Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature

by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta
     
 

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Secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny surprises — these essays by leading kids’ lit bloggers take us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books.

Told in lively and affectionate prose, this treasure trove of information for a student, librarian, parent, or anyone wondering about the post–Harry Potter

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Overview

Secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny surprises — these essays by leading kids’ lit bloggers take us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books.

Told in lively and affectionate prose, this treasure trove of information for a student, librarian, parent, or anyone wondering about the post–Harry Potter children’s book biz brings contemporary illumination to the warm-and-fuzzy bunny world we think we know.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/23/2014
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.)
From the Publisher
The collaborators plow an ample field, and they do so with affection, insight, the occasional raised eyebrow, and great good humor. Theirs is a book that will delight and divert any lover of books for kids and will also inform newcomers to the field, planting seeds of salutary subversion in their minds and hearts. Wild Things!, I think I love you.
—Booklist (starred review)

Three popular kidlit bloggers take readers on a wild ride through children’s literature that is as entertaining as it is educational. Like the tone of their respective blogs, the writing style is breezy and conversational. Fans and students of children’s literature will learn a lot, be entertained, and come away with interesting trivia and anecdotes. ... The authors do a fine job of debunking the notion that children’s literature is all "fuzzy bunnies" and "pots of honey." ... The authors’ knowledge shines through and with its extensive source notes and a thorough index, this title is not to be missed. A perfect choice for children’s literature courses.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

The best part is that Bird, Danielson, and Sieruta’s knowledge is so vast, even the well-informed will be introduced to new books and the drama that surrounded the publication and reception. ... Bird, Danielson, and Sieruta’s collection of anecdotes and backstories highlight the irreverent and scandalous authors and illustrators that we all know so well. Told conversationally, moving easily from book banning to social politics to plain old sour grapes, this collection dispels any notion that children’s literature is apolitical and humorless. Librarians, writers, teachers, scholars, and enthusiastic readers alike will revel in the information that complicates the world of children’s literature
—VOYA

The authors’ enthusiasm and engagement will keep the pages turning. [F]ascinating... The discussion of censorship is particularly thoughtful, both emphasizing intellectual freedom and considering the problematic nature of classic literature amid changing cultural sensibilities. ... [A] whole lot of enjoyment and no small amount of edification.
—Kirkus Reviews

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. ... This chatty volume sheds light on children’s literature’s household names.
—Publishers Weekly

A lively historical survey of scandals and secrets from the children’s-book biz... [T]he gossip is good (and scrupulously documented); sandwiched among the juicy bits are thoughtful passages about censorship, celebrity books, and the perpetual struggle between the reading tastes of children and what their elders prefer for them.
—The Horn Book

Memorize every word of this brilliant book, then quote it at cocktail parties and watch as knees buckle beneath your erudite greatness.
—Jack Gantos, author of "Dead End in Norvelt," winner of the Newbery Medal

I was afraid this book might be one of those eat-your-vegetables, musty history lessons. To my delight it skipped the vegetables entirely and went straight for delicious and dangerous desserts. I ate it up in one sitting.
—Lane Smith, illustrator of "The Stinky Cheese Man," a Caldecott Honor Book

For anyone who thought children’s books and their creators were all sugar and spice, fasten your seat belt and get ready for an unexpected joyride through the genre! Wild Things! pulls back a rose-colored curtain to expose the real deal behind bunnies, banned books, and how ‘the next big thing’ is built.
—Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, creators of "Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra," a Caldecott Honor Book

Wow, what an interesting group we creators of children’s books are! Of course, we’ve known this all along, but because of Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta, the rest of the world can know, too. What a great book! I literally couldn’t put it down.
—Tomie dePaola, author-illustrator of "Strega Nona," a Caldecott Honor Book, and "26 Fairmount Avenue," a Newbery Honor Book

With tales of banned bunnies, drunken ducks, and gay penguins, "Wild Things!" leads the battle against the ignorance, half-truths, and just plain foolishness that afflict so much writing about children’s literature. Punchy, lively, and carefully researched, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in books for the young. So. Stop reading this blurb, and buy the book.
—Philip Nel, co-editor of "Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature"

In its jolly mission to expose the dark underbelly of the children’s book world, "Wild Things!" turns up stories I’ve been hearing noised about for ages, but with a lot more detail and authenticity. The stories may not be quite as sordid as my own imagination had conjured up—although a few of them are—because there’s no denying that this field is full of mostly nice people!—but it’s all fun and a great read for anyone interested in both children’s books and the collection of people who make them.
—Paul O. Zelinsky, author-illustrator of "Rapunzel," winner of the Caldecott Medal

I’m a sucker for stories about the makers and makings of great children’s books, and "Wild Things!" is full of tales that are vivid, rich, and the good kind of gossipy.
—Mac Barnett, author of "Extra Yarn," a Caldecott Honor Book

If you know anything about children’s books or nothing about children’s books, Wild Things! is for you. It is the real deal. Read it now. It will make you smarter. And you will never look at fuzzy bunnies the same way ever again.
—Jon Scieszka, former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and author of "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales," a Caldecott Honor Book

A frisky safari through the wilderness of children’s literature. . . . The narration is deft, detailed, and wide-ranging.
—Laura Amy Schlitz, author of "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village," winner of the Newbery Medal

Open this secret door that children’s literature warns us against and you’re in for a walk on the wild side, not to mention a pie in the face — in fact, on almost every page, a pie in the face. This book is a mischievous, risky, highly amusing, disturbing, and informative romp. I say, suppress it.
—Jules Feiffer, illustrator of "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster

VOYA, August 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 3) - Jennifer Miskec
Imagine being at a party full of book people. The in-crowd—the authors, illustrators, and publishers—are across the room. Those in the know, though, are whispering hilarious stories about the in-crowd, stories gathered through research and interviews and years of experience. Welcome to Bird, Danielson, and Sieruta’s collection, where three children’s literature experts give the rest of us the real scoop on some of the most popular and prized children’s culture icons. The best part is that Bird, Danielson, and Sieruta’s knowledge is so vast, even the well-informed will be introduced to new books and the drama that surrounded the publication and reception. Despite popular imagination, children’s literature is not without its scandals, its misunderstandings, its errors, its feuds. In fact, curmudgeons, activists, deviants, and jokesters—alongside of the more earnest variety—have been creating popular and award-winning children’s literature since the golden age. Bird, Danielson, and Sieruta’s collection of anecdotes and backstories highlight the irreverent and scandalous authors and illustrators that we all know so well—Sendak, Zendel, Rowling, Bemelmans, Lobel, Fitzhugh, to name but a few highlighted in this collection. Told conversationally, moving easily from book banning to social politics to plain old sour grapes, this collection dispels any notion that children’s literature is apolitical and humorless. Librarians, writers, teachers, scholars, and enthusiastic readers alike will revel in the information that complicates the world of children’s literature. Reviewer: Jennifer Miskec; Ages adult professional.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-30
A chatty inside look at some of the stories that have shaped modern children's literature.The authors, three prominent children's-literature bloggers (Sieruta died in 2012), wear their hearts on their sleeves in this tribute to the chronically underrated art form. Although they open with the hope that their book will serve as a corrective to those who believe that children's literature is all fluff and bunnies, it's clear that their audience is their choir. They are far from preachy, however, ranging far and wide in their survey of "mischief." Exactly what constitutes mischief is rather conceptually fluid, as the authors cover gay and lesbian authors and illustrators, the relative literary worth of series fiction and celebrity publishing, among other topics. Likewise, organization is a little strained, with a "behind-the-scenes interlude" that covers "hidden delights" falling immediately after the book-banning discussion, for instance, but the authors' enthusiasm and engagement will keep the pages turning. While some of the stories they present are old news to many (Robert McCloskey dosed the models for Jack, Kack, et al., with red wine), others, particularly some fascinating publication histories, will open eyes. The discussion of censorship is particularly thoughtful, both emphasizing intellectual freedom and considering the problematic nature of classic literature amid changing cultural sensibilities.Though it's unlikely to reach far beyond children's-literature scholars and enthusiasts, it will offer that audience a whole lot of enjoyment and no small amount of edification. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)
Library Journal
09/15/2014
See ya later, fluffy bunnies. The three coauthors—Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta (who passed away unexpectedly while the book was in the final editing process)—count a book, three blogs, hundreds of Kirkus and Horn Book interviews and reviews, a School Library Journal blog, and a day job at the New York Public Library between them. Here they take an unsentimental look at children's literature. Through topical essays, "Behind-the-Scenes Interludes," shaded boxes, and occasional reprinted illustrations, the authors explore the slightly messy (and sometimes humorous) aspects of literature for young people. A few moments seem to miss the mark—when wanting a doll or cross-dressing are assumed to mean a storybook character is gay, for example. Almost 50 pages of source notes, bibliography, acknowledgments, credits, and an index demonstrate the authors' attention to detail. Along with thoughtful essays about the emergence of noncondescending children's literature, quotes from current authors, and candid comments on celebrity writers, most readers will find at least one surprising tidbit: Who also wrote for Playboy? Whose cigarette was digitally removed from the book-jacket photograph? Who is the grandmother of Courtney Love? VERDICT This book will be particularly appealing to writers, illustrators, publishers, librarians, and others with a connection to the children's book business.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX
School Library Journal
★ 10/01/2014
Three popular kidlit bloggers take readers on a wild ride through children's literature that is as entertaining as it is educational. Like the tone of their respective blogs, the writing style is breezy and conversational. Fans and students of children's literature will learn a lot, be entertained, and come away with interesting trivia and anecdotes. For instance, readers will learn the secret identities of some famous authors who wrote under pseudonyms before they became well known. But what really stands out is hinted at in the subtitle, "acts of mischief in children's literature." The authors do a fine job of debunking the notion that children's literature is all "fuzzy bunnies" and "pots of honey." As explored throughout the text, great works of children's literature provide a way of coping with childhood issues by offering a world that is just as complicated and tough as the one adults live in. The authors' knowledge shines through and with its extensive source notes and a thorough index, this title is not to be missed. A perfect choice for children's literature courses.—Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763651503
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
08/05/2014
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
301,119
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

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