Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature
It’s that time again! Time to investigate those books written for adults that have some kind of direct tie to children’s literature. I save up each one of these titles as I encounter them until I have enough for a decent post. Today, the roster includes worms, socialists, memoirs, and lust. All to the good:
The Ruling Clawss: The Socialist Cartoons of Syd Hoff
If you woke up this morning and thought to yourself, “I hope in my travels I get to see a great big capitalist butt or two in the course of my travels,” consider your prayers answered! Syd Hoff, Syd Hoff . . . now why does that name sound familiar? Could it be because he’s best known in our world for this:
Ah-yup. And yet Syd Hoff, as it turns out, was a great big old socialist all along. Writing under the name “A. Redfield” the man was a powerhouse. But don’t take my word for it. Read the book’s own description:
“Published under the pseudonym A. Redfield by prominent New Yorker contributor Syd Hoff in the 1930s, these mordant and marvellously drawn gag comics skewer the rich and powerful with a pointed pen.
During his career as a New Yorker cartoonist, and before he wrote Danny and the Dinosaur, Syd Hoff wrote under a different name. He was A. Redfield, a cartoonist for the communist newspaper the Daily Worker, and a scourge of the rich and powerful.
Scorning what he saw as the complicity and stale jokes of cartooning peers, Hoff set his sights on the ruling class and revealed them for what they were: hilariously inept, deeply selfish, and incredibly dangerous. Hoff spared nothing from his pen, lampooning police brutality, thin-skinned industrialists, racists, and the looming threat of fascism at home and abroad.
This new edition of The Ruling Clawss includes a new introduction by the historian Philip Nel, who reveals the story behind the rise and disappearance of Hoffʼs Redfield. The Ruling Clawss cements Hoff as a master of the gag comic, whose work remains powerfully funny and troublingly resonant.”
“Troublingly resonant” raves the publisher! I had heard about this book from Phil online already. Now I can’t wait to see the final product for myself.
Unearthing: A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets by Kyo Maclear
In my day job I actually purchase all the adult materials for my library system. That’s how I’m able to discover books of this sort. For example, there’s the fact that incredible artist Kyo Maclear has this memoir coming out. You may know Kyo for a number of titles. My personal favorite was her work on this picture book biography about Gyo Fujikawa:
Meanwhile, here Kyo is with a very adult book of her own (coming out in August). Here’s how the publisher describes it:
“Three months after Kyo Maclear’s father dies in December 2018, she gets the results of a DNA test showing that she and the father who raised her are not biologically related. Suddenly Maclear becomes a detective in her own life, unravelling a family mystery piece by piece, and assembling the story of her biological father. Along the way, larger questions arise: what exactly is kinship? And what does it mean to be a family?
Unearthing is a captivating and propulsive story of inheritance that goes beyond heredity. Infused with moments of suspense, it is also a thoughtful reflection on race, lineage, and our cultural fixation on recreational genetics. Readers of Michelle Zauner’s bestseller Crying in H Mart will recognize Maclear’s unflinching insights on grief and loyalty, and keen perceptions into the relationship between mothers and daughters.
What gets planted, and what gets buried? What role does storytelling play in unearthing the past and making sense of a life? Can the humble act of tending a garden provide common ground for an inquisitive daughter and her complicated mother? As it seeks to answer these questions, Unearthing bursts with the very love it seeks to understand.”
Kirkus called it, “A lovely meditation on the hidden past and the blossoming present” while Publishers Weekly said, “This quiet story lingers.” Sounds like a winner.
Worm by Edel Rodriguez
And speaking of biographies, this graphic memoir is due to hit shelves in November. I admit that at first the name Edel Rodriguez wasn’t immediately familiar. But then I looked into it and remembered why it rang a bell:
Oh, that’s right! Way way back in 2008 and 2009, these Sergio books came out. Now I remembered! And good thing too since this bio is getting some nice pre-pub attention. Here’s the description:
“From “America’s illustrator in chief” (Fast Company), a stunning graphic memoir of a childhood in Cuba, coming to America on the Mariel boatlift, and a defense of democracy, here and there
Hailed for his iconic art on the cover of Time and on jumbotrons around the world, Edel Rodriguez is among the most prominent political artists of our age. Now for the first time, he draws his own life, revisiting his childhood in Cuba and his family’s passage on the infamous Mariel boatlift.
When Edel was nine, Fidel Castro announced his surprising decision to let 125,000 traitors of the revolution, or “worms,” leave the country. The faltering economy and Edel’s family’s vocal discomfort with government surveillance had made their daily lives on a farm outside Havana precarious, and they secretly planned to leave. But before that happened, a dozen soldiers confiscated their home and property and imprisoned them in a detention center near the port of Mariel, where they were held with dissidents and criminals before being marched to a flotilla that miraculously deposited them, overnight, in Florida.
Through vivid, stirring art, Worm tells a story of a boyhood in the midst of the Cold War, a family’s displacement in exile, and their tenacious longing for those they left behind. It also recounts the coming-of-age of an artist and activist, who, witnessing American’s turn from democracy to extremism, struggles to differentiate his adoptive country from the dictatorship he fled. Confronting questions of patriotism and the liminal nature of belonging, Edel Rodriguez ultimately celebrates the immigrants, maligned and overlooked, who guard and invigorate American freedom.”
Wouldn’t mind seeing a younger version of this in the future as well.
Roaming by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
If I am not too much mistaken, I think it’s fair to say that the last time Jillian Tamaki made a book with Mariko Tamaki, they went and won themselves the first Caldecott Honor for a graphic novel ever:
Roaming, however, is strictly adult. Coming out in September, the description reads:
“Over the course of a much-anticipated trip to New York, an unexpected fling blossoms between casual acquaintances and throws a long-term friendship off-balance. Emotional tensions vibrate wildly against the resplendently illustrated backdrop of the city, capturing a spontaneous queer romance in all of its fledgling glory. Slick attention to the details of a bustling, intimidating metropolis are softened with a palette of muted pastels, as though seen through the eyes of first-time travelers. The awe, wonder, and occasional stumble along the way come to life with stunning accuracy.”
Sounds like it’s pretty good because reviewers can’t help but wax eloquent about it. Library Journal said, “Rather than being bogged down in pensive navel-gazing or melodrama, the novel emphasizes the exhilaration of youth; how exhilarating it is to be young, to be in love, to explore new places and aspects of yourself, and to experience each emotion, good or bad, so very intensely.” And PW said, “It’s all brushed in alternating hues of almost-gold and melancholy blue, the nostalgic palette of an old Polaroid shot. Playful yet plaintive, this is an elegant study of young women caught between the comforts of the past and the promise of what comes next.”
Reynard’s Tale by Ben Hatke
Yeah, I was surprised too. You look at the book and figure it might be some offshot of one of Hatke’s other series. Maybe a series in the vein of Zita the Spacegirl?
But no. True, it’s being published by First Second. But First Second, please remember, is a publisher that does adult as well as children’s graphic novels. This came out in April and is described in this way:
“In this atmospheric tribute to the medieval folklore tradition of trickster tales starring Reynard the fox, beloved children’s cartoonist Ben Hatke turns his pen to a very special project for adult readers.
Inspired by the 12th century tales of the indomitable trickster fox Reynard, this offbeat tribute to the archetypal rogue has a satisfyingly old-fashioned feeling to it. Although this Reynard adventure is entirely the creation of modern fairytale master Ben Hatke (Mighty Jack), it fits seamlessly into the body of Reynard tales still beloved in Europe to this day.
Featuring evocative, charming black-and-white illustrations and a swiftly moving narrative, Reynard’s Tale follows our hero through a series of encounters with other classic figures from this body of folklore to piece together a headlong journey through a perilous landscape filled with murderers, kings, ex-lovers, mermaids, and even Death herself.”
That’s all she wrote folks. Be sure to check these out whenever you get a chance.
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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