Wild Things

Wild Things

Bruce Handy, contributing editor for Vanity Fair, provides a “ramble through classic children’s literature” in Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult. Handy breaks down children’s favorites such as Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web, Peter Rabbit, Goodnight Moon, and of course the titular Where the Wild Things Are as well as many others. Handy also provides significant biographical information for each author whose work her covers. Handy of course also offers his personal thoughts on these works as well (many Goodreads reviewers are appalled that he didn’t like Anne of Green Gables).

There is also critical coverage of Handy’s work as well: The New York Times Book Review and NPR both offer their take on this journey through classic children’s literature. My personal Goodreads review, which is not necessarily indicative of this review can be found here.

Pros:

  • Handy’s biographical sketches are well thought out and well researched, offering brief but nuanced portrayals of famous authors such as Maurice Sendak and Dr. Suess.
  • There had been significant research put into this work to help contextualize classic children’s literature and beyond the reading list of fiction that Handy provides in the back of the book, which is well curated, his bibliography provides a fantastic list of titles that can be used for further inquiries into children’s literature and the authors who wrote these works.

Cons:

  • This book isn’t necessarily an easy read, for a book that says it’s about Joy, it wasn’t until I got over halfway through the book that I felt any joy whatsoever in Handy’s writing.
  • The organizational structure which is roughly described as being by age of which children might be exposed to said books, doesn’t actually seem to be reflected in the actual organization of the book. Instead it seems as if Handy’s chapters is sorted by topics, making that distinction in the introduction would help with reader navigation of the book.
  • The biographical sketches at times seem to occupy more of the books real-estate rather than a productive discussion on children’s literature as it connects to adults who should find joy in reading it.

Uses:

  • I cannot emphasize enough how useful the bibliography of this book is in providing further materials to be used in research and understanding of children’s literature. Several of the books in the bibliography have found their way onto my reading list.
  • Handy’s biographical sketches are condensed in a way that would make them well suited for use in a classroom setting reading some of these works where it would be impossible to make use of a full biography. For example, he covers Laura Ingalls Wilder along the same vein the Caroline Fraser does but in a slightly more digestible way.

 

Have you read Wild Things? Let me know what you think!

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