Children's literature is often like Rodney Dangerfield. It gets
no respect. People especially are prone to seeing picture books as
sweet nothings. Anyone who has been a parent or a child can write one
without much effort. (In an alarming trend celebrities are doing just
that and drawing attention and resources from seriously good
literature by virtue of name recognition sales potential).
In Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature Betsy
Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta state, "We've long
wondered what causes so many adults--sophisticated, worldly, and even
downright cynical adults--to get sloppy and sentimental at the mere
mention of books for kids. It seems that for many, the topic conjures
up a lost world of gumdrops, rainbows, and fluffy little bunnies that
love you forever and like you for always. In an illustrated lecture
he once gave at the University of Utah, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss)
referred to those as 'bunny bunny books' or 'the fuzzy mysterious
literature of the young'."
As anyone who has spent much time studying the full array of
children's lit can attest, even picture books for the youngest readers/
listeners are far from always fuzzy bunny warrens. Topics include the
Jewish experience in world war II, death, AIDS, being black in the Jim
Crow era, and poverty. Censors go after books ranging from In The
Night Kitchen with its nude protagonist to YA novels with gay narrators.
Wild Things is a comprehensive look at the books that defy
stereotypes and the authors and illustrators who created them. It
looks at how juvenile books have covered some quite contentious issues
and how some quite subversive bits--both verbal and visual--have
gotten past the censors. There are speculations on contemporary issues:
*Is there any value in the books kids love and critics hate?
*Are books by celebrities as harmless as they seem?
*Will there ever be another Harry Potter?...
There are also quite candid looks at the private lives of
authors and illustrators? In a stereotype that goes hand in glove
with the fuzzy bunny caricature these folks are assumed to have
private lives as blandly g rated and wholesome as their literary
output is alleged to be. You will learn that this is not always the
I believe this book is a must read for librarians, teachers,
children's literature affeccianados, and authors and illustrators who
feel a call to produce books for the young and young at heart...
...especially if their fuzzy bunnies have vampire fangs.
On a personal note, Wednesday night was the Orono Public Library's
outdoor book sale and concert. It was fabulous. People really had a
fine time. Kids were free to run and play in the great outdoors. The
music was superb. Friends of the Public Library made money for
programs. People including yours truly stocked up for summer
reading. Folks loved my sparkly butterfly wings. Marketing, you
know. And at the end there were free cupcakes. Who could ask for more?
A great big shout out goes out to all the folks who worked hard to
bring this fabulous event to fruition.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod