Sunday, May 27, 2018

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D.Sieruta (2014)

I do love reading what others  write about children’s literature, and Bird, Danielson & Sieruta writing has spring in its steps.  The book is joyous and effervescent, with an occasional bite that pleases. I just made the book sound like the review of a new champagne.  I was never, ever bored with this book, and kept wanting to read more. But this also never quite took me over the top. I didn’t feel like I learned anything I didn’t already know, and the book felt disjointed; the thread of mischief was not always narratively apparent. The bit about celebrity picture books was my favorite part.  I hate them, I got the feeling they (mostly) do too. The Nancy Drew syndicate was also interesting; Anne Carroll Moore always is too. I only highlighted one passage in the book. The three were exploring a lie that Laura Ingalls Wilder told (based on a lie her daughter Rose told) about Charles Ingalls interacting with the Bloody Bender family of Kansas serial killer legend and how that it could not be true.  They then say “Hey, now we’re starting to wonder if Nellie Oleson even existed.” I can interpret that line in two ways. “An ironic ha ha we know she didn’t” way (which I hope is what the meant) or they actually were serious. Because Little House lovers know that Nellie Oleson did not exist: she was a composite of two girls Laura knew growing up.

Interesting side note: I read another book called Wild Things by Bruce Handy less than a year ago, also about childen’s literature. I liked that book much better.

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's LiteratureWild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bird, Danielson & Sieruta writing about the acts of mischief in children’s literature throughout the ages (ages being the last hundred years or so when books began to be written specifically for children) is joyous and effervescent, with a more than occasional wittily pointed bite (I realize I also could be reviewing a new champagne). The book is full of fun facts about children’s literature that you probably read and loved as a kid; those fun facts don’t clobber you over the head though; this isn’t a reference book. The three inject their sense of humor and fun into the book, as well as their opinions (for example, celebrity picture book outings come in for some close, sharp-tongued scrutiny).

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