cover image Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature

Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta. Candlewick, $22.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5150-3

Three children’s book specialists gleefully shred the “romanticized image” of children’s authors, illustrators, and editors, slinging behind-the-scenes lore, recalling censorship controversies, and profiling innovators like Maurice Sendak, Ursula Nordstrom, Roald Dahl, and others who eschew cutesiness. They seek out insider gossip and archival snippets, referencing the testy relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, the fate of Make Way for Ducklings’ real-life ducks, and Richard Scarry’s gender-inclusive revisions to his oeuvre; a thoughtful chapter explores LGBT “icons” of children’s books. Their discussion of Struwwelpeter’s violence includes a list of “Recent Books in Which the Protagonist Gets Eaten,” and a cranky section plunders chestnuts like Love You Forever (“Kids hate ’em, critics hate ’em, but adults wuv them”). Their publishing history—including accounts of the Stratemeyer Syndicate’s heyday, today’s YA boom—is familiar from scholarship like Leonard S. Marcus’s Minders of Make-Believe, though the coauthors use a snarky, conversational tone. Indeed, nonstop quips sometimes undermine the book’s mission against “the ‘fluffy bunny’ mentality.” Approached as an appetizer rather than a complete history, this chatty volume sheds light on children’s literature’s household names. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)