Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature
As you may know, my day job is as a librarian but not, as it happens, a librarian of children’s literature specifically. A lot of days I spend my time sorting through all the new releases for adults (horrors!). But since my heart is firmly ensconced in the world of books for kids, I always note when a book has some connection to literature for the young. Today, I’d like to introduce you to six 2019 titles that may be worth noting.
Better With Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens by Melissa Hart
This actually came out back in April, but I only discovered it just now. According to the SLJ review it contains, “well-curated annotated bibliographies on subjects such as immigration, race and ethnicity, LGBTQIA+ identities, adoption, religion, and poverty, framed by brief and engaging essays on why each topic matters to readers today.” And while the introduction is by Sharon Draper, she is by no means the only author involved since there are interviews inside with An Na, Chris Crutcher, Donna Gephart, Beth Vrabel, and Eric Gansworth. I know Draper, but I was less familiar with Hart, who is a middle grade author (Avenging the Owl), a contributing editor for The Writer Magazine, and a creative writing teacher for Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program.
Red At the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Ah ha! Did you know Jackie had a new adult novel out? The last time this happened was back in 2016 when she released Another Brooklyn. Now she’s returning to Brooklyn brownstones, working with elements like 9/11, the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, and Oberlin. Kirkus calls it Woodson, “at the height of her powers” while PW says, “Woodson’s nuanced voice evokes the complexities of race, class, religion, and sexuality in fluid prose and a series of telling details. This is a wise, powerful, and compassionate novel.” Out September 17th.
How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo
When book reviewers write books, who will review the reviewers? Paul, as you may know, is the former children’s book editor for the New York Times and current editor of the Book Review proper. Russo is the current children’s book editor. Of course, in addition to advice on getting your kids to love reading, the book is full of recommended titles. That’s where, as Kirkus says of it, it becomes, “Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.” It avoids Laura Ingalls Wilder and includes (at least in the YA section) books like The Hate U Give. It also makes some interesting suggestions (The Westing Game is for teens?). All told, the book reinforces common sense advice that, in this day and age, may not be as common as you’d think. Art inside is provided by such folks as Dan Yaccarino and Vera Brosgol. On shelves September 3rd.
Wonderland: An Anthology edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane
It’s been a while since we’ve had a collection of Wonderland-inspired stories in a single anthology. It’s been done before and it will be done again, but there might be some interesting tales in this particular compendium (no professional reviews as of yet, and it’s on shelves September 17th). Inside you’ll find familiar names like Jane Yolen, though the bulk of the authors truck primarily in the adult sphere.
The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit: Victorian Iconoclast, Children’s Author, and Creator of The Railway Children by Eleanor Fitzsimons
Part of me wants to point out that we already had this book. It was called The Children’s Hour by A.S. Byatt and it was really quite good. But, of course, that book was fiction and, in many ways, truth can often be stranger. I’d also like to point out that it seems a touch odd that The Railway Children was the only title worth singling out for the subtitle. The publisher, Abrams, is touting this as “the first major biography” of Nesbet, which may well be true. So how much discussion is there of her books for kids? Kirkus says, “Delving into Nesbit’s formative involvement in the Fabian Society and ardent campaigning to alleviate poverty, Fitzsimons suggests Nesbit’s socialist views influenced her children’s books.” By all accounts, the book sounds to be highly amusing. Who wouldn’t want to read about a woman hanging out with George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells in a house with a moat? Out October 8th.
Fabulous Monsters: Dracula, Alice, Superman, and Other Literary Friends by Alberto Manguel
We don’t lack for books about books, but this one sounds rather charming. The publisher describes it this way:
“Alberto Manguel, in a style both charming and erudite, examines how literary characters live with us from childhood on. Throughout the years, they change their identities and emerge from behind their stories to teach us about the complexities of love, loss, and the world itself. “
Alice makes an appearance, naturally. Little Red Riding Hood also is there, as well as Captain Nemo and many others. Out September 24th.
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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