Abstract: Taking Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice as a case study, this article proposes that the “ironic play” of children’s literature calls for a reimagining of methodological debates on the agency of child readers. “Ironic play” describes the way many children’s books blend romantic imagination and realist skepticism to invite a playful mode of engagement, a mode at once both immersive and critical. By self-reflexively winking at their own fictionality, such books acknowledge the complications intrinsic to writing “for” children. Ironic play thereby challenges the notion that children’s literature tends to conceal the mediated nature of fictional representations.
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