Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult

I gobbled down this book like a handful of lollies (though it's actually much more nourishing than that). At first I had reservations because it was very American-focused, but it turns out I seem to have read most of the important works of American children's literature anyway. Yay for me.

Bruce Handy, who writes for Vanity Fair, is the most delightful reading companion, confessing his personal blind spots and passions with engaging flair. He has structured Wild Things in roughly reading order, from the infant picture book Goodnight Moon (one book I have never read!) through the works of Maurice Sendak and Dr Suess, through Narnia and The Wizard of Oz, right up to the 'girly' books he never read as a child (Little Women, Little House on the Prairie), finishing with books about death and the masterpiece that is Charlotte's Web.

This book was so much fun to read, but also thoughtful and sometimes argumentative. I loved that Handy (like me) admires rather than 'gets' Maurice Sendak; also that (very much unlike me) he only got thirty pages into Anne of Green Gables before throwing the book across the room! He fell in love with the Narnia books, then felt betrayed when he discovered their Christian agenda. He had only intended to read the first Little House book, but found himself eagerly devouring all nine in the series. However, he is not uncritical, and suggests Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House series for a corrective Native American perspective (a suggestion I intend to take up as soon as I can).

The book ends with a list of other intriguing 'book pairs' for further reading, and a comprehensive bibliography. Pure pleasure.

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