and intent.


Clement Clarke Moore

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

Call Number: Children's 394.268 C555n
Moore, Clement Clarke. The Night Before Christmas. M.A. Donohue, 1916.
15-page, illustrated 1916 copy of “The Night Before Christmas.” This text is a children’s book featuring the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” or “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” first published anonymously in 1823. Though this poem was published sans authorship, the text came to be attributed to Clement C. Moore, American writer and professor, in 1844 after he asserted having written and read the poem to his own children three years prior to its original publication. Today, the poem is frequently attributed to Major Henry Livingston, though minimal evidence proves this ownership. Thus, the rightful authorship remains in question.

Boy Scouts of America

Handbook for Boys by Boy Scouts of America

Call Number: Children's 369.43 B69h
Boy Scouts of America. Handbook for Boys. Boy Scouts of America, 1929.

Official Boy Scouts of America handbook published in 1929 (first edition published in 1910). This handbook contains guidelines and information ranging from the official Boy Scout Oath and Law to wilderness exploration to First Aid and survival strategies to youthful games and leadership activities. The book is divided into seven parts: “What Is Scouting?;” “How to Become a Tenderfoot Scout;” “How to Become a Second Class Scout;” “How to Become a First Class Scout;” “Merit Badge Progress;” “Additional Soutcraft;” and “Appendix.” Hand-drawn images accompany the text on each page, and a colorful cover featured here encloses the book.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

True Stories from History and Biography by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Call Number: Children's 813.33 t
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. True Stories from History and Biography. James R. Osgood, 1873.
Early edition book by Nathaniel Hawthrone featuring a children’s story entitled Grandfather's Chair in  addition to the “Biographical Stories.” In these stories Hawthorne re-tells history from a narrative, comprehensive perspective, and the writer has admitted that he has “assumed the license of filling up the outline of history with details, for which he has none but imaginative authority” (qtd. in Billman). Even more than providing detail, however, Hawthorne’s retellings of history seek to offer a moral lesson for his youthful audience who he regards as “sacred” (Hawthorne 260). In her analysis of Hawthorne’s children’s literature, Carol Billman notes that the writer actually “takes care to inculcate lessons to preserve the sacredness of the audience’s hearts” (108).



Well-acclaimed for his classics The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th-century novelist and short story writer whose works remain potent in the American literary canon. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, much of Hawthorne’s works illustrate the New England, Puritan experience, “explor[ing]problems of sin, guilt, and hypocrisy through allegory and emphasis on the supernatural,” (New World Encyclopedia) in addition to other spiritual theories such as transcendentalism. Hawthorne’s contemporaries include Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, the latter of which is known for similar themes and settings in his writings.

Margaret Sidney



Margaret Sidney (Harriett Lothrop)

Margaret Sidney was born as Harriet Mulford Stone in June 1844, the former of these names a pseudonym she adopted for her writing career. Sidney was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and much of her writing was influenced by the settings and scenes of the surrounding people and cultures of New England. As a turn-of-the-century author, Sidney produced a large collection of children’s literature and later managed the D. Lothrop & Co. publishing company, first established by her husband Daniel Lothrop.
Five Little Peppers Series 
After beginning her career as an author writing short stories, Sidney produced her first novel in 1881, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, marking the birth of her most well-known series, Five Little Peppers. The series features the adversities, joys, and daily encounters of the widowed Mrs. Pepper and the five Pepper children, each with a distinct personality and profile. Featured in Special Collection are the fourth (Phronsie Pepper) and the the sixth (The Adventures of Joel Pepper) novels in the series. While many 18th century writers tended to write with a didactic, undefinedsermonizing tone, Sidney is often praised for illustrating universal values with an approachable disposition. 

Phronsie Pepper: The Last of the "Five Little Peppers" by Margaret Sidney 

Call Number: Children's 813.5 S569p

MLA: Sidney, Margaret, et al. Phronsie Pepper : The Last of the "Five Little Peppers". Lothrop Publishing Company, 1897.

The Adventures of Joel Pepper by Margaret Sidney

Call Number: Children's 813.5 S569a
Sidney, Margaret, et al. The Adventures of Joel Pepper. Lothrop Publishing Company, 1900.

Ernest Thompson Seton

The Biography of a Grizzly by Ernest Thompson Seton 

Call Number: Children's 599.74 S495b
Seton, Ernest Thompson. The Biography of a Grizzly. Hodder & Stoughton, 1900.
Early edition children’s book written by nature writer, illustrator, and storyteller Ernest Thompson Seton. The Biography of a Grizzly tells the story of Wahb, a young grizzly who loses his mother and siblings and navigates life on his own in Wyoming, where he learns that man is his greatest enemy. Though born in Canada, Seton traveled internationally for his studies in art and made significant contributions in the realms of literature and nature in the United States. In addition to his natural history studies and his artistic production, he wrote and published numerous books and writings relevant to the field. He was also an original founder of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, holding the role of Chief Scout until 1915. In his later years, he undertook woodcrafting and established a school specializing in the trade.


Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott

Known for her classic novel Little Women, Louisa May Alcott was a passionate, imaginative writer with a simple and elegant style. Born in Pennsylvania in 1832, she began writing at age eight and published her first book by age twenty two. Alcott studied under other writers like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and she was also inspired by the 19th century transcendentalist movement that both she and her parents were born into. Though Little Women is at times associated with a traditionalist outlook on womanhood, Alcott was actually progressive for her time, promoting women’s rights through her writing and becoming the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Connecticut.


Eight Cousins, or, the Aunt-Hill by Louisa May Alcott undefined

Call Number: 813.41 e 1904
MLA: Alcott, Louisa May. Eight Cousins, or, the Aunt-Hill. Little, Brown, 1901.

Adolescent novel written by Louisa May Alcott, first published in1875. After her beloved father passes away, 13-year-old Rose Campbell faces a new life living with six aunts and seven exuberant male cousins.

Rose in Bloom: A Sequel to Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott 

Call Number: Children's 813.41 r
Alcott, Louisa May, and Roberts Brothers (Boston, Mass.). Rose in Bloom : A Sequel to Eight Cousins. Roberts Brothers, 1888.

The sequel to Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins, or, the Aunt-Hill. The series’ protagonist Rose returns to her aunts’ and cousins’ home after several years traveling abroad and faces the challenges of numerous male admirers, friends with materialistic intentions, and her own desire for independence and self-achievement.

An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott 

Call Number: Children's 813.41 o 1870
Alcott, Louisa May, et al. An Old-Fashioned Girl. Roberts Brothers, 1870.
First edition adolescent novel written by Louisa May Alcott, first published in 1870.  The story's protagonist, Polly Milton, encounters a friend whose wealth and material possessions seem to define all her ideals and concerns. Polly is faced with weighing her own morals against this appealing and luxurious lifestyle.

Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag: Shawl-Straps by Louisa May Alcott 

Early edition of a book belonging to the several-volume Scrap-Bag series by Louisa May Alcott. The short-story series in total contains six volumes, and Shawl-Straps is a book found in the second of these volumes. Alcott’s European travels with her sister May inspire some of the short stories included in this collection.

Call Number: Children's 813.41 a
Alcott, Louisa May. Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag : Shawl-Straps. Roberts Bros, 1873.

Early edition of a book belonging to the several-volume Scrap-Bag series by Louisa May Alcott. The short-story series in total contains six volumes, and Shawl-Straps is a book found in the second of these volumes. Alcott’s European travels with her sister May inspire some of the short stories included in this collection.