What exactly is a children's book? How is children's literature defined as a genre? A leading scholar presents close readings of six classic stories to answer these questions and offer a clear definition of children's writing as a distinct literary form. Perry Nodelman begins by considering the plots, themes, and structures of six works: "The Purple Jar," Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Doolittle, Henry Huggins, The Snowy Day, and Plain City-all written for young people of varying ages in different times and places-to identify shared characteristics. He points out markers in each work that allow the adult reader to understand it as a children's story, shedding light on ingrained adult assumptions and revealing the ways in which adult knowledge and experience remain hidden in apparently simple and innocent texts. Nodelman then engages a wide range of views of children's literature from authors, literary critics, cultural theorists, and specialists in education and information sciences. Through this informed dialogue, Nodelman develops a comprehensive theory of children's literature, exploring its commonalities and shared themes. The Hidden Adult is a focused and sophisticated analysis of children's literature and a major contribution to the theory and criticism of the genre.