Surprising Jolts of Children’s Literature: Happy 4th of July!
In case you’re confused, there is actually no direct connection between today’s post and Independence Day. I just felt somewhat bad about appropriating the holiday without acknowledging its existence and so here we are. Happy 4th! And now, some random adult books with tangential connections to books for kids.
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber
Admit it. It would never have even crossed your mind to wonder about the life of author Margery Williams Bianco and her daughter Pamela. Though this particular book is fiction, it is based on real events. Here’s the description of the plot from Kirkus:
“It doesn’t take long for author Margery Williams and Italian husband Francesco Bianco to realize that their daughter, Pamela Bianco, is a child prodigy. In 1921, when Pamela is 14, the New York art world goes mad for her debut exhibition of delicately etched works. Margery soon shares the limelight with her daughter when her beloved children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, is published in 1922. Behind the scenes, Pamela fights mental illness for much of her life, a battle triggered by her unrequited love for Diccon, aka author Richard Hughes (A High Wind in Jamaica), and pressure from her father to focus on greater works of art and abandon the children’s illustrations she loves. (A joint mother/daughter book, The Skin Horse, was published in 1927.) The alternating narratives, told over the course of 33 years and enhanced by photographs and pictures of Pamela’s work, is a masterpiece.”
Okay, first off, there was a book about The Skin Horse?!? And second, how crazy is this story? Really, I had no idea.
Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself by John Leonard Pielmeier
But wait, you say. Didn’t you already highlight this book in the last Unexpected Jolts posting, Betsy? You could be forgiven for thinking so, but as it happens that particular book was Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry, out July 4th (today!) as opposed to this book out July 18th. Confusing, I know. PW loved this one, calling it “a splendid yarn.” Kirkus was no less enchanted, saying that, “The author’s thorough, affectionate knowledge of both the original book and the historical period grounds this fantasy in rich detail.” The book is by the playwright behind Agnes of God (circa 1979, for those of you keeping score at home) and for you Pan fans, this appears to be a must-have.
Prairie Fires: The Life and Times of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Ever get the sneaking suspicion that Laura Ingalls Wilder isn’t going away?
Discovering the Hidden Wisdom of the Little Prince: In Search of Saint-Exupery’s Lost Child by Pierre Lassus
According to this book re: The Little Prince, “child psychologist Lassus notes that the book is fourth on the list of the world’s ‘most-read’ books, after the Bible, the Quran, and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung.” Eat it, Shakespeare! In all seriousness, it’s not hard to read Saint-Exupery’s book as a thinly disguised series of metaphor of his own life. Lassus reinterprets the book through a religious lens, however, seeing it as more parable than fairy tale. And a little child shall lead them.
Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
First off, I don’t usually compliment adult book jackets, but I see this one as a particularly fine piece of photography. Maybe it’s just a decomposing section on a subway poster, but that close-up is sublime. Well done, Art Director at Gallery Books!
As for the book itself, this is one of those plots that says more about how the public views children’s book authors and illustrators than anything else. Here’s the description from the publisher:
“Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.
In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.
With its alternating points of view and deft prose, Unraveling Oliver is ‘a page-turning, one-sitting read from a brand new master of psychological suspense’ (Sunday Independent) that details how an ordinary man can transform into a sociopath.”
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