The Joys of Children’s Literature

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In The New York Times Book Review, Rivka Galchen reviews Bruce Handy’s “Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult.” Galchen writes:


“Wild Things” doesn’t have much of an argument to make other than its premise that we should take children’s literature seriously, which I think many people already do, and yet the book succeeds wonderfully, not so much as an argument but as an eccentric essay, and an emanation of spirit.

The trivia alone offers quite a bit of joy. Maurice Sendak altered his original plan for “Where the Wild Horses Are” because he lacked proficiency in equine anatomy. Also: L. Frank Baum’s first publication was a guide to breeding Hamburg chickens. Margaret Wise Brown of “Goodnight Moon” fame gave just one piece of visual instruction to her illustrator, Clement Hurd — a photograph of Goya’s “Red Boy.” And Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) not only worked on the screenplay for “Rebel Without a Cause,” but also tried, early on, to make his fortune with an invention called the Infantograph — a machine that used images of prospective parents to predict what their offspring would look like.

On this week’s podcast, Handy discusses “Wild Things”; Adrian Owen talks about “Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death”; Parul Sehgal discusses her new role as a book critic for The New York Times; and Jennifer Schuessler, Jennifer Szalai and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books mentioned in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

“Lives Other Than My Own” by Emmanuel Carrère

“Class Trip” by Emmanuel Carrère

“But Beautiful” by Geoff Dyer

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