The astonishing success of J. K. Rowling and other contemporary children's authors has demonstrated how passionately children can commit to the books they love. But this kind of devotion is not new. This timely volume takes up the challenge of assessing the complex interplay of forces that have created the popularity of children's books both today and in the past.The essays collected here ask about the meanings and values that have been ascribed to the term popular. They consider whether popularity can be imposed, or if it must always emerge from children's preferences. And they investigate how the Harry Potter phenomenon fits into a repeated cycle of success and decline within the publishing industry. Whether examining eighteenth-century chapbooks, fairy tales, science schoolbooks, Victorian adventures, waif novels or school stories, these essays show how historical and publishing contexts are vital in determining which books will succeed and which will fail, which bestsellers will endure and which fade quickly into obscurity. As they considering the fiction of Angela Brazil, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and J. K. Rowling, the contributors carefully analyze how authorial talent and cultural contexts combine, in often unpredictable ways, to generate - and sometimes even sustain - literary success.