University of Sussex

File(s) not publicly available

Playing with the book: Victorian movable picture books and the child reader

posted on 2023-06-09, 13:26 authored by Hannah FieldHannah Field
Playing with the Book centers on a beautiful and unusual group of Victorian texts: novelty and movable picture books for young children. These ingenious items might, say, fold out to a great length, or have pop-up three-dimensional scenes spring out to meet the reader, or mount mechanical toys on the page. In playing with the book’s typical format, nineteenth-century novelty picture books raise questions not just about what books should look like, but also about what reading is—particularly when it comes to children’s literature and children as readers. What happens when reading becomes just as much a physical activity as an intellectual one, as the child pulls a tab or lifts a flap to continue a story? Why do some educators and scholars of children’s literature dismiss novelty books? Where do we draw the line between children’s books and toys, when novelty books so often blur it? And how can looking at antique novelty books now, which are often in poor condition, change our vision of the child reader as we see children ripping up or coloring in the lessons that books (and adults) try to teach them? Playing with the Book considers these questions by way of a series of case studies of individual formats, as well as an intensive examination of copies of novelty picture books that have survived from the nineteenth century.Richly illustrated, this book will be of interest to researchers and students of the history of the book, reading,and visual and material texts, as well as scholars of Victorian culture and of children’s literature.


Publication status

  • Published


University of Minnesota Press



Place of publication




Department affiliated with

  • English Publications

Research groups affiliated with

  • Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected