Monday, July 21, 2014

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta

Copy courtesy of Candlewick Press.
Available August 2014.
My genre of choice is fiction.  I know I need to be a better model about reading non-fiction, but for some reason it is a challenge.  It isn’t that I don’t like non-fiction.  I really enjoy the ones I read, but given the time constraints I read what I enjoy the most.  However, I challenged myself to read some non-fiction this summer.  I went to Tattered Cover and ordered The Man Who Knew Too Much Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer by David Leavitt.  I was set to go.

When I got home from the bookstore there was an envelope from Candlewick Press, and inside was a non-fiction book.  Not just any book, but one I was looking forward to reading when it came out later in the summer.  There is a little background about the book.  Sometime this year I read a blog post on Fuse #8, by Betsy Bird.  She briefly mentioned that she had co-written a book about children’s literature.  The post was during a time when my life was very stressful, and I forgot to write down the information.  Later in the spring when I thought about I couldn’t remember the details, so I emailed Betsy Bird.  She gave me the information and let me know that it was going to be released until later in the summer.  She mentioned that she would have a copy sent when they were ready.  I was so excited to get it.

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta is a book about the world of children’s literature and not so much about mischievous children in the books.  The exciting thing about the book is that it is a very comprehensive history of what so many of us are passionate about:  children’s literature. 

At the beginning of the book there are many quotes and vignettes about how the average person reacts to authors and illustrators of children’s literature.  For example, “So you only write children’s books?  Have you written any real books?”
It is as bad as, “Those that can do, those that can’t teach!”  What is interesting is that these seem to be common thoughts among many.  In the July 2014 Vanity Fair (I guess this counts as non-fiction reading!) there is an article about The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  The article quotes literary critic James Wood.  He writes, “I think that the rapture with which this novel has been received is further proof of the infantilization of our literary culture: a world in which adults go around reading Harry Potter.”  Mr. Wood those are fightin’ words! 

Wild Things! drives holes into his narrow way of thinking.  The book is filled with interesting history of how children’s literature has become such a driving force.  There are sections on the private lives of children’s authors and how their experiences shaped what they wrote.  There is an important chapter on GLBT and Literature for youths, and the money driving children’s literature today.  I look forward to sharing this with other.

Thank you Betsy for a wonderful book, and helping me model reading non-fiction for my students.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am looking forward to reading this as well.