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Philip Nel

Philip Nel

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Philip Nel is an American scholar of children's literature and Professor of English at Kansas State University
Kansas State University
Kansas State University, commonly shortened to K-State, is an institution of higher learning located in Manhattan, Kansas, in the United States...

. He is best known for his work on Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist most widely known for his children's books written under the pen names Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg and, in one case, Rosetta Stone....

 and Harry Potter
Harry Potter
Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the adolescent wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

, which have led to his being a guest on such media programs as CBS Sunday Morning, NPR
NPR, formerly National Public Radio, is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States. NPR was created in 1970, following congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting...

's Morning Edition
Morning Edition
Morning Edition is an American radio news program produced and distributed by National Public Radio . It airs weekday mornings and runs for two hours, and many stations repeat one or both hours. The show feeds live from 05:00 to 09:00 ET, with feeds and updates as required until noon...

 and Talk of the Nation
Talk of the Nation
Talk of the Nation is a talk radio program based in the United States, produced by National Public Radio, and is broadcast nationally from 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Its focus is current events and controversial issues....



Nel was born in Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. from Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University is a private research university located in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. Founded in 1873, the university is named for shipping and rail magnate "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, who provided Vanderbilt its initial $1 million endowment despite having never been to the...

 in 1997 and 1993, and his B.A. from the University of Rochester
University of Rochester
The University of Rochester is a private, nonsectarian, research university in Rochester, New York, United States. The university grants undergraduate and graduate degrees, including doctoral and professional degrees. The university has six schools and various interdisciplinary programs.The...

 in 1992. He married Karin Westman on May 24, 1997. In response to the question of why he writes about what he does, Nel told Contemporary Authors, "To study children's literature is to be reminded of why reading (and re-reading) is fun, but it is also to see how complex and interesting supposedly 'simple' books really are. And that's fun, too."


Nel began his teaching career while he was a graduate student at Vanderbilt. He continued there as an adjunct professor for a year before moving on to the College of Charleston
College of Charleston
The College of Charleston is a public, sea-grant and space-grant university located in historic downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States...

 for two years. In 2000, he began teaching at Kansas State as an assistant professor, then as associate professor in 2005. In 2006 he was appointed Director of the Program in Children's Literature at Kansas State and was made Professor in 2008.

In recent years, Nel has researched and is writing a biography of Crockett Johnson
Crockett Johnson
Crockett Johnson was the pen name of cartoonist and children's book illustrator David Johnson Leisk...

 and Ruth Krauss
Ruth Krauss
Ruth Krauss was an author of children's books, one of the most well known being The Carrot Seed, and an author of theatrical poems for an adult audience. Many of her books are still in print....

. The book will be published in 2012 from the University Press of Mississippi, along with the first volume of The Complete Barnaby (Fantagraphics) — for which he is serving as a consultant and providing biographical essays.


  • Keywords for Children's Literature. Co-edited with Lissa Paul. NYU Press, 2011.
  • Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature. Co-edited with Julia Mickenberg. NYU Press, 2008.
  • The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats. New York: Random House, 2007.
  • Dr. Seuss: American Icon. New York and London: Continuum Publishing, 2004.
  • The Avant-Garde and American Postmodernity: Small Incisive Shocks. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
  • J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Novels: A Reader's Guide. New York and London: Continuum Publishing, 2001.

  • Afterword to Crockett Johnson's Magic Beach. Appreciation by Maurice Sendak
    Maurice Sendak
    Maurice Bernard Sendak is an American writer and illustrator of children's literature. He is best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963.-Early life:...

    . Ashville, NC: Front Street, 2005.