Jolts of Children’s Literature in Unexpected Places
Okay! We start out today with a whole range of adult titles, either coming out in the future or newly published, that contain some children’s book reference or inclusion. And for a beginning let us examine a whole slew of books where the very idea of what a children’s author is serves as the inspiration for some very different stories. First up:
In the Land of Armadillos: Stories by Helen Maryles Shankman
It’s a collection of short stories set in a German-occupied town in Poland, “where mythic tales of Jewish folklore meet the real-life monsters of the Nazi invasion . . . Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town: we meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the Jewish creator of his son’s favorite picture book, even as he helps exterminate the artist’s friends and family…”
In Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature my co-writers and I tried to pick apart how it is that society views children’s book writers and illustrators. Compare this first book then to this next one:
Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Nicholas Barreau
And the description from the publisher reads: “Rosalie Laurent is the proud owner of Luna Luna, a little post-card shop in St. Germain, and if it were up to her, far more people would write cards. Her specialty is producing “wishing cards,” but where her own wishes are concerned the quirky graphic artist is far from lucky. Every birthday Rosalie sends a card inscribed with her heart’s desire fluttering down from the Eiffel Tower – but none of her wishes has ever been fulfilled.
Then one day when an elderly gentleman trips up in her shop and knocks over a post-card stand, it seems that her wish cards are working after-all. Rosalie finds out that it is Max Marchais, famed and successful author of children’s books who’s fallen into her life. When he asks her to illustrate his new (and probably last) book, Rosalie is only too glad to accept, and the two – very different – maverick artists become friends.
Rosalie’s wishes seem to be coming true at last, until a clumsy American professor stumbles into her store with accusations of plagiarism. Rosalie is hard pressed to know whether love or trouble is blowing through her door these days, but when in doubt, she knows that Paris is Always a Good Idea when one is looking for the truth and finding love.”
How many people are tripping into her store again? You see this is very much a view of the children’s book illustrator as an adorable Amélie-like romantic. Very typical of how people see illustrators in popular culture.
This next one doesn’t follow in that tradition, though.
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Kirkus review tells part of the plot this way, “Two women, both touched by tragedy, find themselves bonding over cocaine, betrayal, loneliness, and cheese. Noor Kahn, never quite recovered from the accident that took her best friend as a child, is stranded in the country with her failing equestrian therapy business and a husband she’s increasingly unsure about. Jaycee, a neighbor raised in a historical theme park and naïve about the world outside, finds herself in possession of an interesting package when she returns from her first act of rebellion, a spontaneous trip to Peru. After the two women become connected through Jaycee’s father, Mr. Emory, a once-famous children’s book author struggling with dementia, a strange fellowship is born, built upon the shared discovery of cocaine and the power it could bring them.”
Really, the only way to get a true sense of what children’s book creators mean in these three novels would be to actually go out and read them.
Autism in Young Adult Novels: An Annotated Bibliography by Marilyn Irwin, Annette Y. Goldsmith, and Rachel Applegate
From the publisher we get this description: “In this volume, the authors identify and assess all young adult novels that include autism content—either suggested or stated overtly—beginning with a novel published in 1968.” I’ll give you a cookie if you can guess the name of that novel.
You Kiss by Th’ Book: New Poems from Shakespeare’s Line by Gary Soto
Actually this doesn’t have any connection to children’s literature aside from its author. *sigh* We miss you, Gary. Come back to us. Then again, the whole reason he stopped writing for kids was because of the public shaming sphere. Hmm. Maybe now is not the best time for a triumphant return. But we still need you!
Between Memory and Museum: A Dialogue With Folk and Indigenous Artists by Arun Wolf and Gita Wolf
Well, I just mention this one because Gita and Tara Books have done such wonderful work bringing Indian children’s books to American bookstores and libraries. That and the fact that this book sounds neat. Listen: “In their visual responses, artists reflect on the museum as an institution, and the way it preserves, creates and disseminates knowledge. Do these representations communicate a lived life? What are the artists’ own ways of remembering and passing on tradition? And finally: who has the power to put whom in a museum?”
Finally, this last one is only being included on this list because of how the publisher chose to describe it.
Calf by Andrea Kleine
Here goes: “Part Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and part Taxi Driver, this creepy, unsettling, and absolutely addictive novel is at once a penetrating character study, a meditation on the zeitgeist of the ’80s, and an unflinching depiction of violence, both intimate and sensational.”
And that, ladies is gentlemen, is why I read books for 9-year-olds.
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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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