Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Going Wild with Children's Literature

If you especially love the stories behind the stories of children's literature, you're in for a treat later this summer. That's because August 5 will mark the publication of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature (Candlewick Press, $22.99), written in tandem by Peter Sieruta, Betsy Bird, and Julie Danielson.

It's a truly awesome line-up of experts. Peter, who died in 2012, was beloved in the children's literature field and had a deep knowledge of children's book collecting. Betsy is the youth materials specialist at the New York Public Library and widely known for her blog A Fuse # 8 Production, which can be found here on School Library Journal's website. And Julie, or Jules as she is known, is the creator of another wonderful, must-read blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Alas, I didn't know Peter, although I read his highly-respected blog, Collecting Children's Books.. But I am a devoted follower of the blogs of Betsy and Jules -- I recommend them highly to folks who love children's literature.

Anyway, Wild Things looks like truly wild fun, as it takes us "behind the scenes" of some of the best-known children's books. I've just gotten a review copy and plan to spend the next few days immersed in it, as I'll be hosting Betsy and Jules here on Children's Corner as they wend their way through a "blog tour" in late August.

 But you don't have to wait until August 5 to read some of the amazing and incredible things that Betsy, Jules and Peter learned as they worked on the book over the last several years. That's because a lot of the original manuscript ended up on the cutting room floor, so to speak, so that the book could remain a manageable size. Betsy and Jules have taken some of those unpublished gems and created a website built around them. The first few posts have been just wonderfully fun to read. My favorite so far is titled "Play Misty for Me," and tells the story of what the Wild Things authors contend is one of the best ALA Conference photos of all time:

You'll have to read the post to figure out why a horse is sitting in the midst of a bunch of be-hatted librarians, who seem to be remarkably unfazed by it all.

It seems like Wild Things -- both the published and unpublished parts of it -- will be a great addition to other classic "behind the scenes" books about children's literature. Several of my favorites were written and/or edited by children's literature expert Anita Silvey, whose books include 100 Best Books for Children, 500 Great Books for Teens, and that indispensable volume Children's Books and Their Creators and its shorter version, The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators.

I was fortunate enough to contribute an essay to Anita's Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children's Book. Anita also is a blogger, and anyone who loves children's literature should have her Children's Book-A-Day Almanac on their list of favorites. It's "must" daily reading for me.

Children's lit historian Leonard Marcus also has authored numerous books that give readers a peek behind the curtain at famous children's books. Leonard's many books include the seminal Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs and the Shaping of American Children's Literature.

And any children's lit lover looking for an irresistible combination of insights and humor about kids's books would do well to read a long-time favorite of mine, Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, which Leonard edited.

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