What is a Classic?

Considering the goal to provide context (historical, biographical, critical, and supporting) to “classic and contemporary children’s and young adult literature,” what exactly is a classic? There are three types of classics that I’m likely going to be talking about: Classics, Modern Classics, and Future Classics.


For me, a classic is going to be a novel that was published in or before the 20th century. These are things like your Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web, and anything else along those lines. Especially considering the massive amount of growth in children’s and young adult literature, this feels like the easiest way to define it. Beyond just older novels, in order to call something a classic I feel as if it also has to have retained some sort of popularity, or notoriety. It has to be something that was recognized as good and still is, or was recognized as good and I feel like should be continued to be recognized as such.

This is a personal criteria for what I consider a classic and am probably going to work with on this blog. However, I also recognize that my personal thought process isn’t going to necessarily fit with what others consider a classic. Here’s an NPR interview discussing classics which I thought was an interesting read!

Modern Classics

There’s been a lot of good stuff published in the first decade of the 2000s as well as the late 1990s. These are where I’m likely to draw my “modern classic” distinction from. For example, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak is almost 20 years old, but still feels contemporarily relevant and is still widely read. It’s definitely on my list for a modern classic. Similarly, the Harry Potter series falls in this vein as well. These are things that have just begun their path towards enduring as literary works in our rapidly changing world.

I’m not the only one to contemplate what makes a modern classic, The Guardian has done the same thing.

Future Classics

This is where it’s likely to get interesting, because this is extremely subjective (emphasis on the extreme). These are things that I think (key word THINK) have the potential to stick around and become classics or modern classics. For example, I think Angie Thomas’s novel The Hate U Give is going to stick around for a long time considering the subject matter it handles and the contemporary moment it was published in. I’m going to touch on these things as I feel like it, and who knows, years down the road maybe we’ll come back to this and I’ll be completely wrong!

But What About Things That Aren’t Classics?

And I know what you may be thinking—but Macy, not everything can be a classic. And you’re right. Not everything can be. My focus on the classics (of all three varieties) doesn’t mean I’m not going to talk about other stuff I read and like, it’s just not where my content focus is going to be. If you want the other stuff, you should definitely follow me on Goodreads where I review everything I read regardless of genre or classic status. I’m just building a little bit more of a niche for myself here so I don’t completely overwhelm all of us with my lack of focus.

If you want to discuss what does and doesn’t make a classic, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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