The volume looks at the simple picture books and comic books that appeal to small children; the formulaic adventures that fascinate older children; the films and television programs that are watched by children and young adolescents; the music videos and programming that appeal to young adults; and the popular novels that interest older readers. Included are discussions of Superman, the Hardy Boys, Star Trek, science fiction films, and music videos. The book points to similarities among popular culture, science fiction, and children's literature and demonstrates the relevance of these works to contemporary society.
The volume begins with a summary of the four principle tales of the Mabinogi: Pwyll Prince of Dyfed, Branwen Daughter of Llyr, Manawydan Son of Llyr, and Math Son of Mathonwy. Books based on the Mabinogi generally fall into two categories: retellings of the myths, and original works of fantasy partially inspired by the Welsh tales. Beginning with Sidney Lanier's The Boy's Mabinogion, the first part of this book examines versions of the myths published for children between 1881 and 1988. The second part discusses imaginative literature that borrows elements from the Mabinogi, including Alan Garner's The Owl Service, which won a Carnegie medal, and Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, the final volume of which received the ALA Newbery Award for outstanding children's book.
The study begins with a look at works by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, focusing on the 18th-century view of childhood and fantasy. This book expands on the notion that English Romanticism played a significant role in preparing adults to accept fantasy literature for children. Connections are made to the works of Kenneth Grahame, George MacDonald, and Christina Rossetti.