Jolts of Children’s Literature in Unexpected Places
It’s that time again! Time for me to bring your attention to a variety of strange and interesting books never meant for children, but that contain some hint of influence (little or big) from the literary world of the youth. Feast thine peepers on the following:
We Were Brothers by Barry Moser
It’s not that Moser has spent his life only doing children’s books, but a significant portion of his artistic life has been dedicated to them. So when I was perusing my library’s new book section and stumbled on this I was amazed. There’s a Moser memoir out there? Indeed there is. Here’s a description of the book from the publisher:
“Preeminent illustrator Barry Moser and his brother, Tommy, were born of the same parents, were raised in the same small Tennessee community, and were poisoned by their family’s deep racism and anti-Semitism. But as they grew older, their perspectives and their paths grew further and further apart. From attitudes about race, to food, politics, and money, the brothers began to think so differently that they could no longer find common ground, no longer knew how to talk to each other, and for years there was more strife between them than affection.
When Barry was in his late fifties and Tommy in his early sixties, their fragile brotherhood reached a tipping point and blew apart. From that day forward they did not speak. But fortunately, their story does not end there. With the raw emotions that so often surface when we talk of our siblings, Barry recalls why and how they were finally able to traverse that great divide and reconcile their kinship before it was too late.”
It got great reviews as well.
Wonderfully Wordless: The 500 Most Recommended Graphic Novels and Picture Books by William Patrick Martin
Missed this, did you? I’m not surprised. Published by Rowman & Littlefield it’s not been advertised to those of us in the children’s book world much at all. And here’s the kicker of a description: “… the first comprehensive best book guide to wordless picture books (and nearly wordless picture books).” The only review I’ve found of it was through Library Journal and they were not particularly impressed. That said, I remain curious about it. Wordless gets its day.
The Spring at Moss Hill by Carla Neggers
YESSSS! An actual honest-to-goodness contemporary romance novel. It’s not a straight-to-paperback, but I’ll take what I can get. Why is it on the list? Check out this product description: “A children’s book illustrator finds she has a lot in common with a private investigator who moves to town to keep a friend out of trouble.” Alas, you can’t give it to your favorite illustrator for the holidays. It ain’t out until January 26th.
Spirituality in Young Adult Literature: The Last Taboo by Patty Campbell and Chris Crowe
And here I always thought abortion was the last taboo. Shows what I know. The description reads, “This book examines the presentation of spiritual issues in young adult fiction. It looks at how religious ideas, and those matters that are defined more broadly as spiritual, are represented. YA novels are selected by the authors, who then explain how these pieces of literature can appear as metaphors or as more direct theological references.” So, naturally, I looked at the Table of Contents. They include “Church and Clergy, Mostly Negative”, “End Times and the Apocalypse”, “Other Faiths and Spiritual Practices: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a Sikh or Two”, and “Mormon Themes in YA Literature”. Admit it. You’re wondering what books are listed inside.
Fairy Tale Baking: More than 50 Enchanting Cakes, Bakes, and Decorations by Ramla Khan
I know the fairy tale cake on the cover is probably Ice Queen / Frozen based but how cool would it be if it were The Glass Mountain instead? Edible gold paint is one of the ingredients you’ll need to make these complex creations. I didn’t even know they made it. Now I kind of want to cover all my food, no matter the time or day or foodstuff, with gold paint. Mmmmmm. Pricey.
The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe
“From one of our most perceptive and provocative voices comes a deeply researched account of the last days of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, and Maurice Sendak—an arresting and wholly original meditation on mortality.” Sendak! Of course I’m pleased a children’s book writer is considered “Great” by Ms. Roiphe. And you certainly couldn’t have selected a better topic to tie him in with. Sendak was nothing if not eloquent about sweet mortality.
The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders
And finally, a book that isn’t in the least bit new (unlike all these others). I was listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour the other day and Glen Weldon mentioned that he had just read this book. In an almost throwaway line, he also mentions that in this collection of short essays, there is praise for Johnny Tremain. Come again? Sure as shooting, the title of Chapter Three is, “Thank You, Esther Forbes”. I have not read this, but if anyone has I’d love to know what his take on everyone’s favorite ex-silversmith is. According to the Kirkus review it, “details how his childhood reading of that author’s award-winning Johnny Tremain showed him how and why sentences matter.” Saunders says of the book that it was, “my first model of beautiful compression.” Fascinating.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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