Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism Virtual Book Tour, Author Interview and Giveaway

Friday, July 2, 2021

We are surrounded by narratives, in fiction and in our everyday lives. In this colorful collection of ideas, the author argues that understanding the components of our favorite children’s stories can lead to a lifetime of critical thinking. Beginning with the elements of the universal coming-of-age narrative, “Kid Lit” shows young readers and general readers alike how to recognize story structure, class, gender, symbolism, trauma and Orientalism in children’s narratives. Of value to all teachers, students, librarians, readers, literature lovers, and moviegoers. “Tom Durwood is the best English instructor I have seen in my thirty-two years of teaching.” —Professor Patrick Murray, Valley Forge Military College 

Available for purchase here or here.    

Tom Durwood is a teacher, writer and editor with an interest in history. Tom most recently taught English Composition and Empire and Literature at Valley Forge Military College, where he won the Teacher of the Year Award five times. Tom has taught Public Speaking and Basic Communications as a guest lecturer for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group at the Dam’s Neck Annex of the Naval War College. 

Tom is editor of an online scholarly journal, The Journal of Empire Studies ( Peter Suber, Berkman Fellow at Harvard University, an advocate of the open access movement, praises the journal as “a new opportunity for overcoming access barriers to knowledge and research.” Dr. Julian Fisher of Scholarly Exchange has also applauded Tom’s efforts. “Creating valuable academic content and then hiding it behind financial firewalls – the traditional scholarly publishing model – runs counter to the essence of scholarship, learning and sharing,” according to Fisher. “To see a journal such as the Journal of Empire Studies breaking that mold is exciting.” 

Tom’s newspaper column “Shelter” appeared in the North County Times for seven years. Tom earned a Masters in English Literature in San Diego, where he also served as Executive Director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity. Tom earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard, where he edited an undergraduate arts journal and studied with David McClelland (Roots of Consciousness). For more information, teacher resources, and lesson plans, visit

Life Is What It's Called - At what ages do you think literary criticism should begin? 

Tom Durwood - Seventh grade seems reasonable – I’m sure it’s viable to ask kids who are even 10 or 11 to compare sidekicks among different stories, or to discuss plot points of fairy tales and Pixar films. Getting their opinions on why Cruella de Ville is scary, or whether Chewbacca gets enough credit is, I think, a natural outgrowth of sharing stories. I have found that young readers have a lot to say about these topics. 

Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write this book? 

Tom Durwood - I needed to set out all of the lesson plans and classroom content that I had generated at Valley Forge Military College, where I taught for eight years. I wanted to see it all together, to see what it looked like as a whole. Once I had interviews with scholars like Amanda Lagji and Anna Kozak, I knew I wanted to showcase their work, giving readers a sort of guided deeper dive into scholarship. 

Life Is What It's Called - How would you like to see literary criticism used more in a classroom setting? 

Tom Durwood - Students love these big, scholarly ideas, if we can make them accessible. The big secret is that my military cadets will write all day on topics like The Other and plot symmetry and the nature of villainy, if I can just present the concepts simply and clearly. The average number of readers for a dissertation is six – I wanted to rescue some of this wonderful scholarship on Kid Lit from that obscurity and bring it right into a Comp 101 classroom. 

Life Is What It's Called - What benefits do kids get from learning about and critically thinking about literature? 

Tom Durwood - Great question !! Literary criticism is simply the first step in a life of critical thinking, without which you will be unemployed. The marketplace rewards smart, purposeful analysis and clear communication. Your teachers have a direct impact on your career success, and I wanted to do my part. 

One of my son’s first accounting jobs was as assistant to the CFO of a medium-sized non-profit. After his first week, my son came home and announced that an unassuming older woman two doors down from him was responsible for 95% of the organization’s revenues. All of the other activities in the office were superfluous. That is critical thinking. Bosses and co-workers and family members will reward you for yours. 

This is a discussion I had with my students on a weekly basis, as I urged them to engage, and to help me break down these stories successfully. How does “Of Mice and Men” work? Why is it so powerful? Who is the bad guy? What is the underlying theme? How is it like and unlike “Guardians of the Galaxy”? Does all science fiction use an empire/rebel template? Answer those questions and you are on the road to critical thinking. 

Life Is What It's Called - How do you see literature criticism for kids growing (i.e., could you see a lit criticism journal for kids at the elementary school level or expanding in another way)? 

Tom Durwood - I love the idea of a journal for kids at the elementary school level!! Yes, we should provide as many platforms as we can for students at every level to give their views. Stories are universal, as is the desire to interpret them. The other directive for our kids is writing, constant writing, writing about everything. The more, the better. 

Life Is What It's Called - How has your background helped you in writing this book? 

Tom Durwood - I have a somewhat diverse background I bring to the classroom, having run my own small press and served as Executive Director for a non-profit. So I am not a scholar, and I don’t teach or write like an academic. I was lucky that Valley Forge was hands-off enough to let me run my classroom in a slightly unorthodox manner. 

Life Is What It's Called - What are some of your favorite kid-lit authors? 

Life Is What It's Called - What are some activities that teachers could do to go along with this book? 

Tom Durwood - My “Kid Lit” book has 28 lesson plans that capture ideas from scholars in fairly simple, in-class exercises. We have also collected over thirty lesson plans, open to everyone, at the web site

Life Is What It's Called - What are your next writing projects? 

Tom Durwood -  I should have a new edition of “Empire Lit” done doe early next year. This is similar to “Kid Lit,” with a general opening section, nine or more in-depth scholarly studies, and a semester’s worth of lesson plans. Then I have an entire collection of Illustrated historical-fiction adventure, with two more titles in the pipeline: 


Enter for a chance to win a copy of Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism! Ten (10) winners receive: A digital copy of Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism The giveaway begins June 29, 2021, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends July 29, 2021, at 11:59 P.M. MT. 

Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism Giveaway 

Please note that this post is in cooperation with The Children’s Book Review and Tom Durwood. Please note that this post also contains affiliate links.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs