I found a very interesting article in The Times about Edwardian children's novels: Edwardian Children's Novels (NB: I can't seem to link to the article itself.)
The theme of this article is that the children in the novels and their readers were like Peter Pan and refused to grow up. I think that the contrary is true. What about The Railway Children and Anne of Green Gables? The children in the first novel were torn from the middle-class, mired in poverty, and had to endure having a father in jail. They were pretty grown-up! Anne had a tough life as an orphan. After being taken in by Marilla and Matthew at idyllic Green Gables her life improved, but Marilla was quite strict and Anne still had to grow up fast. At one stage, she gave up her ambition to go to university to stay at Green Gables and study by correspondence so that Marilla could keep her beloved home. (She went later.) Now that was pretty damn grown-up!
What do you think?