Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

Posted August 17, 2017 by shooting in Book Review / 24 Comments

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

Review by Lauren
source: copy from ALA17; all opinions are my own
Official Summary (add on Goodreads): In 1690, the dour New England Primer, thought to be the first American children s book, was published in Boston. Offering children gems of advice such as Strive to learn and Be not a dunce, it was no fun at all. So how did we get from there to Let the wild rumpus start ? And now that we re living in a golden age of children s literature, what can adults get out of reading Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, or Charlotte s Web and Little House on the Prairie? 

In Goodnight Nobody, Vanity Fair contributing editor Bruce Handy revisits the classics of every American childhood, from fairy tales to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and explores the back stories of their creators, using context and biography to understand how some of the most insightful, creative, and witty authors and illustrators of their times created their often deeply personal masterpieces. Along the way, Handy learns what The Cat in the Hat says about anarchy and absentee parenting, which themes are shared by The Runaway Bunny and Portnoy s Complaint, and why Ramona Quimby is as true an American icon as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby. 

Review: I feel like I’d seen this one around before coming upon it at ALA, but at any rate, when I read the back of the book, I knew I needed to read this one. If you’re at all a fan of children’s literature, I would recommend this book. I’ve taken a few children’s literature courses, especially when getting my Master of Science in Library Science, and I think this would make a great textbook of sorts. Not that it reads like a textbook. There is information about the authors and the time period, when concerning certain books, as well as other information about the particular titles being discussed. While I definitely haven’t read all of these books, I know most of them, so it was easy to follow. I appreciated Handy’s writing style. It’s informative, but easy to read. The books he focuses on go from picture books through middle school. There are many books and series he doesn’t touch on, or he does very briefly, and it would have been nice to know more about these (an example would be Roald Dahl) but there isn’t room for everything!
I loved the little anecdotes about the authors and their work. Sometimes one finds out that an author wasn’t as forward-thinking as one would like, but it’s a testament to the times they lived in too. Readers will learn about Beatrix Potter’s love for animals and how that inspired her stories about Peter Rabbit. There is also E.B. White’s famous book, Charlotte’s Webb – did you know White lived on a farm? He also wanted illustrations of Charlotte to be extremely realistic – as someone who hates spiders, I’m not sure I would have handled that well!
This book definitely made me want to read certain titles I never got to as a child – like Ramona Quimby’s first book. I think it will do the same for many others, especially parents who want to re-explore these stories with children.
Guest Post!!
As part of my 10 year blogoversary celebration this month, I’m doing some fun guest posts and today I’m over at A Simple Grace – please check it out here (Life Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Blogging) -and thank you to Lecy for having me!

24 responses to “Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

  1. Aww, this book sounds like such a fun read! I love children’s literature and have already been sharing classics with my son. I will have to put this on my Goodreads list to read!

  2. It’s been years since the last time I read children books. To be honest I’m not sure I would enjoy it. I think this book can help me though. It might even change my mind. Thank you for sharing, Lauren. Awesome review as always. ?❤️??

  3. I just read your post on Lecy’s blog…so congratulations again! This book sounds so cool. I’m always reading children’s books to my boys, so it be nice to learn more about the authors and behind the scene stuff. We’re also talking about Where the Wild Things Are in my ballet class.

  4. Wow ten years of blogging – congratulations! I love children’s books in fact I got nearly as much enjoyment reading them to my own children as I did for myself as a child!

  5. This sounds like an interesting read. I love reading children’s books as an adult. It’s fun to read them with my son, especially if it’s a book I read when I was his age because it almost always leads me to sharing some of my childhood memories with him. Fun bonding moments.

  6. Jen

    I loved Ramona Quimby! I did not know that about the Charlotte’s Web illustrations? I am not a fan of spiders either, but this book sounds great!

  7. I love love love children’s literature, but I don’t read nearly enough of it. This sounds really interesting… and I didn’t know that about Charlotte’s Web either! Thanks so much for sharing, Lauren, and hope you have a lovely weekend <3

  8. Holy shit Lauren, ten years is remarkable. I’m tired and only coming up to five years. I’d love to hear you talk about how you’ve achieved longevity and any tips you have for bloggers.

    This sounds like a brilliant little guide for not only librarians, but teachers, carers and parents as well. I still love the joys of picture books and interested in this for myself before we have children. Wonderful review Lauren and thanks for putting in on my radar <3

  9. Oh, I’m glad Charlotte’s Web didn’t have more realistic drawings of her! I’m terrified of spiders, too! Wonderful review, Lauren! 🙂

  10. I don’t know why I didn’t request this title when it was up on Netgalley because I read a lot of Children’s books and Middle Grade. I have entered all the Goodreads giveaways for it, and have been waiting for it to go on ebook special. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I want to read it even more now. 🙂

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