Philip Nel

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For the South African rugby player, see Philip J. Nel.

Philip Nel (born 1969) is an American scholar of children's literature and University Distinguished Professor of English at Kansas State University. He is best known for his work on Dr. Seuss and Harry Potter, which have led to his being a guest on such media programs as CBS Sunday Morning, NPR's Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation.


Nel was born in Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1997 and 1993, and his B.A. from the University of Rochester 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 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, was made Professor in 2008, and University Distinguished Professor in 2013.

Twelve years in the making, Nel's biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss was published in 2012 from the University Press of Mississippi. In 2013, Fantagraphics published the first volume of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby — for which he is serving as a co-editor and providing biographical essays.


  • Crockett Johnson's Barnaby, Volume Two: 1944-1945. Co-edited with Eric Reynolds (comics). Foreword by Jules Feiffer. Essays by R. C. Harvey and Max Lerner. Essay and Notes by Nel. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2014.
  • Crockett Johnson's Barnaby, Volume One: 1942-1943. Co-edited with Eric Reynolds (comics). Foreword by Chris Ware. Essays by Jeet Heer and Dorothy Parker. Essay and Notes by Nel. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2013.
  • Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012.
  • 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. Foreword by Jack Zipes. 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. Ashville, NC: Front Street, 2005.