This Book Makes my Heart Sing! by Teri Lesesne
WILD THINGS! ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
Written by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta
Candlewick Press, 2014.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Charlotte Zolotow was writing William’s Doll (Harper & Row, 1972) or when Tomie dePaola was illustrating The Legend of the Bluebonnet (Putnam, 1983). There are authors, long dead, whom I would have liked to meet. There are questions I have about some of the classic texts of literature for children and young adults. Fortunately for me and my other Nerdy Book Club friends, I can now get the inside scoop, the real story behind many of those books. Wild Things! Acts Of Mischief In Children’s Literature takes readers into the annals of children’s books and reveals some tantalizing secrets.
Why are some books considered subversive? Why are some books perennial favorites of censors? How has Hollywood affected children’s books? What about books kids love and critics hate? All these questions and many more are posed and answered within the pages of Wild Things! Whether you are a scholar searching for some information or the casual reader who enjoys some juicy gossip about plagiarism, this text is for you. Written in a friendly, almost conspiratorial tone, you will be drawn in from the opening lines: “Meet Struwelpeter. A hygienically challenged kid who looks a lot like Edward Scissorhands on a really bad hair day” (p. 11). And you will stay for the ride as the authors discuss celebrity attempts at picture books (anyone remember when Madonna opined there were no good books for children and so decided to write some of her own?), the bastardization of books by film (Mary Poppins, anyone?) and clear through to the final tale about Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, and bunnies which will take us full circle from the opening anecdote.
Here are a couple of secrets (Shh! Don’t tell where you found these!) from the book to whet your appetite.
- Each author votes for her or his worst celebrity children’s title on p. 178.
- The Newbery winning titles most frequently challenged may be found on pp. 94-95.
- The apparent failure to count right in an illustration from Madeline is on p. 52.
- The books that won the Billy Budd Button and the Huck Finn pin for worst children’s books are listed on pp. 170-171.
More delicious secrets and stories await the reader. Gift yourself with some Wild Things! and find time over the holidays to dig in and enjoy the tales that will inform and entertain!
Teri Lesesne is a professor in the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University. She teaches courses in literature for children and young adults. You can follow her on Twitter (@professornana) and join Teri and Donalyn Miller for a monthly chat called #bproots where the two discuss the roots of our best literacy practices. She blogs about books (ls5385blog.blogspot.com) and about education (professornana.livejournal.com) when she does not have her nose buried in a book.