Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature
You know the drill. In my day job as a Collection Development Manager I spend my time looking at, and subsequently purchasing, books for adults. As a result, I come across books that have distinct children’s literature connections, but in unexpected ways. Today we’ll consider three books with odd ties to the field I know and love. There are some surprises in the mix.
Live Oak, With Moss by Walt Whitman, illustrated by Brian Selznick
An intriguing story coupled with another intriguing story. Walt Whitman once wrote 12 poems about same sex love. These he essentially cut up and hid in his other works, like Leaves of Grass, until they were put back together 100 years later. Maurice Sendak was originally approached with the idea of illustrating the poem, but while he liked the idea, he couldn’t even begin to imagine how one would illustrate poetry. He told all this to Brian Selznick, and never attempted the project. Now Selznick has taken up the challenge, and the result is a book that feels like a fascinating mix of Selznick and Sendak’s later work for adults. Imagine a book like Hugo Cabret, but with lush full-color images. Imagine gold gilt on the page edges. Imagine long silent sequences. For the children’s book completist, you have to own this.
You can see more information and some of the interior shots in an Entertainment Weekly piece here.
Words and Worlds: From Autobiography to Zippers by Alison Lurie
When Jules, Peter, and I were writing Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, we were keenly aware that ours was not the first time someone had written about the wildly subversive nature of books for kids. Long before us, Alison Lurie had penned Don’t Tell the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children’s Literature. The remarkable thing about her, though, is that she just keeps on producing. Her latest book is yet another collection of essays, this time not solely about books for kids. Fortunately there is a nice chunk on Edward Gorey, as well as various thoughts on Pinocchio, the Babar tales, Harry Potter, and Rapunzel. This one’s out in May and I look very forward to perusing it.
Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story by Peter Bagge
And speaking of Wild Things, we did make sure to dedicate some space to Rose Wilder Lane. How could we not? The woman swore like a sailor, was probably primarily responsible for a lot of her mother’s writings, and was a libertarian. That last fact appears to take up a lot of space in Bagge’s graphic memoir of the woman. Those of you wary of all things Wilder needn’t worry. While Bagge is himself a Reason contributor, even he has to concede that Lane was, at her core, a conspiracy theorist. There’s only so much you can do with someone who called FDR’s New Deal “a deal with the devil”. My husband, I should note, just peeked over my shoulder, saw this, and gave a baffled, “they’re writing books to introduce kids to libertarianism now?” I assured him it was for adults. And so it is.
Filed under: Unexpected Jolts of Children's Literature
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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