Professor Cadden currently teaches at Missouri Western State College. Note that the chapter references here are to the second edition of Pleasures--the equivalent chapters in the third edition are the same through chapter six, after which you need to add one: thus, chapter 8 in the second edition is chapter 9 in the third edition.
The Pleasures of Children's Literature remains the best bet for those of us who want to provide our students, many of whom will be going "out there" to present literature to their own students, something other than a structuralist presentation of literature. Although the theory may be out there, it hasn't all made it to the handbooks. I have found myself using Pleasures in order to discuss more of the polemics of literature rather than just its pieces. To this end, Pleasures is useful as the sole handbook for a course as well as a companion piece for more traditional handbooks and anthologies.
The four major parts of this book speak to different, although equally important, dimensions of the field, thereby providing students an accurate representation of how children's literature is discussed in different contexts. Pleasures allows me to discuss questions of children's literature as a special literature, as an ideological domain, as a genre with its own subdivisions, and as a site for literary critique.
I tend to structure my course either by subgenre or by historical period; Pleasures can be adapted to either approach because of the book's malleable construction. When I set the course up by subgenre I use Part Four of Pleasures, that which treats the specific subgenres (the whole of most other handbooks), as a way to structure the course calendar, referring to the appropriate chapter as I introduce a new subgenre. I typically begin the course with a brief preface on why we, in the English Department, are talking about children's literature in the first place. This "preface" involves having the students read Jill May's article, "What Content Should Be Taught in Children's Literature?" and Peter Neumeyer's article, "Children's Literature in the English Department," in order to address, right away, the context and justification for the course. I then synthesize Parts One and Three of Pleasures, beginning with chapter 1 alone (How to Read This Book), then pairing Chapters 2 and 8 (How to Read Children's Literature with Children's Literature as a Genre), and finally grouping Chapters 3, 4, and 9 (issues of teaching, reading theory, and critical reading), thereby linking topical issues between children's literature and literature as a whole. Pleasures allows for such idiosyncratic use.
I finish by introducing Part Two (on culture and ideology) along with my concern with genre by discussing ideology as it applies to the ways other handbooks and anthologies in the field set up children's literature as a genre. I copy and distribute the tables of contents from those other books and discuss how they represent (and imply) the field, what ideological biases they exhibit, juxtapose all that with Pleasures, and return to May and Neumeyer in order to reconsider the justifications for our institutional and critical approaches to children's literature.
When I approach the course with a more historical slant, I begin with Part Two and refer to it all semester (as I do the subgenre section in my genre approach). I continue with the same synthesis of the first and third parts and conclude with a look at genre as I end up with a consideration of ideology in the former approach. I find, however, that any one of this text's four parts could be a course focus; this enables the instructor to investigate his or her possibly unconscious critical approach and then, once a conscious choice of focus has been made, include the others as strong subtexts or threads in the course.
Along the way I am provoked by this text to supplement the sections with other voices: Chapter 11 asks me to draw from Nodelman's own Words about Pictures; Chapter 12 forces me to pull material from Zipes, Knoepflmacher, and Sales; Chapter 5 invites me to add material from Stahl, Aries, and Hollindale; Chapter 9 enters into dialogue with Hunt. Nodelman's wonderful bibliography (now included in the Instructor's Manual, from which it can be copied for distribution to students) facilitates these dialogues, invitations, and critical extrapolations. The bibliography encourages students to seek out those other voices as well in order to involve them in their professional development. It is almost impossible, I find, for the students to ignore the carefully categorized resources placed at their fingertips. This bibliography has done more good for student essays than any other tool I can think of.
Last, Pleasures provides a special reference to "home" as a thematic and narrative pattern in children's literature, a special interest of mine. This reference serves as a wonderful segue into a larger discussion of "home" in which I can draw from Nodelman's own citations as well as add my own--Joseph Campbell's cosmogonic cycle and Joel Chaston's recent article "If I Ever Go Looking for My Heart's Desire: 'Home' in Baum's 'Oz' Books" (Lion and The Unicorn 18 : 209-18), for instance. It is this special attention to the nuances of the field that makes Pleasures such a valuable resource. The text's speculative rather than prescriptive representation of children's literature enables my students to navigate the issues, from the field-wide to the specialized, with clarity and without critical coercion.